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How are stems used in a TV series
Old 6th April 2019
  #1
Gear Addict
 

How are stems used in a TV series

Hi all,

A rather large network is doing a new series and they are interested in using some already finished tracks of mine as leading musical element of the series (hurray!). The actual composer of the soundtrack, though, is someone else I don't know.
Up to this time, in all the media, TV and film stuff in which my music have been used, I was only required to provide the final stereo master (plus instrumental).
This time the production is asking for stems as well.

Just out of interest I wanted to ask whoever is experienced with these kind of large TV productions and kind enough to share their thoughts, what kind of use is usually done with the stems.
I can imagine some uses: they might want to make more simple some passages so it won't interfere with the dialogue, or maybe extract a certain passage and use it a s a hook for repeating passages or moments etc...

I have to admit I'm a bit concerned though.

-What happens when they put most or all stems together and, played in ensamble they would obviously lose the whole mastering processing.
Not only the compression and limiting, but overall brightening, the addition of a bit of low end, the stereo width settings etc etc and all the stuff that mastering does.
Wouldn't it be detrimental to the track to be heard that way? Do they apply some kind of additional mastering later?

-Also what happens if they kind of "remix" it by adding other musical elements from the soundtrack together with mine? What happens with the writing credits and royalties etc?

I will obviously ask directly to my contact with the production later on but was interested in what is usually standard, and expected in these kind of situation.
It would be great to have some insight.

Also a really silly question: My stuff is all 44.1khz. Would it be advisable to convert the stems to 48khz or they should be used to this and would just automatically take care of the conversion themselves?

Thanks in advance!!! Any insight would be great.
Best regards.

Last edited by audioloud; 6th April 2019 at 11:59 AM.. Reason: english
Old 6th April 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

I've done some "large" productions albeit not scripted. I almost always get stereo full mixes and not stems. I would imagine that this is a scripted show and that they're used to having more control, but I also imagine that whomever bought this should have specified at the time of production (mix) that stems would be needed.

Most of the music I mix I mix either to just a stereo file or if required I mix to stems. Whenever stems are required I process the stems and then sum them. There's technically no real good way around the fact that if you process the sum then the parts won't be equal when summed without that processing.

So perhaps the better way to go about mixing for advertising, film and TV is to always work on stems and processing stems rather than the full summed stereo mix, just like we post engineers always split out elements to be prepared for various stem-requirements when delivering.

I'm curious to hear what others do though.
Old 6th April 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 
TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioloud View Post


I have to admit I'm a bit concerned though.

-What happens when they put most or all stems together and, played in ensamble they would obviously lose the whole mastering processing.
Not only the compression and limiting, but overall brightening, the addition of a bit of low end, the stereo width settings etc etc and all the stuff that mastering does.
Wouldn't it be detrimental to the track to be heard that way? Do they apply some kind of additional mastering later?

-Also what happens if they kind of "remix" it by adding other musical elements from the soundtrack together with mine? What happens with the writing credits and royalties etc?
Why would you care, you're getting paid.
Its not like you are renting out your house!

We (re-recording mixers) don't like "mastered" music. We need some dynamic range.
We like to high pass, also drop 2 to 7K with a multi band compressor to make room for dialog.
Use stems to kill percusives!!
All sorts of fun stuff!!!


Why are composers not invited to the final TV/Film mix?
They complain the dialog gets in the way of their music!!!
Old 6th April 2019
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioloud View Post
Hi all,

A rather large network is doing a new series and they are interested in using some already finished tracks of mine as leading musical element of the series (hurray!). The actual composer of the soundtrack, though, is someone else I don't know.
Up to this time, in all the media, TV and film stuff in which my music have been used, I was only required to provide the final stereo master (plus instrumental).
This time the production is asking for stems as well.

Just out of interest I wanted to ask whoever is experienced with these kind of large TV productions and kind enough to share their thoughts, what kind of use is usually done with the stems.
I can imagine some uses: they might want to make more simple some passages so it won't interfere with the dialogue, or maybe extract a certain passage and use it a s a hook for repeating passages or moments etc...

I have to admit I'm a bit concerned though.

-What happens when they put most or all stems together and, played in ensamble they would obviously lose the whole mastering processing.
Not only the compression and limiting, but overall brightening, the addition of a bit of low end, the stereo width settings etc etc and all the stuff that mastering does.
Wouldn't it be detrimental to the track to be heard that way? Do they apply some kind of additional mastering later?

-Also what happens if they kind of "remix" it by adding other musical elements from the soundtrack together with mine? What happens with the writing credits and royalties etc?

