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soundcat
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26th December 2012
Old 26th December 2012
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normal track count?

What is considered a "normal" track count while mixing a feature length project? 60 tracks? 100? more...? I hear it is a lot but never really understood why.

Are there different eq and fx for each track? different sends, reverbs? I've mostly done mixing for music so EQing a track or adding FX was never too complicated since each instrument typically has its own track. But this can't be true for film right? I mean, there can't be a track for every foley recording....right? wouldn't this be a kind of insane for a large project?

I get how tracks are split into stems but have no idea why some of the top mixers in the business talk of having track counts in the hundreds... Maybe this sound silly, but I know I'm missing something... hopefully it's really obvious and straight forward. Which brings me to another question...

What effects are automated and which ones processed/printed onto regions? I'm trying my best to learn mixing for film but I feel I may be making things more difficult then they need to be. Any help is much appreciated!
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26th December 2012
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Because in features there is a lot going on at once, each element needing their own treatment. And if they aren't happening simultaniously, you need to have different sounds on different tracks because they are routed to different subgroups or stems.
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26th December 2012
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Thank you Jamie but can you give an example or maybe be a little more specific? What type of subgroups? What type of routing? I appreciate your response, I just really want to understand this and don't know any engineers or mixers personally who do this type of work. I need the "for dummies" explanation...if that exists.

I wish there was a template or screenshot out there that demonstrates all this. I haven't seen anything too helpful when it comes to this in any of the books or articles i've read so far...just the basics. i imagine this type of knowledge is shared down by those with experience. Unfortunately I don't know anybody like that, so i'm hoping more of you talented people can share your thoughts and experience!
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26th December 2012
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It all depends on the project. Sometimes more than 100 and sometimes 20. You should get the Lynda DVD about mixing for film. It will give you a good picture of the whole process and some templates with the actual files to practice
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26th December 2012
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i think ive seen that Lynda DVD a while back, good idea though. ill check it out again....
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26th December 2012
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In my experience there are a few reasons why track counts are so high: Allowing clips to overlap is a big thing, sfx and foley have tails that need to breathe so instead of putting two gunshots on the same track and crossfade, you want the tails to ring out so you put them on two tracks.

Depending on the budget of a film you may just cue every tiny thing on screen for foley/fx down to the flapping of a bird in the background that most likely won't even be heard in the mix. If you have a shot with 3 lead characters and 20 backgrounds, footstep tracks get pretty crazy.

Providing options is also a big reason for big track count. People who cut backgrounds/ambience for scenes can cut sometimes 7/8 or more clips PER shot. Not necessarily intended to be played all at once but it provides the mixer with choices (not to mention when the director says that he/she hates the birds, you need a backup clip for the BG)

FX editors are usually afforded the highest track count. I've seen fx editors have 100 tracks JUST for FX. Again, it's all about texture and layer and overlap.

In addition to this, sometimes for organizational reasons, the track count can get pretty wide. For example on bigger budgets you may have multiple FX editors, each handling specific things (doors only, car sounds, BG, guns, etc..) so each of them will cut on a specific set of tracks and when combined can include upwards of 100 tracks.

Finally, music can also get crazy if the music editor provides the mixer with splits/stems of the score. Again, this is for better control in the mix.

It's all about providing the most control in the mix. The more control you want, the more "separated" elements must be, the more tracks there are.
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27th December 2012
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awesome! thank you. so when you mention that "footstep tracks get pretty crazy" are you saying you have tracks that only serve footsteps? do you actually have separate footstep tracks for different locations/scenes? as of right now, ive just been throwing my fx on whatever track's available, one big mess...
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27th December 2012
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Tim P's tracklay on Warriors way for a detailed over the shoulder of a true pro:
http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog/s...e-warriors-way

Another good thread on tracklay:
Sorting Audio in Tracklaying

And Purcells book on dialogue editing has lots of great examples as does the old Yewdall text. Yes - I'm actually suggesting you read a book on the topic rather than simply asking questions on forums or watching youtube videos. Remarkable, I know. Optimistic, yes.
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27th December 2012
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thank you Brent, i actually ordered some yewdall text, should be arriving any day! great threads too, amazing! very helpful. still a little confused how reverb and delay fx fit into all this but i guess ill find out along the way...
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Soundcat. As others have said, it depends on the project.
And everything is automated. Sometimes from clip to clip.
On the side, most of the stuff I have mixed, I usually get the production down to 4 tracks.
Another 8 or so for ADR. 2-4 futz tracks. Another 10 for group/walla.
Then, 2-4 tracks for needle drop/source cues and 4 on upwards for score stems.

S, it's not too bad.

Then there's the SfX side, with all its SfX, BG's and Foley.
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27th December 2012
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thanks Henchman, it's helpful to know different workflows.

cheers!
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27th December 2012
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Soundcat,

As many have said before, mixing music and films are two very different things. It's important not to confuse the two.

