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How loud are movie scores?
Old 19th January 2007
  #1
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How loud are movie scores?

I am wondering how much gain reduction people do on movie scores. I'm sure it would vary. But in general, say, TV or movies in the current day and age... how hot are they?

I usually have Waves UltraMax on my output fader for an R&B pop song, for example, and with the threshold at 0, as high as I can set it, typically it is attenuating around 4 dB.

But movie and TV stuff is much more in the background. Would you typically get levels so you are just about at zero dB, with no compression (on the master fader) at all?


Thanks in advance for any replies!
Old 19th January 2007
  #2
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starcrash13's Avatar
I'm not a scoring mixer, but I work in film as a sound editor and might be able to shed a little light on the subject. Essentially, the current pop/rock concept of squashing everything up to the ceiling is not done in film mixing. Movies are mixed with much greater dynamics than most music projects excluding classical and some jazz recordings. Just to give you an idea, we calibrate -20 dBFS to equal 0VU on a VU meter which will play at 85 SPL from listening position. This gives a whopping 20dB of headroom for dynamics above "0" (kinda like the analog tape days!). If you were to play a Blink 182 CD on a calibrated film mixing stage system, it would tear your head off and possibly cause ear damage.
Old 19th January 2007
  #3
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Wow, I checked out your credits. Thanks, your perspective makes you the perfect person to respond.

I thought movies seemed a lot more dynamic. And when I started watching DVD's at my house... they were both louder and more quiet than my VCR movies.

Okay so, when I'm working in Logic on this type of material, would getting levels so I am peaking at about zero dB, with little or no gain reduction, be roughly comparable to what you describe?


Thanks again!
Old 19th January 2007
  #4
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You may want to look into Bob Katz' K-System, since it's essentially a method of taking the concept of sound level calibration that movies have and applying it to music. He goes into a lot of detail about it in the book Mastering Audio, as well as his website ( http://www.digido.com ) as well as many threads on these forums
Old 19th January 2007
  #5
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As I said before, I don't mix film scores for a living and do not claim to be an expert. However, I can tell you that setting your peaks at digital zero is really hot which means that you probably have your monitors set low enough to listen comfortably which in turn means that you're more likely to mix with less dynamic range. Make sense?

If you're serious about this and you want to spend an hour or so reading a massive thread on room calibration then check out THIS. There's a lot of good info on the DUC (duc.digidesign.com) Post & Surround forum. We're also trying to get a post-production forum off the ground here at GS (one that's not Pro Tools and/or computer specific).

If you want the Cliff's Notes version (assuming stereo, not 5.1):

• Go to radio shack and buy yourself an SPL meter like this guy:


• Get ahold of some -20 dBFS pink noise reference tones from either Blue Sky or Dolby. I don't know about Logic, but Pro Tools has a signal generator that will create a region of pink noise (note: some say that Digi's pink is inaccurate for some reason)

• Create a session in Logic that will allow you to play a mono -20 dBFS pink noise signal from each individual channel (L, R) separately

• Hold the SPL meter at a 45º angle where your head would normally be while mixing

• Blast your pink noise. For most small rooms, 79 SPL is about right for each channel individually. Did I stress that you should measure each speaker individually? Large mix stages use 85 SPL.

• Set a mark on your mixer or whatever you use to control the volume to your speaker amps

Now that your monitors are roughly calibrated for film/ TV you can use your ears and mix to taste. Pop a few DVDs into the Apple DVD Player set to full volume and take a listen to some Hollywood mixes.
Old 19th January 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Farrow View Post
Wow, I checked out your credits. Thanks, your perspective makes you the perfect person to respond.

I thought movies seemed a lot more dynamic. And when I started watching DVD's at my house... they were both louder and more quiet than my VCR movies.

Okay so, when I'm working in Logic on this type of material, would getting levels so I am peaking at about zero dB, with little or no gain reduction, be roughly comparable to what you describe?


Thanks again!
I don't do movies, but I do tv.

I peak at -10dbfs (calibrated to -20) and I am averaging a long a-weighting at around -27 or -26dbfs for most shows...
I will typically put a limiter over my master bus (have to layback stems as well), but will try very hard not to hit the limiter often, but stay up in level. If you go past the threshold of some of the broadcast limters...you're audio will get REALLY beat up
Old 19th January 2007
  #7
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Jazzpunk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Farrow View Post
I am wondering how much gain reduction people do on movie scores. I'm sure it would vary. But in general, say, TV or movies in the current day and age... how hot are they?