I will obviously ask directly to my contact with the production later on but was interested in what is usually standard, and expected in these kind of situation.
It would be great to have some insight.

Also a really silly question: My stuff is all 44.1khz. Would it be advisable to convert the stems to 48khz or they should be used to this and would just automatically take care of the conversion themselves?

Thanks in advance!!! Any insight would be great.
Best regards.
Hi! I'm the score mixer for two shows with Dreamworks television and one show with Warner Bros television (and hopefully about to land a show with ABC/Disney in the next few days too)...

The stems are ABSOLUTELY important. There is not a single show I work on where the re-recording mixers use my stereo mixes. My stereo and 5.1 mixes that I am required to make by the production companies and networks are SOLELY for use in any sort of soundtrack albums they might release in the future. they are never used in the show. The mixers always, 100% of the time, are mixing from my stems. They will usually group my stems together so they can adjust them together as though they are a mix... but they constantly automate the stems on top of the overall automation of each music mix to fix the balance of the music as the music gets quieter (or louder) and to make room sonically for other things going on in the shows.

This includes the theme song and any vocal songs they are using in the shows.

Why, you ask? What about your mastering? What about your mix?

People don't realize that the actual "mixing level" for broadcast TV shows is kind of quiet. The average level of dialogue is usually around -23dBfs in your daw (films are usually around -31dBfs!) and TV shows are usually peak limited to -10dBfs (Films usually are not), so there are no peaks over -10dB in your daw with TV shows.

To show you what I'm talking about... load your mastered stereo mix into your daw and leave the fader at 0. Then create a signal generator plugin on another track using a 1KHz sine wave and pull that volume down to -23dBfs... now hit play... can you hear the sine wave? How far down do you need to pull your mastered song down until you can clearly hear the sine wave at -23?

Most re-recording mixers I've worked with end up having to pull mastered music mixes down by 30 to 40 dB just to get it to kind of fit with the relative levels of everything else.

So... using unmastered music mixes makes it easier to fit the song into the production. They won't have to pull the volume down as much as they would the mastered stereo mix, and the mix is more dynamic without mastering which allows your music to poke through without being overbearing.

Second, they can now tweak the mix to make it sound more like the mix does at full volume, while it's pulled down by 20dB... pull your mastered stereo track down by 30 dB or 40dB (or your unmastered mix down by 15 or 20dB) and see what happens to the bottom end and top end... Because of the way our ears work, we don't hear audio the same way quietly as we do when it's loud... so at a quieter volume we will want to hear more bottom and sometimes more top and the perceived relative balance between the instruments change (you will usually hear more drums and vocals and less guitars, pianos/synths, etc). Having the stems allows them to fix the balance and get the instruments blended correctly for that level.

Also, after pulling it down, you'll also notice that in order for your vocals to match the same relative level as the dialogue, the music in your mix feels overly loud compared to all the rest of the music in the show... so one of the things they use the stems for all the time is to turn the music down and then turn the vocal stems up.

Yes, occasionally they will use the stems to make an edit of your song or to change the instrumentation of the mix... maybe they drop the drums out because there is a clock sound prominent in the SFX and it isn't even close to the same tempo as the drums in your song... so they will mute the drums but maybe leave the guitars and synths. They might mute and unmute your vocals in and around dialogue. Within the TV shows themselves they don't do a ton of chopping and re-arranging. In promos for the shows they will. But in the TV show itself there usually isn't a ton of editing... maybe they skip a verse and chorus or they loop a couple bars of the intro or something like that.

At the end of the day you have to remember, this TV show is NOT about your song or your music... your music is there to help support and enhance the show. Don't be the cowbell player who feels his part is more important than everything else. Send them the unmastered stems and let them do their thing and you will be happy with the results... but more importantly, the producers who are paying you to use your music will be happy with the results and will hopefully pay you to use more of your music in the future.
Old 7th April 2019
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Hi! I'm the score mixer for two shows with Dreamworks television and one show with Warner Bros television (and hopefully about to land a show with ABC/Disney in the next few days too)...

The stems are ABSOLUTELY important. There is not a single show I work on where the re-recording mixers use my stereo mixes. My stereo and 5.1 mixes that I am required to make by the production companies and networks are SOLELY for use in any sort of soundtrack albums they might release in the future. they are never used in the show. The mixers always, 100% of the time, are mixing from my stems. They will usually group my stems together so they can adjust them together as though they are a mix... but they constantly automate the stems on top of the overall automation of each music mix to fix the balance of the music as the music gets quieter (or louder) and to make room sonically for other things going on in the shows.

This includes the theme song and any vocal songs they are using in the shows.