My recommendation would be to go here:
Pro Mixing Webinar: Creating an Indie Film Soundtrack

Register, and on the next page, there is a download you can get that has a sample session for a film.

Granted, this is one of a billion ways it could be done. But this gives you the idea of where to start.


All of this being said, remember a few things: The world of post production mixing centers around automation. there is no set it and forget it. Second, Sound Editing is just as important; don't miss this step because it doesn't have the sex appeal of the faders and blinking lights of mixing. And lastly, dialog is king.

On our last big feature we did at Fox, just to give you an idea, we had:

24 tracks of dialog, (give or take, that includes PFX, ADR and Production. when henchman speaks of parring his tracks down, and his track count, remember his forte is dialog. (which he's pretty good at))

About 125ish tracks of music. This included several 5.1 and stereo stems that were premixed by the music mixer before given their final tweaks and panning on the dub stage. (which might i add Ron mixed beautifully!)

Then finally, we had approximately 275 tracks of FX, BG's and Foley. These were premixed in the box and fed to the console. Every track had EQ and Compressor, along with EQ and compression on our Master Aux's We ran 18 or so reverbs and 10ish delays, along with the outboard gear that Doug used.

Our track counts were pretty big, and we ran out of space pretty quick. That being said, on some of the larger transformer type films, they often times hit near 1000.... Scary thought when it comes to confo's.

Once we got to doing the Dolby Atmos, we had upwards of 15-18 7.1 tracks plus the additional stuff we cut for the object tracks.



When you set up your sessions, think of the different sounds as 'food groups'. then route accordingly. You have to find a balance between enough room that you can move around, and getting so complicated that you get lost.

Lastly, your methods and working should always be in flux. Every project is different.
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27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by postprosound View Post
Soundcat,

Every track had EQ and Compressor, along with EQ and compression on our Master Aux's We ran 18 or so reverbs and 10ish delays, along with the outboard gear that Doug used.
Hey postpro - what sort of outboard are you referring to? Is it the usual suspects...cedar, or something else?

Thanks!
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27th December 2012
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Just his normal reverbs, TC 6000 and LEX 960, along with a few altiverbs, and Lex PCMs and such that they used like outboards
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27th December 2012
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wow, thanks postpro, great tips. much appreciated! downloading that sample session now. too bad i missed the webinar, would have been fun to see.

if there are so many different workflows, doesn't this get confusing when multiple studios are working together on a mix? wouldn't they need to use the same routing and workflow to keep things rolling? or is that just part of the job, adapting to whatever comes their way?
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27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcat View Post
if there are so many different workflows, doesn't this get confusing when multiple studios are working together on a mix? wouldn't they need to use the same routing and workflow to keep things rolling? or is that just part of the job, adapting to whatever comes their way?
I suppose you'd have someone in charge on huge projects like that, and that at an early stage of producing the sound a determination of what is needed is made. And then (I guess) allocation is given to all those creating pre-dubs.

But either way it leads to something that could be emphasized I think. If you do as you have, which is to put stuff on fx tracks where there is space and not dedicate tracks for types of sound, any engineer having to work on your project after you will have a really crappy time finding out what's where if something needs to be tweaked. All that's needed for that to happen is that you have a deadline which you could have made if it wasn't for that severe flu you caught last minute. And then whomever steps in to help you out might be less than impressed. Know what I mean?

The number one thing that makes me irritated beyond belief is a messy session. Unlabeled or poorly labeled tracks, buses that say "bus 21-22" and aren't descriptive, tracks that contain different types of sound etc. It just slows down the process tremendously.

Also, you might start working the way you have and then perhaps discover you need to treat sounds differently. So you do. And you remember what you did. And then there's another thing that needs to change. And then you start automating that one sound out a send on one track. And then something else. Etc. It can get messy. And then the director comes back like a month later and wants to change something... and you have to go back and figure routing etc out again and the quick 2hr change turns into a whole day affair.

Though I've certainly confined myself to few tracks at times I'd say everyone here have been spot on. Better to have larger sessions with larger track counts rather than a session that only one person can understand for only so long. Virtual tracks are cheap. Use'em.
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27th December 2012
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thanks for the additional input mattiasnyc. definitly going to keep things organized from now on.

i've been using pro tools lately for this type of work but have used cubase and nuendo as well. does anyone know how cubase/nuendo users setup their sessions to accommodate subgroups? are subgroups even possible or is this one other reason why most people use pro tools over nuendo...?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcat View Post
thanks for the additional input mattiasnyc. definitly going to keep things organized from now on.

i've been using pro tools lately for this type of work but have used cubase and nuendo as well. does anyone know how cubase/nuendo users setup their sessions to accommodate subgroups? are subgroups even possible or is this one other reason why most people use pro tools over nuendo...?
Nuendo v5 and on has some really great routing possible. But the fundamental principle is the same. One thing I prefer in Nuendo (over PT) is that you have a separate view in the mixer of your group routing. So you can see eight sends or so to separate destinations in one view. In PT unless you use up the sends you'll have to drop down the output tab to see the multiple outs. They're also automatable in Nuendo, should it be needed. And then you can do a batch export/mixdown in Nuendo where you get a simple and clear view in the dialog box over exactly which buses to export, and even which cycle-marker ranges if you wish. Very nice.
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27th December 2012
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thanks again mattiasnyc, that's great! id love to hear how you go about the routing in Nuendo if you're willing to go into more detail. i know how to group, but have never seen any subgrouping options available...