I usually have Waves UltraMax on my output fader for an R&B pop song, for example, and with the threshold at 0, as high as I can set it, typically it is attenuating around 4 dB.

But movie and TV stuff is much more in the background. Would you typically get levels so you are just about at zero dB, with no compression (on the master fader) at all?


Thanks in advance for any replies!
Sounds like what Chris is actually asking about is if he needs to master his musical score lower than he would another type of music.

Mix and master your tracks so that they sound the best they can (to your ears as well as the producer's of course). The mixer will mix your music at an appropriate level.

I get music from many sources mastered at many different levels. The level I mix the music has nothing to do with the level of the track itself but how it plays with the rest of the elements (ie dialogue and fx).
Old 20th January 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doug_hti View Post
I don't do movies, but I do tv.

I peak at -10dbfs (calibrated to -20) and I am averaging a long a-weighting at around -27 or -26dbfs for most shows...
I will typically put a limiter over my master bus (have to layback stems as well), but will try very hard not to hit the limiter often, but stay up in level. If you go past the threshold of some of the broadcast limters...you're audio will get REALLY beat up
doug_hti, I'm intrigued by this. Unless you are actually hitting a limiter at zero, then you really haven't gotten your audio any louder anyway, have you? If you brought up your audio to peak at just under zero, that would just be normalization, wouldn't it?

But you are saying that you keep your peak at around -10 because if you brought it to zero, your audio would get clobbered by their limiters?

Thanks.
Old 20th January 2007
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Sounds like what Chris is actually asking about is if he needs to master his musical score lower than he would another type of music.

Mix and master your tracks so that they sound the best they can (to your ears as well as the producer's of course). The mixer will mix your music at an appropriate level.

I get music from many sources mastered at many different levels. The level I mix the music has nothing to do with the level of the track itself but how it plays with the rest of the elements (ie dialogue and fx).
Thanks for articulating that. Thanks for the clear explanation and advice, too.
Old 20th January 2007
  #10
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Jazzpunk's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Farrow View Post
doug_hti, I'm intrigued by this. Unless you are actually hitting a limiter at zero, then you really haven't gotten your audio any louder anyway, have you? If you brought up your audio to peak at just under zero, that would just be normalization, wouldn't it?

But you are saying that you keep your peak at around -10 because if you brought it to zero, your audio would get clobbered by their limiters?

Thanks.
Chris he is explaining that his broadcast legal ceiling is at -10db (0 analog). This corresponds to the limit set by the network he is mixing for or what has been set as the standard for the studio he mixes at. This has to do with broadcast levels and has nothing to do with how loud you mix your music.

You can mix your music as loud as you want.
Old 29th January 2007
  #11
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starcrash13's Avatar
Quote:
You can mix your music as loud as you want.
Absolutely right. The two main points that I was trying to get across is that working on a film calibrated DAW might help him to mix the score with more dynamics and that 0dBFS is friggin' LOUD!
Old 29th January 2007
  #12
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Sounds like what Chris is actually asking about is if he needs to master his musical score lower than he would another type of music.

Mix and master your tracks so that they sound the best they can (to your ears as well as the producer's of course). The mixer will mix your music at an appropriate level.