Why, you ask? What about your mastering? What about your mix?

People don't realize that the actual "mixing level" for broadcast TV shows is kind of quiet. The average level of dialogue is usually around -23dBfs in your daw (films are usually around -31dBfs!) and TV shows are usually peak limited to -10dBfs (Films usually are not), so there are no peaks over -10dB in your daw with TV shows.

To show you what I'm talking about... load your mastered stereo mix into your daw and leave the fader at 0. Then create a signal generator plugin on another track using a 1KHz sine wave and pull that volume down to -23dBfs... now hit play... can you hear the sine wave? How far down do you need to pull your mastered song down until you can clearly hear the sine wave at -23?

Most re-recording mixers I've worked with end up having to pull mastered music mixes down by 30 to 40 dB just to get it to kind of fit with the relative levels of everything else.

So... using unmastered music mixes makes it easier to fit the song into the production. They won't have to pull the volume down as much as they would the mastered stereo mix, and the mix is more dynamic without mastering which allows your music to poke through without being overbearing.

Second, they can now tweak the mix to make it sound more like the mix does at full volume, while it's pulled down by 20dB... pull your mastered stereo track down by 30 dB or 40dB (or your unmastered mix down by 15 or 20dB) and see what happens to the bottom end and top end... Because of the way our ears work, we don't hear audio the same way quietly as we do when it's loud... so at a quieter volume we will want to hear more bottom and sometimes more top and the perceived relative balance between the instruments change (you will usually hear more drums and vocals and less guitars, pianos/synths, etc). Having the stems allows them to fix the balance and get the instruments blended correctly for that level.

Also, after pulling it down, you'll also notice that in order for your vocals to match the same relative level as the dialogue, the music in your mix feels overly loud compared to all the rest of the music in the show... so one of the things they use the stems for all the time is to turn the music down and then turn the vocal stems up.

Yes, occasionally they will use the stems to make an edit of your song or to change the instrumentation of the mix... maybe they drop the drums out because there is a clock sound prominent in the SFX and it isn't even close to the same tempo as the drums in your song... so they will mute the drums but maybe leave the guitars and synths. They might mute and unmute your vocals in and around dialogue. Within the TV shows themselves they don't do a ton of chopping and re-arranging. In promos for the shows they will. But in the TV show itself there usually isn't a ton of editing... maybe they skip a verse and chorus or they loop a couple bars of the intro or something like that.

At the end of the day you have to remember, this TV show is NOT about your song or your music... your music is there to help support and enhance the show. Don't be the cowbell player who feels his part is more important than everything else. Send them the unmastered stems and let them do their thing and you will be happy with the results... but more importantly, the producers who are paying you to use your music will be happy with the results and will hopefully pay you to use more of your music in the future.
Derek you are a star!
Thank you so much for the very detailed reply.
I really appreciate it.
Some things are just very different in the broadcast/score industry as opposed to just making records I'm learning.
I don't intend to be an imposing and paranoid cowbell player for sure

The level matter understood, maybe though the only thing I would probably do is I should apply some EQ to the separate stems to make the summed result more similar to the tone of the final mastered version.

I was a bit concerned in general because this one was not on spec music I wrote for the show but part of an album of music that is dear to me and I'm about to release. (PS, genre wise it's rock-y song-y material)
So you can understand I can get a bit nervous after a couple of years of work between writing, recording mixing etc etc to make it sound the way I wanted it to, then to just give away stems to people I've never worked with.
Although the fact it is not just a small local TV station should mean the engineers should 100% know what they are doing and won't butcher my precious sound (sorry cowbell!) with a fuzz effect and a bit crusher or something...

As for the sample rate I guess I should just send them what the mix was in (44.1khz) instead of converting it to 48khz for the production, would that be correct?

Another thing I was wondering is how detailed should the stems be. I am not sure if I should just have the most basic of separation (as for example drums, bass, keys, guitars, BVs, lead vocals) or stem separately for example, piano, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, percussion, acoustic drums etc etc...
For now I have printed the most basic stems as I'm guessing it should be what they prefer for the task....(?)

Thanks again, that was truly super helpful.

Last edited by audioloud; 7th April 2019 at 01:55 PM.. Reason: specific
Old 7th April 2019
  #6
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
I've done some "large" productions albeit not scripted. I almost always get stereo full mixes and not stems. I would imagine that this is a scripted show and that they're used to having more control, but I also imagine that whomever bought this should have specified at the time of production (mix) that stems would be needed.

Most of the music I mix I mix either to just a stereo file or if required I mix to stems. Whenever stems are required I process the stems and then sum them. There's technically no real good way around the fact that if you process the sum then the parts won't be equal when summed without that processing.

