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Surround mix strategy - sanity check Reverb & Delay Plugins
Old 31st March 2019
Here for the gear

Surround mix strategy - sanity check

I have finished a stereo mix for a feature length film. We've test screened it at theater and all is good. Now I am endeavoring on a companion surround mix for the film maker.

Working on current version of ProTools Ultimate and with what I believe proper hardware setup, calibration, etc. Done some experiments and lots of reading - there are many valuable threads from over the years a blog posts. So I think I have the general structure down. But there are some specific issues where things you read are either conflicting or incomplete. So I'm hoping for a sanity check of my interpretation.

The core issue is how to feed the Ls/Rs channels without creating issues. Some threads talk about de-correlating signals, others suggest small delays, others yet consider any delay an absolute sin. And all have good arguments to their positions :-)

So here is my setup and how I have rationalized it:

1) All dialog lives on checker boarded mono tracks that pan into the center of a 5.1 DX stem (keeping dialog on center)
2) There are two dialog reverb options (controlled via VCA automation to match scene location). One is to have sends to two Dx reverb buses, one which puts a small amount in L/R and the other one which puts a touch more with a bit of pre-delay into the Ls/Rs. The other options one is to have a send into a 5.1 but with Revibe II that skips the center, a tad to L/R and a bit more in Ls/Rs.
3) Foley tracks pan into just L/R of a 5.1 FX stem.
4) Atmo tracks pan into everything except center of a 5.1 FX stem.
5) Music tracks pan 75% L/R and 25 % Ls/Rs of a 5.1 MX stem.
6) All stems along with reverb returns go into a sub master that can get printed. There's also a multi-band dynamics on the MX track for a notch driven by DX sidechain.
7) The FX and MX stems send over to an LFE bus with a subharmonic plugin to define the LFE channel.

So the issue in this setup is the part of the FX and MX stems that feed the same signal into the L/R and Ls/Rs. After all that reading I think that isn't any good as is.

Everything meters at 31 LKFS for the program. But in listening to it, I had to bring the music down further than I had in the stereo mix, which I think is indicative of a problem.

The score is only mixed in Stereo. And the Atmo comes from a high quality library and some set recordings, but is only mono or stereo.

I do have a copy of Nugen's Upmix. I don't want to use it on the whole thing, but it may be the key to handling this better at the stem level. I have seen some references to that, but they were not very detailed.

My plan now is to leave the DX setup as is. The signal only goes to center with reverb elsewhere which should de-correlate it enough.

Then bus the Atmo to a stereo intermediate bus, that uses Upmix to expand it before going to the 5.1 FX stem. That should take care of those issues.

Then doing the same, busing the stereo music to a stereo intermediate bus that uses Upmix to expand it before going to the 5.1 MX stem.

Is that a sound approach or am I losing it?

Thanks in advance.
Old 31st March 2019
I think you're overthinking the "de-correlation" a bit.

Here are my general thoughts

1)sure dx in the center...
2)scene dependent... mine is usually up the center as well... as the space gets bigger... bleed a bit into the L/R... occasionally if it's a huge space, the surrounds get involved
3)foley goes in the center(again generally). If a character says a line and sets down a glass, wouldn't it be odd if the sounds came from 2 different speakers?
4)sure... you upmix plan is ok for this... I don't usually... but it's not wrong... don't be afraid to bleed some to the middle though.
6)I don't personally use any side chain keyed stuff for music... but it's not wrong if it sounds good.
7)sure, but just when needed

Last edited by Sventeck; 31st March 2019 at 03:26 AM..
Old 31st March 2019
Here for the gear

Originally Posted by Sventeck View Post
I think you're overthinking the "de-correlation" a bit.
Thanks for those thoughts, very helpful. Yes, sometimes I lean towards overthinking things. One can always pull back a bit :-)
Old 31st March 2019
Lives for gear
minister's Avatar
Next time, start with Surround. It's easier to go down than up.

Atmos - layer more. Pick simpler atmos sounds that add up to a full sound. Pan some front, pan some rear. Don't need to upmix.

Don't send all FX to LFE. remember, it's Low Frequency EFFECTS channel.
Old 31st March 2019
Lives for gear
And if appropriate (like in an action or fantasy film), you can rebuild some of the big explosions or magic or whatever as true 5.1 (ignoring the center, of course) with a wide LS/RS. Wake the audience up!
Old 1st April 2019
Here for the gear

Thanks for the additional feedback.

We discussed the 5.1 mix at first but it wasn't in the budget, so it's being done as an add-on now. Agree that it's better to start there, and then also layer the atmo for front/back.

It's a nice family drama story around dying people and love. No big explosions. Good idea to go through all the FX and see what can be re-done selectively.
Old 1st April 2019
Gear Maniac

If you have Nugen Upmix, you might get a nicer result using it on just the Music and Ambience stems. I have used it this way, (I just clicked through the presets until I found one that sounded good for each in my room - I went for a Quad preset for Ambiences) and my mixes sounded good when broadcast in 5.1.
Old 1st April 2019
Here for the gear

Originally Posted by sonnykeyes View Post
If you have Nugen Upmix, you might get a nicer result using it on just the Music and Ambience stems.
Thanks. That's exactly where I landed after the feedback here and given the situation.

And now the music faders are also back closer to where I remembered them being in the stereo mix (as opposed to where I put them with a basic 50/50 pan).
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