I get music from many sources mastered at many different levels. The level I mix the music has nothing to do with the level of the track itself but how it plays with the rest of the elements (ie dialogue and fx).
I hate getting music tracks that are slammed to the hilt.
You always have to pull the faders way down, which gives you less fader movement to mix with.
There would never be a case where the music or film or TV would need that kind of level.
Old 29th January 2007
  #13
Sometimes you are including a song on the soundtrack that is already released on an album, and then you may not have a choice as to level. But if you are providing music specifically for TV or film, don't master it like you would an album in these days of rampant loudness wars. Film thrives on dynamic range. The music re-recording mixer will handle limiting if necessary. Give him something to work with. In a perfect world, it's nice to have stems to separate at least rythmic elements, leads (or vocals), and strings. Also, if it's 5.1, don't load up the center channel if there will be any dialog over the cue.
Old 29th January 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
I hate getting music tracks that are slammed to the hilt.
You always have to pull the faders way down, which gives you less fader movement to mix with.
There would never be a case where the music or film or TV would need that kind of level.
Why don't you just apply gain reduction to the actual audio file instead of sacrificing 'fader movement'?
Old 29th January 2007
  #15
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Henchman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Why don't you just apply gain reduction to the actual audio file instead of sacrificing 'fader movement'?
That's what we have the music editors do that we work with.
It sucks when there's an outised source doing the music editing.
I don't want to have to waste my time goign through a 45 minute show, gainign audio files, when i only get a day to mix.
I know, it sounds like a small thing, but when you're already pressed fro time, it's just one more thing I don't have time for.
Old 29th January 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
That's what we have the music editors do that we work with.
It sucks when there's an outised source doing the music editing.
I don't want to have to waste my time goign through a 45 minute show, gainign audio files, when i only get a day to mix.
I know, it sounds like a small thing, but when you're already pressed fro time, it's just one more thing I don't have time for.
I don't know how PT handles this, but in Nuendo, this *is* a small thing. Entering a "-6" or some other dB value next to the Gain "knob" of a track takes me about 3 seconds if I'm slow. No need to fine-tune here, since that's what the fader is for.
Assuming all the music is somewhat equally too loud.
Old 29th January 2007
  #17
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Sharp11's Avatar
 

I write for film/tv - mostly television.

My goal is to get a pleasing sounding mix, not too hot, not too low.

Mostly, we mix to stems anyway, so again, the goal is for the stems to playback at a nice level.

I never mix or record anything so hot it clips or distorts (the way you hear it on a lot of modern records) and we still believe in dynamic range as a real musical attribute.

the post and music editing guys lay it into the show, so whatever limiting and fader moves are necessary, they do on their end.

Some of my cues have NO compression or limiting at all - depends.

Ed
Old 29th January 2007
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Why don't you just apply gain reduction to the actual audio file instead of sacrificing 'fader movement'?
However, reducing the gain doesn't restore the dynamics. There's no reason to eliminate the dynamics in a score before it reaches the dub stage.
Old 29th January 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkautzsch View Post
I don't know how PT handles this, but in Nuendo, this *is* a small thing. Entering a "-6" or some other dB value next to the Gain "knob" of a track takes me about 3 seconds if I'm slow. No need to fine-tune here, since that's what the fader is for.
Assuming all the music is somewhat equally too loud.
Actually talking about applying gain reduction to each audio file individually through use of a plug in. He is still going to experience the same limitations in fader range whether he types in the number or physically moves the fader!
Old 29th January 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
However, reducing the gain doesn't restore the dynamics. There's no reason to eliminate the dynamics in a score before it reaches the dub stage.
That was a suggestion for eliminating the need to have to pull the faders too far down when already at the mixing stage.
Old 30th January 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
Actually talking about applying gain reduction to each audio file individually through use of a plug in. He is still going to experience the same limitations in fader range whether he types in the number or physically moves the fader!
Not talking about the fader, but about the "Gain" knob. These are two different things in Nuendo.
Pulling down the FADER by 6dB (if that's done by grabbing it or by typing in a number), thus changing the level AFTER EQ, Inserts, Sends is (in Nuendo) not the same as changing the GAIN (by grabbing the Gain knob or typing in a number) which is the first thing in the channel and thus comes BEFORE EQ, Inserts, Sends, Fader.
Old 30th January 2007
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
That was a suggestion for eliminating the need to have to pull the faders too far down when already at the mixing stage.
Yup, sometimes you have no choice and this is necessary. Too bad though. You're starting with one hand tied behind your back, dynamicly metaphorically speaking of course.
Old 31st January 2007
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
Yup, sometimes you have no choice and this is necessary. Too bad though. You're starting with one hand tied behind your back, dynamicly metaphorically speaking of course.
I should clarify by saying I mainly mix reality tv (not by choice) so I don't even know what it's like to start a mix without having at least one appendage tightly bound