So perhaps the better way to go about mixing for advertising, film and TV is to always work on stems and processing stems rather than the full summed stereo mix, just like we post engineers always split out elements to be prepared for various stem-requirements when delivering.

I'm curious to hear what others do though.
Hi thanks for your reply.
This wasn't on spec work so I'm adjusting now to their requirements having already a finished and ready to release product, so it's a different situation then the one you are describing, which does make perfect sense though.
Old 7th April 2019
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVPostSound View Post
Why would you care, you're getting paid.
Its not like you are renting out your house!
I do care... What can I do...
Old 7th April 2019
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioloud View Post
The level matter understood, maybe though the only thing I would probably do is I should apply some EQ to the separate stems to make the summed result more similar to the tone of the final mastered version.
yes, you can put EQs across each stem bus if you want, they way you would on a stereo mix bus. There is no problem with that.

The one big thing about stems to triple check is that all the effects for that particular instrument and/or stem is being routed correctly... you don't want the drum verb to accidentally get bussed to the guitar stem... and so on.

Quote:
I was a bit concerned in general because this one was not on spec music I wrote for the show but part of an album of music that is dear to me and I'm about to release. (PS, genre wise it's rock-y song-y material)
So you can understand I can get a bit nervous after a couple of years of work between writing, recording mixing etc etc to make it sound the way I wanted it to, then to just give away stems to people I've never worked with.
Although the fact it is not just a small local TV station should mean the engineers should 100% know what they are doing and won't butcher my precious sound (sorry cowbell!) with a fuzz effect and a bit crusher or something...
I get it... but the "sound" of your mix in the show isn't what is going to drive people to your mastered version up on spotify... the emotional impact your song has in relation to the story of the show is what is going to drive people to you. So don't worry so much about the sound itself... I know this sounds funny coming from a sound engineer, mixer and producer... but really once your song is picked, the fidelity and sound of the mix is kind of superfluous. I've done somewhere between 700 and 800 albums now, plus tons of film and tv scores, been nominated for grammy awards, etc... believe me when I tell you the song is paramount above all else... As much as we sound engineers want to feel that WE are the ones that make a song a hit... and the musicians want to feel THEY are the ones what make a song a hit... it's really the song itself. I've seen super crappy recordings and mixes blow up because the song itself is just phenomenal. I have never seen a terrible song blow up simply because the mix was amazing or the playing on the song was incredible. So always keep that in mind...

Quote:
As for the sample rate I guess I should just send them what the mix was in (44.1khz) instead of converting it to 48khz for the production, would that be correct?
Oh yeah... sorry about that... I forgot to mention this. ALWAYS 48KHz/24bit. always. Never 44.1KHz for any Film or TV. Even though they can convert it... it just eats up time on their end... and while converting one song may not take that much time... if everyone has that same attitude now the post house is converting hundreds of songs and staring at progress meters for hours a week. When economies of scale are a factor, all the little stuff you can do to help speed up the process really does make a huge difference. So always deliver 48KHz/24bit.

Quote:
Another thing I was wondering is how detailed should the stems be. I am not sure if I should just have the most basic of separation (as for example drums, bass, keys, guitars, BVs, lead vocals) or stem separately for example, piano, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, percussion, acoustic drums etc etc...
For now I have printed the most basic stems as I'm guessing it should be what they prefer for the task....(?)
Every production company is different... So it's best to ask. Each company and sometimes even each re-recording mixer/post house has their own specifications as to how they want/need it split out. So it's best to ask first.

But the general rule of thumb is to try and put instrument groups together on a stem... so all the drums and percussion go on a Percussion stem... any bass guitar or bass synths go on a bass stem. all the acoustic and electric guitars go on a guitar stem... and so on...

one of the things I usually do is split out stuff that is different. So if I have a strumming electric guitar and acoustic guitar but then I also have a higher octave arpeggiated semi distorted electric guitar with delay on it AND I have maybe a slide guitar melody/counter melody type guitar... I'll make 3 guitar stems... Strum Guitar Stem (with all the electric and acoustic guitars that are strumming combined), Arp Guitar Stem and Slide (or Melody) Guitar Stem).

