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Surround sound music delivery
Old 13th June 2019
  #1
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Surround sound music delivery

I'm just finishing up composing a film score that the sound mixer wants stems for everything...I believe. I have only delivered stereo for surround film mixes in the past, maybe an odd stem here or there.

Wondering what other composers are used to delivering. The big concern is that the actual music mix will be compromised if mix stems are sent. Especially since they appear to want things dry, no compression and no panning.
Old 13th June 2019
  #2
Gear Guru
 

Well, if they're asking for stems then that's what you should provide. And by "stems" they probably don't mean every single track but a reasonable set of elements grouped together into one of several stems.

Also, I think you would normally provide a full reference mix for the re-recording engineer, which in addition to the stems being played back at unity would provide your intent with the mix.

The re-recording engineer really does need flexibility because it may not take much for things to get in the way of each other. It may even work to your advantage. I know when I get stereo mixes for TV I end up dropping levels overall if instruments are poking out of the mix and interfering with something more important - or I end up trying to tame it with multiband compression or whatever. In either case it's not ideal for the composer, because I'm either changing the balance of the mix ("mastering") or I'm burying the music. Much better then if I had the stems so I could simply dip the offending part while still maintaining more music presence.

Know what I mean?
Old 14th June 2019
  #3
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by quincyg View Post
The big concern is that the actual music mix will be compromised if mix stems are sent.
If you are a composer who is decent at mixing, and the other guy is a talented, experienced and skilled eng, I wouldn't sweat it - in fact, you may be better off. If this is the case, hand the eng whatever he wants, and let him do his thing.

If you are a composer who really excels at mixing, and the other guy is an inexperienced eng working on his first film, that's where I would sweat it. The best route, I have found, is to have a convo with whomever you are handing the score off to. Without sounding condescending or overprotective (something I had a hard time learning ), ask why he wants stems, how he wants them, and what he plans on doing with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by quincyg View Post
they appear to want things dry...
That raises a red flag. Do you use the orig. VSL lib, or so you use samples recorded wet? The panning thing also throws me. Is the eng of the mindset that all of the samples are mono, and that you panned them? I surely hope that's not what he's thinkging....

Cheers.
Old 14th June 2019
  #4
Gear Guru
 

Sorry I missed the part about panning.

I think it would be good to provide the exact quote of what you were told. I would imagine that if you're supposed to deliver within a session then maybe what was meant was no panning automation. On the other hand if what was meant was that all actual tracks are stems and that they really wanted no panning then I agree that it really seems like they want to mix themselves, which I agree is maybe a red flag...
Old 14th June 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
If you are a composer who is decent at mixing, and the other guy is a talented, experienced and skilled eng, I wouldn't sweat it - in fact, you may be better off. If this is the case, hand the eng whatever he wants, and let him do his thing.

If you are a composer who really excels at mixing, and the other guy is an inexperienced eng working on his first film, that's where I would sweat it. The best route, I have found, is to have a convo with whomever you are handing the score off to. Without sounding condescending or overprotective (something I had a hard time learning ), ask why he wants stems, how he wants them, and what he plans on doing with them.



That raises a red flag. Do you use the orig. VSL lib, or so you use samples recorded wet? The panning thing also throws me. Is the eng of the mindset that all of the samples are mono, and that you panned them? I surely hope that's not what he's thinkging....

Cheers.
All very good points. I am not a traditional composer. Not a lot of strings, etc. I am more of a composer/producer. So i end up doing cues that have a specific vibe. I've done some films that have done very well. Oscar nominated, Sundance winning, etc.
That being said the mixer is more accomplished than I am. He has mixed some of the most iconic films in history. So... I'm not at all worried about him messing up the mix, more concerned about how to deliver things in a way that they will retain my mix vibe.

In terms of vi verbs, what i mean is that i sometime will use kontakt libraries and use the internal verbs. It's kind of a headache to strip out that verb and panning from within kontakt racks. I think the bigger question will be my delays and compression. I don't see a way to strip delays and compression and still retain correct mix.