if you have a template or anything you can share, please do! even today, it's difficult to find good documentation on Nuendo v5 and mixing for film. i wish there was... a lynda tutorial on nuendo mixing for film and television would be nice.
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One important thing to keep in mind: prepare your work so that it is EASY to understand what is going on in the session. If ever you walk under a bus tomorrow, someone needs to be able to pick up your work from where you stopped and keep going from there.

Sometimes a project will need a large number of tracks for just one scene in a reel. But as it's important that each reel have the same track layout (making all the sessions "familiar" in terms of layouts), you can end up with some reels with empty tracks.
Separation of BG/AMB and SFX is important in my book. As a mixer I'll use these elements in different ways, and I want the tracks to be labelled properly for that. Colour-coding is also important, because at a glance you can see if a track is an FX, AMB or Foley track.

Concerning foley: most of the time the main characters will have their own footstep track, and if needed their own cloth track. Secondary characters can share the next bunch of tracks. In a typical foley track layout, track 1 would be general cloth/movement. Tracks 2-4 (or 5) would be main character footsteps, with the secondaries on 5-6.
Tracks 7-8 are hands (hands touching tables/doors, or hitting/slapping whatever). Tracks 9-16 are accessories and Foley SFX. Sometimes a project will require going up to 24 tracks for foley, but not always.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcat View Post

if there are so many different workflows, doesn't this get confusing when multiple studios are working together on a mix? ?
Not at all.
You don't just edit, and show up at a mix.
You talk to the sound supervisor, who talks to the mixers.
They make a gameplay.
The sound super keeps the mixers up to date if things are changing.
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28th December 2012
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thanks for the input guys. that makes sense henchman, what about when smaller indie-budget projects are given to another studio to re-master after a distribution deal takes place. doesn't this happen? if so, does the original sound editor/mixers just explain their gameplay to whoever is taking over?
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Track counts escalate when you take perspective cuts into account.
Most mixers like things split out to make a pan change easy.
Typical features I work on are around 200 tracks inc reverbs split over two operators.
1 takes dialogue and music typically, the other takes fx (inc foley) this is not a hard rule.
I tend to keep dialogue winder than Henchman but simplify the mixing post pre dub using VCA masters sometimes grouping dialogue as main production, alt production, add, alt add and loop.
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So strange that no one on the board mentioned that normal track count is 42.
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Quote:
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thanks for the input guys. that makes sense henchman, what about when smaller indie-budget projects are given to another studio to re-master after a distribution deal takes place. doesn't this happen? if so, does the original sound editor/mixers just explain their gameplay to whoever is taking over?
Well, I'd just make sure everything is VERY clearly labeled and that routing isn't too weird.

Having said that though there seems to be a range of what engineers choose to deliver to their clients. I've seen all of this:

- Full PT sessions (or other DAW) with all routing/plugs intact, and stems.
- Stripped PT sessions with pretty much just automation left. Effects are either printed or not included, and stems.
- Stems only.

The argument I've seen for not doing the first is that you're "risking" that they take your mix, give it to someone else and have that person supposedly "finish" it. But then in reality they barely touch your mix and you end up with no credit for that final. It's happened to me at least once as far as I know on a music project. Some would also argue that it is giving the client "more" than they sometimes pay for. If they want that flexibility then they'll have to pay for it.

Of course whatever your client and you negotiates is what you should deliver, and it's always good to keep things neat from the get go just in case.
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So strange that no one on the board mentioned that normal track count is 42.
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Do you guys make some "sub - sub" groups?

Like for example a car is made from 3 tracks, you want to pan and eq it - do you create an aux for it (that goes to SFX stem)? Or rather make adjustments on individual tracks?
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Quote:
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Do you guys make some "sub - sub" groups?

Like for example a car is made from 3 tracks, you want to pan and eq it - do you create an aux for it (that goes to SFX stem)? Or rather make adjustments on individual tracks?
It depends... on a simple group of FX (door+door squeak) I would likely pan the individual tracks. On a more complex creation, I will use the panner of that group (in Nuendo) or of the Multi-format Master of that FX stem on the System 5.
Obviously that means organising tracks so that there are no elements from another FX in that group of tracks (routed to the stem we will be panning) at that time.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cebolao View Post
Do you guys make some "sub - sub" groups?

Like for example a car is made from 3 tracks, you want to pan and eq it - do you create an aux for it (that goes to SFX stem)? Or rather make adjustments on individual tracks?
It's easy and very quick to copy all automation, including pans, from one track to another in Pro-Tools.
No need to do any groupings at all.
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