The concept is... when listening to the mix what "elements" could someone need to turn off or on, turn up or down? usually things that are all playing the same part are heard as "one" element. You might have piano, celeste, music box and fender rhodes all playing the same part to get a unique sound to the part... but it's still ONE musical part. so you would print them together onto the same stem. You might have 6 or 8 rhythm guitar tracks for the entire song... but they are all rhythm parts... so they all get summed onto the guitar or rhythm guitar stem.

make sense? The one thing I would recommend doing is keeping the solo lead vocal separate from all the rest of the vocals... I usually make a lead vocal stem and then background vocals stem. sometimes I'll make a lead vocal stem, a harmony vocal stem (that includes any doubles and harmonies of the lead vocal) and then a background vocal stem (which has all the stacked vocals on the hooks and whatnot)... that way if they ever need JUST the single lead vocal by itself, they have it. sometimes when you just do a "vocals" stem and it's the lead and backgrounds and harmonies and doubles and ad libs and everything all summed together, it's not as useful because then it's an "all or nothing" of all the different vocal elements. Sometimes it's nice to just hint at the song with just the solo lead vocal and maybe the piano or one guitar stem on... makes for a really cool effect within the story of an episode (works for foreshadowing, words for reminiscing, etc).

But in the end, never just assume... don't be afraid to ask and see if there is any standard stem guidelines they want you to follow or if the re-recording mixer has anything specific he/she prefers.
Old 8th April 2019
  #9
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
yes, you can put EQs across each stem bus if you want, they way you would on a stereo mix bus. There is no problem with that.

The one big thing about stems to triple check is that all the effects for that particular instrument and/or stem is being routed correctly... you don't want the drum verb to accidentally get bussed to the guitar stem... and so on.



I get it... but the "sound" of your mix in the show isn't what is going to drive people to your mastered version up on spotify... the emotional impact your song has in relation to the story of the show is what is going to drive people to you. So don't worry so much about the sound itself... I know this sounds funny coming from a sound engineer, mixer and producer... but really once your song is picked, the fidelity and sound of the mix is kind of superfluous. I've done somewhere between 700 and 800 albums now, plus tons of film and tv scores, been nominated for grammy awards, etc... believe me when I tell you the song is paramount above all else... As much as we sound engineers want to feel that WE are the ones that make a song a hit... and the musicians want to feel THEY are the ones what make a song a hit... it's really the song itself. I've seen super crappy recordings and mixes blow up because the song itself is just phenomenal. I have never seen a terrible song blow up simply because the mix was amazing or the playing on the song was incredible. So always keep that in mind...



Oh yeah... sorry about that... I forgot to mention this. ALWAYS 48KHz/24bit. always. Never 44.1KHz for any Film or TV. Even though they can convert it... it just eats up time on their end... and while converting one song may not take that much time... if everyone has that same attitude now the post house is converting hundreds of songs and staring at progress meters for hours a week. When economies of scale are a factor, all the little stuff you can do to help speed up the process really does make a huge difference. So always deliver 48KHz/24bit.



Every production company is different... So it's best to ask. Each company and sometimes even each re-recording mixer/post house has their own specifications as to how they want/need it split out. So it's best to ask first.

But the general rule of thumb is to try and put instrument groups together on a stem... so all the drums and percussion go on a Percussion stem... any bass guitar or bass synths go on a bass stem. all the acoustic and electric guitars go on a guitar stem... and so on...

one of the things I usually do is split out stuff that is different. So if I have a strumming electric guitar and acoustic guitar but then I also have a higher octave arpeggiated semi distorted electric guitar with delay on it AND I have maybe a slide guitar melody/counter melody type guitar... I'll make 3 guitar stems... Strum Guitar Stem (with all the electric and acoustic guitars that are strumming combined), Arp Guitar Stem and Slide (or Melody) Guitar Stem).

The concept is... when listening to the mix what "elements" could someone need to turn off or on, turn up or down? usually things that are all playing the same part are heard as "one" element. You might have piano, celeste, music box and fender rhodes all playing the same part to get a unique sound to the part... but it's still ONE musical part. so you would print them together onto the same stem. You might have 6 or 8 rhythm guitar tracks for the entire song... but they are all rhythm parts... so they all get summed onto the guitar or rhythm guitar stem.

make sense? The one thing I would recommend doing is keeping the solo lead vocal separate from all the rest of the vocals... I usually make a lead vocal stem and then background vocals stem. sometimes I'll make a lead vocal stem, a harmony vocal stem (that includes any doubles and harmonies of the lead vocal) and then a background vocal stem (which has all the stacked vocals on the hooks and whatnot)... that way if they ever need JUST the single lead vocal by itself, they have it. sometimes when you just do a "vocals" stem and it's the lead and backgrounds and harmonies and doubles and ad libs and everything all summed together, it's not as useful because then it's an "all or nothing" of all the different vocal elements. Sometimes it's nice to just hint at the song with just the solo lead vocal and maybe the piano or one guitar stem on... makes for a really cool effect within the story of an episode (works for foreshadowing, words for reminiscing, etc).