I think the advice I am hearing is solidly in the give him what he wants and let him do his magic. I'm not one to ignore advice from knowledgeable people.
Thankful for the advice here!
Old 14th June 2019
  #6
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Well, again, nothing wrong with approaching him and telling him you want to give him what he needs, and also letting him know that you hope to retain the vibe of the mix - as long as it's tactful.

Tho, I would stay away from mentioning that you use Kontakt's reverbs
Old 14th June 2019
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post

Tho, I would stay away from mentioning that you use Kontakt's reverbs
True. I don't use the efx racks within kontakt much, but I do find myself using the convolution reverbs built into some libraries. I usually end up putting the uad emt140 on a bus and that always sounds good. I'm starting to create separate instances of kontakt for each individual instrument for better mix/ routing control.
Old 18th June 2019
  #8
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I might be needing to do this soon for a movie I did a few years ago. When you say "stems", are we still talking stereo, or would they be mutichannel stems?
Old 21st June 2019
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by quincyg View Post
All very good points. I am not a traditional composer. Not a lot of strings, etc. I am more of a composer/producer. So i end up doing cues that have a specific vibe. I've done some films that have done very well. Oscar nominated, Sundance winning, etc.
That being said the mixer is more accomplished than I am. He has mixed some of the most iconic films in history. So... I'm not at all worried about him messing up the mix, more concerned about how to deliver things in a way that they will retain my mix vibe.

In terms of vi verbs, what i mean is that i sometime will use kontakt libraries and use the internal verbs. It's kind of a headache to strip out that verb and panning from within kontakt racks. I think the bigger question will be my delays and compression. I don't see a way to strip delays and compression and still retain correct mix.

I think the advice I am hearing is solidly in the give him what he wants and let him do his magic. I'm not one to ignore advice from knowledgeable people.
Thankful for the advice here!
Speaking from personal experience... talk to the mixer directly and ask specifically what he/she wants. Just because you were told the stems need to be dry, does not mean he specifically wants them...

Here's a funny story... I do a few TV shows for Dreamworks Television. When working on my first one I was told that I need to deliver a specific layout of stems, numbered a certain way, and there can only be 8 total, never more... the second stem ALWAYS has to be the click track printed... what?!?! anyway... I had questions and was able to get directly in touch with the mixer through email. in talking I had mentioned something about the click tracks... and he said "yeah, I don't know why everyone sends me click tracks... I just delete them. don't bother sending it to me cuz I never use it..." LOL Turns out, for archival purposes they need the click tracks, but for the dubstage they don't. But the studio tells the producers they need this stuff and the producers just convey it to the composers and so be it.... and the dub stage mixer is baffled as to why everyone sends him this stuff the way they do! HAHAHA

Also... I found out in talking with him he asked me to make my music stems A LITTLE drier than I normally would because they will always be adding some amount of verb to the music stem anyway... and if I mix it the way we would want it to sound on a soundtrack album it will be way to swimmy in verb with their reverb added on the dub stage...

So that could be why you got the note "mix them dry". Maybe the mixer didn't really say dry, but said "drier" and through the hands the message passed through it became "dry".

Also... of the shows I mix for Dreamworks... the different post houses they use want the stems prepped differently... one dub stage doesn't want just 8 stems, but actually wants 12. the other wants the 8. So it's always good to try and have at least a short email conversation with the dubstage mixer who will be mixing the project to hear right from "the horses mouth" what exactly they want and don't want.

On past projects I was told I had to mix everything for the music in 5.1, stems and all... only to talk to the re-recording mixer that was going to mix it and he said "hell no! don't send me 5.1 stems!!! That will be a huge PITA for my mixing template, just send me stereo stems and I pan it into the 5.1."

So... communication is key.
Old 22nd June 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Speaking from personal experience... talk to the mixer directly and ask specifically what he/she wants. Just because you were told the stems need to be dry, does not mean he specifically wants them...

So... communication is key.
I appreciate the suggestions! Gotta love gearslutz. Really nice to get advice from pros.

Thanks!
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