I've just learned to quickly address what I'm handed instead of wishing for 'proper' elements.
Old 31st January 2007
  #24
Gear Addict
Dynamics Dynamics Dynamics! There is nothing worse than recieving music with a waveform that looks like the new chilli peppers cd! If its a quiet scene have the music quiet (-20 to -30dDFS) If its the big car chase have it loud (up to 0bDFS if you like). Mix the music like you would want to hear it on screen. I get stuff from a composer with such great dynamics i hardly have to touch the fader because he reads the scenes so well he knows how loud and quiet to mix the music.
Old 31st January 2007
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
Dynamics Dynamics Dynamics! There is nothing worse than recieving music with a waveform that looks like the new chilli peppers cd! If its a quiet scene have the music quiet (-20 to -30dDFS) If its the big car chase have it loud (up to 0bDFS if you like). Mix the music like you would want to hear it on screen. I get stuff from a composer with such great dynamics i hardly have to touch the fader because he reads the scenes so well he knows how loud and quiet to mix the music.
But do not ride the music, or try to "mix to picture" before it gets to the dub stage. If you want to keep the quiet cues quiet, and loud cues loud, great, but don't try to do the music re-recording mixer's job for him. You don't have final dialog and effects levels or a director or post supervisor there so you can't make those kinds of determinations. If you a bunch of rides, they'll just be chasing them and cursing your name on the dub stage.
Old 31st January 2007
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
But do not ride the music, or try to "mix to picture" before it gets to the dub stage. If you want to keep the quiet cues quiet, and loud cues loud, great, but don't try to do the music re-recording mixer's job for him. You don't have final dialog and effects levels or a director or post supervisor there so you can't make those kinds of determinations. If you a bunch of rides, they'll just be chasing them and cursing your name on the dub stage.
I think it's important to make a distinction here about mixing for televison and mixing for film. I think the advice will differ a bit as those of us who mix for television are generally in charge of all aspects of the final mix.
Old 31st January 2007
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jazzpunk View Post
I think it's important to make a distinction here about mixing for televison and mixing for film. I think the advice will differ a bit as those of us who mix for television are generally in charge of all aspects of the final mix.
Hour-long prime-time TV drama and MOTWs (movie of the week) are still often handled by 2 mixer crews (occasionally 3), but sit-coms and all the rest is usually a one man job. Still, a scoring mixer, or for lower budget TV, a composer who mixes his/her own cues, still should not try to mix the music to picture with lots of rides etc. before it reaches the final mix. The single mixer who will be playing the music against final dialog and FX levels, and have the input of the producer or post/sound supervisor (as opposed to film where it's a director and supervising sound editor on the dub stage) does that.

The cues, if well written, indeed have dynamics that ebb and flow with the what's happening on-screen, so some of this naturally happens, and making broad mix decisions to support this are good, but I wouldn't suggest doing a "mix to pix" of the music with any drastic rides before it arrives for the final mix, trying to duck it for dialog lines and such, and pumping it up in the holes between. You just don't have the full perspective yet, nor the input of the client based on the full mix. It's like the FX editor giving you a stereo track claiming he's mixed all the FX to the proper level and EQ already. What if the backgrounds get lost, or the car door shutting is too loud, or the producer hates the doorbell sound?
Old 1st February 2007
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
If you a bunch of rides, they'll just be chasing them and cursing your name on the dub stage.
Actually, you'll be wastign your time, as we delete all volume automation on music when it comes in.
Old 1st February 2007
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman View Post
Actually, you'll be wastign your time, as we delete all volume automation on music when it comes in.
It's great if it's just a pro tools session with automation you can delete. The problem is when it's a mix set in stone in an audio file; then you have no opportunity to delete the automation and in the final mix you'll be chasing rides they did in music editing, trying to even them out. Time is short and expensive on the dub stage and the client won't appreciate all that extra music mixing that was done ahead of time.
Old 1st February 2007
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayfrigo View Post
It's great if it's just a pro tools session with automation you can delete. The problem is when it's a mix set in stone in an audio file; then you have no opportunity to delete the automation and in the final mix you'll be chasing rides they did in music editing, trying to even them out. Time is short and expensive on the dub stage and the client won't appreciate all that extra music mixing that was done ahead of time.
I think the big problem is, that everyone like to think they're a mixer. And I sometimes get the idea that they think they need to show us how it's done.
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