But in the end, never just assume... don't be afraid to ask and see if there is any standard stem guidelines they want you to follow or if the re-recording mixer has anything specific he/she prefers.
Thanks again mate for taking your time to answer, I really appreciate it.
That's some very useful and detailed information!
Exactly what I needed
All the best
Old 13th April 2019
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

I mix a lot of film and tv and always prefer to use the stems if possible.

If you are worried with how the song might sound, then you might not want to license it to the show. Anything and everything can happen to the song on a tv/film mix stage.

We might put it through a bit crusher or make things sound Lofi and mono, or make it sound huge and spacious with lots of reverb. At that point, whatever helps the story is what will be done.

If that might be upsetting, then you might not want to license the track.

A lot of people don’t want to have their music just be in the background, and that is understandable. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t be too worried about mastering. Mixers usually eq and remix the song based on the scene. It’s not a static thing. My eq and levels change constantly every couple of frames.

A big reason we want the stems is to make the song easier to edit or take out vocals or curse words. We also want the stems to mix together and sound like the final version, not the unmastered version.
Old 16th April 2019
  #11
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by E Baxter Put View Post
I mix a lot of film and tv and always prefer to use the stems if possible.

If you are worried with how the song might sound, then you might not want to license it to the show. Anything and everything can happen to the song on a tv/film mix stage.

We might put it through a bit crusher or make things sound Lofi and mono, or make it sound huge and spacious with lots of reverb. At that point, whatever helps the story is what will be done.

If that might be upsetting, then you might not want to license the track.

A lot of people don’t want to have their music just be in the background, and that is understandable. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t be too worried about mastering. Mixers usually eq and remix the song based on the scene. It’s not a static thing. My eq and levels change constantly every couple of frames.

A big reason we want the stems is to make the song easier to edit or take out vocals or curse words. We also want the stems to mix together and sound like the final version, not the unmastered version.
Thank you, I'm understanding the main issue here, one just needs to change a bit mind frame regarding the sound in this case, I am gathering.
Although it is difficult for my face not to have weird ticks while I read things like "bit crusher" on my precious track
Old 21st April 2019
  #12
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Echoin' Etch. Exactly as it is for me. The stereos and 5.1s are never used for the show or film.
Old 24th April 2019
  #13
Lives for gear
 

Great comments all around I think.

An example of mine in the not too distant past is a show open which actually points out a potential problem; it was mixed and "mastered" presumably by the composer, and the mix was basically just missing bass (literally), because there was no bass guitar in the track (literally). It probably sounded fine for editors in their edit suites because they could adjust level, didn't have that much bass or incorrect bass anyway, and were focusing on different things. But when mixing the actual show going from the cold open to the main title open was super-jarring since the chosen library tracks in the very beginning had tons of really low ominous bass.

So, I got stems which didn't sum to that mix at all..!!! Like, not even close. And that is super annoying. Because now I have to be the music mix engineer in addition to the audio post engineer, and try to figure out which not-bass instrument can be 'fixed' to play the part of the bass, while simultaneously maintain the 'feel' of the open.

It all came out fine and I was also able to adjust some other instruments that were annoyingly buried at the 'wrong' time, but that's the sort of stuff that adds (paid) time on my end.. which.. is fine ;-)
Old 28th April 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 
TVPostSound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioloud View Post
Thank you, I'm understanding the main issue here, one just needs to change a bit mind frame regarding the sound in this case, I am gathering.
Although it is difficult for my face not to have weird ticks while I read things like "bit crusher" on my precious track
You really need to let go.
Once you release them and get your check, they are no longer YOUR precious tracks!!
Old 11th May 2019
  #15
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
:::Newbie alert!:::

Trying to wrap my head around all of this. I get the whole stems vs 1 stereo mastered mix reasoning and purposes, but, what I am finding a little confusing are the explanations here.

I mean what is the difference between processing each individual stem/group as opposed to just making the song/piece (as you would normally do if it were for an album) and just leaving the master channel processing on when bouncing individual stems (and the single summed final master stereo print) - rather than taking the same eq, comp, limiting (whatever chain youre using on the master channel) and putting it on each stem/group track and turning off the exact same 1 master channel processing chain instance? It's all hitting that master processing chain, so the only difference is having one instance of the master channel chain vs 8 instances (or however many stem/groups in the song), right?

From what I gather, the difference between music for film and music for album is - the final format (24/48), level (-10db max) and printing stems, a stereo master, as well as the various length versions (and of course the altered individual stems). So if a piece of music is say 3 minutes in length, comprised of 8 stem/groups, plus 60 sec and 30 sec shortened versions, you end up providing:

1. the full stereo mastered version (for pitch/library ad/sales/soundtrack)

**this brings up another question though, because it wont be used for the actual film, but rather only for the initial pitch/library ad/sales/soundtrack, then what format should the master stereo print be delivered in - the original project rate? 24/48? 24-44? 16/44? 24/96? 32/96? 320 kbps? all of the above? )

2. 8 individual stems (for the actual film mixing)

3. same as 1 and 2, but shortened version, with altered in/outs (where necessary).

Using the example piece of music, in total, 3 master stereo versions (or more if providing different rates) + 24 stems (8 stems for each length version).

What am I missing here? Am I WAY over thinking this or what?
Old 11th May 2019
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 11f77bb View Post
I mean what is the difference between processing each individual stem/group as opposed to just making the song/piece (as you would normally do if it were for an album) and just leaving the master channel processing on when bouncing individual stems
A gazillion music composers and producers and mixers use dynamics on the master. I think it is dynamics processing as well as anything 'non-linear' that is the problem.

When the input to those plugins changes the plugin behaves differently. A plain old EQ is just a dumb "cut/boost frequencies here by XdB", regardless of what flows through it. But with a compressor you have a threshold, and sending one stem through might not trigger the compressor at all, but three might. And so your stems come out at different levels than they would have been in in the final mix if the final was compressed.

What bothers us re-recording engineers is that we don't know what processing you used on the master, so now we have to be mastering engineers too trying to reverse-engineer your master to get to the sound the editor/director liked initially, before we can proceed.

Of course, if we never need to adjust individual elements (stems) then we can simply use your stereo mix, and quite frankly that's probably the vast majority of cases in post production, but.. well.. read previous posts..

------------

As for what you end up delivering; I can't speak to that.
Old 11th May 2019
  #17
Lives for gear
 

PS: You can simply try it yourself.

1. Mix your music with a bunch of stuff on the master, including dynamics. Export.

2. Bounce out stems by soloing and recording out of that same master.

3. Create a new empty session and import just the stems as well as the full mix, no plugins anywhere.

4. Alternate between a) the full mastered mix and b) all of the stems.

Listen.
Old 11th May 2019
  #18
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
@ mattiasnyc Yes, all of that concerning the compression and limiting being affected makes perfect sense. Except when the piece of music is say a digital hardcore noise and/or heavily pumping etc type of genre? Seems it would be very tricky if not impossible doing stems only without that master chain in place. I dunno.. like I said, i'm a newbie to "music for film", a little confused by the explanations here and just asking questions about how you guys are working and dealing with the standard requirements of this sector of the industry.
Old 11th May 2019
  #19
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
*I guess a solution is or could be a slightly different work flow, like to do all of the creative sound design and processing on each stem/group from the very beginning, keeping the master channel empty (save a tiny bit of polishing final eq, compression and limiting only for the stereo master print - and only if absolutely necessary).. rather than using any sub mix groups or master channel broad stroke creative sound designing and color processing? Thinking out loud here...
Old 11th May 2019
  #20
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 11f77bb View Post
@ mattiasnyc Yes, all of that concerning the compression and limiting being affected makes perfect sense. Except when the piece of music is say a digital hardcore noise and/or heavily pumping etc type of genre? Seems it would be very tricky if not impossible doing stems only without that master chain in place.
You'll simply have to work 'backwards'. If you look at what "Etch" wrote earlier you want to split out things that we might want to adjust independently. If you have something that needs to be pumping based on something else and the two need to live on different stems then what you could do is set up your dynamics processing on the pumping chain but trigger it using a side-chain from other sources. That way you can get one sound on one stem to trigger dynamics on another.

It's probably a bit odd to think about it like that but you really have to either give it up and not do what you want artistically or find a way around it, or not give the productions what they need (which is the worst option).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 11f77bb View Post
I dunno.. like I said, i'm a newbie to "music for film", a little confused by the explanations here and just asking questions about how you guys are working and dealing with the standard requirements of this sector of the industry.
All good. It's an easy thing to get confused by or have questions about.

Just remember what others wrote: Just because your music sounds absolutely awesome in isolation doesn't mean it "works" under dialog in a scene in someone's room, or as a live DJ set in a sequence taking placing in a warehouse (still with dialog), or even with "just" sound effects in an action sequence.

That cool distorting pumping instrument you have in your mix might interfere with something more important like a sound effect or a piece of dialog, even if it's just for 2 seconds. So with just the full mix we'd have to either lower all of your music (we might still want everything else to be pretty loud) or spend a bunch of time getting a less good result using an EQ. It would be easier if we could just lower that one stem for 2 seconds. Done. Move on.

That's sort of the perspective.
Old 11th May 2019
  #21
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
Yes, as I read and re-read everything in this thread and others, it certainly makes sense. On a project by project basis, between genres and moods, figuring out these routing and processing scenarios and finally achieving desirable results is actually part of the appeal and fun, like a puzzle or game. For me anyway.

I guess I just think back to reality shows, in the UK and Australia especially, where they are only dropping popular songs left and right throughout the shows - and how those types of songs are delivered and worked with - considering everyone here saying that stereo masters are never used. Trying to wrap my brain around how I would revisit projects and then deliver some of my popular songs that have sold well and worked well in clubs etc., as well as new productions and changing up my work flow to better suit the music for film target.
Old 11th May 2019
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 11f77bb View Post
I guess I just think back to reality shows, in the UK and Australia especially, where they are only dropping popular songs left and right throughout the shows - and how those types of songs are delivered and worked with - considering everyone here saying that stereo masters are never used.
Well, that's not true though. My first post, the first response, was basically saying that for some types of programming you pretty much never see stems. It's a matter of budget, turnaround times and genres. Reality and lifestyle and sports programming?... on a short turnaround?... no stems, just finished mixes (here in NY)..

So, it depends.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 11f77bb View Post
Trying to wrap my brain around how I would revisit projects and then deliver some of my popular songs that have sold well and worked well in clubs etc.,
Yeah, interesting thing to consider..
Old 12th May 2019
  #23
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
A couple of more semi-related questions... (maybe I need to start my own thread?) do any of you use ISRC's (or ISWC's) with stems or only with the stereo master version -or do you not use them at all and leave it all up to the library company to handle?

I have my ISRC registrant code that I've been using for a few years of singles and albums and I know these are important for tracking sales, uses and royalties, but unsure how this works with libraries. I am registered with Soundexchange and was with BMI, but am considering a switch there. Anyway, as a 100% in house songwriter, composer, performer, artist, label, with several different potential publishing revenue streams available (performance, mechanical, neighboring rights...) just wondering how it all works with these libraries, which PRO's outside of SE that I should be considering and what exactly to prepare and register with them to be sure I am covering all areas of royalties.

Sorry for all of the questions .. and thanks for all of the info and help guys!
Old 13th May 2019
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by 6x3 View Post
A couple of more semi-related questions... (maybe I need to start my own thread?) do any of you use ISRC's (or ISWC's) with stems or only with the stereo master version -or do you not use them at all and leave it all up to the library company to handle?

I have my ISRC registrant code that I've been using for a few years of singles and albums and I know these are important for tracking sales, uses and royalties, but unsure how this works with libraries. I am registered with Soundexchange and was with BMI, but am considering a switch there. Anyway, as a 100% in house songwriter, composer, performer, artist, label, with several different potential publishing revenue streams available (performance, mechanical, neighboring rights...) just wondering how it all works with these libraries, which PRO's outside of SE that I should be considering and what exactly to prepare and register with them to be sure I am covering all areas of royalties.

Sorry for all of the questions .. and thanks for all of the info and help guys!
This would be better served in its own topic so that people searching for answers to these same questions will be able to find it easier. If you haven't already... start a new thread with these questions about ISRCs and we'll all jump in and give you some answers...

Let's keep this thread about delivering stems.
Old 13th May 2019
  #25
Deleted 11f77bb
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
This would be better served in its own topic so that people searching for answers to these same questions will be able to find it easier. If you haven't already... start a new thread with these questions about ISRCs and we'll all jump in and give you some answers...

Let's keep this thread about delivering stems.
Yep, I know I am probably annoying some of you vets here, so just did that. And thank you!

ISRC's/ISRW's, PRO's, delivery formats + Music For Picture questions
Old 13th May 2019
  #26
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVPostSound View Post
You really need to let go.
Once you release them and get your check, they are no longer YOUR precious tracks!!
Sure yes, yes, I understand, but let's not exaggerate here...
I accept and understand I can't hope to have a final say or any say at all on the sound of my stuff ON THE GIVEN SHOW once I hand my stems.
(Other interesting and actually helpful posters have made that clear to me and I thank them)

Other then that, I still retain the rights to my work and will continue making a living of it in other media contexts like I did long before this opportunity came by.
I always aim to the maximum quality I can achieve and will continue doing so, and will continue being interested in it.

So F*** yeah, they are still MY precious tracks.

Regards
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