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Whos you moma!? (or who are you mixing for (cinema)?)
Old 14th February 2009
  #1
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Whos you moma!? (or who are you mixing for (cinema)?)

After reading some older threads about panning etc I thought a bit about:

Who are you mixing for?
Since mixing in 5.1 is always a compromise, how do you make your basic compromises?

Are you mixing the sound for the folks in the perfect sweet spot within the cinema, or do you try to make sure that the film is enjoyable in as many seats as possible?

To me those two concepts are pretty much mutualy exclusive...

Personally I'm midstream...
I never shy away from using surrounds if the situation warrants their use, but try to make sure that the sounds in the surrounds are going along with sounds in the front (not for flybys etc obviously)
Or that the sounds in the surrounds are not to concrete and a bit blurry (delay/reverb and not to much HF seems to assist here both fx/bgs and music).

In a gunfight or action sequence I would not worry as much as I would with a talkie sequence.

And how about Dialog reverb, when do you add it to the surrounds?
As its hard to envisage evry concievable venue size, what amount of delay to use and how loud can it be as to not destroy the experience for the viewers at the back of the cinema (same goes for discrete music)?

Opinions?
Old 14th February 2009
  #2
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
After reading some older threads about panning etc I thought a bit about:

Who are you mixing for?
Since mixing in 5.1 is always a compromise, how do you make your basic compromises?

Are you mixing the sound for the folks in the perfect sweet spot within the cinema, or do you try to make sure that the film is enjoyable in as many seats as possible?

To me those two concepts are pretty much mutualy exclusive...

Personally I'm midstream...
I never shy away from using surrounds if the situation warrants their use, but try to make sure that the sounds in the surrounds are going along with sounds in the front (not for flybys etc obviously)
Or that the sounds in the surrounds are not to concrete and a bit blurry (delay/reverb and not to much HF seems to assist here both fx/bgs and music).

In a gunfight or action sequence I would not worry as much as I would with a talkie sequence.

And how about Dialog reverb, when do you add it to the surrounds?
As its hard to envisage evry concievable venue size, what amount of delay to use and how loud can it be as to not destroy the experience for the viewers at the back of the cinema (same goes for discrete music)?

Opinions?
Some mixers feel that their job is to make the sound work for everyone in the theater, and to translate well in as many different venues as possible, regardless of the acoustic and speaker system. I certainly sympathize with this idea, but I don't personally ascribe to it.

I feel I work for the director, not the audience. My goal is to make it sound the best for him and everyone else is secondary, including myself. He gets the best seat in the room and the sound is optimized for that position.

I also don't mix for lousy theaters, I mix assuming the people who will bring me my next job will see the film in the Academy Theater, Directors Guild Theater, or one of the high end theaters in Hollywood, Westwood or elsewhere.

I'm not interested in working to the lowest common denominator, you just end up with a compromised mix that nobody is really thrilled with. I will try to avoid getting too subtle if possible so that things don't get lost in the popcorn noise, but some directors want that level of subtlety and so I will give it to them.

During a mix, my experience has been that it is generally a big mistake to start talking about how things will translate out in the real world because it begs the question, why spend $600/hr to $1200/hr mixing in a room if you can't make judgments based on what you are hearing? Actually you can, but those judgments can never be valid for every situation, so I just work to the optimum and assume that the people who really care about sound will go to good theaters and arrive early enough to get a good seat. Everyone else has to take what they get.

The reality is that once a film leaves the dub stage it will rarely ever sound as good again and the people sitting at different positions in the theater will all hear a different mix, even in the best theaters. Those in the very back of the theater will hear too much bass, in the front too little, those on the right side won't hear the left surround and those sitting very close to a side wall may not hear any surrounds at all, sounds panned center/left or center/right will only have proper placement for those sitting in the exact center of the theater. SPL will vary significantly depending how far the viewer is from the screen, as will sync (the speed of sound will result in a delay of approximately one film frame for every 10 or 12 rows of seats).
Old 14th February 2009
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
Some mixers feel that their job is to make the sound work for everyone in the theater, and to translate well in as many different venues as possible, regardless of the acoustic and speaker system. I certainly sympathize with this idea, but I don't personally ascribe to it.

I feel I work for the director, not the audience. My goal is to make it sound the best for him and everyone else is secondary, including myself. He gets the best seat in the room and the sound is optimized for that position.
In your experience would you say that the directors you work for understand that they are sitting in the most optimized position and that what they are hearing is not what everybody else in the theater hears?

I'm assuming the average director does not fully get this. And trying to explain to them that the movie sounds different if they move 10 seats to the left could be just as problematic as the translating to the outside world speech.

Have you ever had a director physically move around the dub stage during a re-record to check how certain decisions are translating to different seats in the room?
Old 14th February 2009
  #4
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In TV mixing I work for the director, but the director works for the network, so there are a whole lot of people who get a "vote" on the mix should they decide to exercise it who aren't there with you. Just as with Gary's situation on a dub stage, that's why we have calibration standards, and those standards in TV are pretty strict. Their purpose is to make a project mixed observing them play pretty well in most places, and this has worked out well for me. All of us, feature mixers too, should keep in mind that younger people especially are "venue-agnostic" when it comes to how they hear our work--the mixes I've done lately often get reviewed on laptops or iPods, and a new set of projects I'm going to do have to work on cel phones as well as TV home-theatre (and festivals). We do our jobs as best we can in as calibrated a set up as we can manage, but beyond that how the mix (and everything else) plays in all these venues has to be part of the director's vision and responsibility.

Philip Perkins
Old 14th February 2009
  #5
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathand View Post
In your experience would you say that the directors you work for understand that they are sitting in the most optimized position and that what they are hearing is not what everybody else in the theater hears?

I'm assuming the average director does not fully get this. And trying to explain to them that the movie sounds different if they move 10 seats to the left could be just as problematic as the translating to the outside world speech.

Have you ever had a director physically move around the dub stage during a re-record to check how certain decisions are translating to different seats in the room?
It really varies. Some directors are very savvy and some are clueless. I've worked with directors with audiophile sensibilities and a couple of well known directors who are essentially deaf. Generally they know when to let others make critical decisions, but not always. If the director wants to leave it up to me, then I mix to my ideal, which has more to do with storytelling and dramatic impact as perceived from my mixing position. I try not to do too much second guessing.

We make a point of telling the director where to sit and then we don't encourage them to move around too much, it just complicates things.

Interestingly, the issue of translation comes up more often with temp dubs and previews because there is so much at stake and everyone is so nervous about whether the movie works. A bad preview can mean shifts in power and control, directors getting fired or the movie getting re-shot or even possibly shelved, so there are always a lot of insecurities raising their ugly heads. Once the final begins, the madness tends to subside and people relax and are more trusting.
Old 15th February 2009
  #6
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I have to qualify what I've said a bit. I actually do hedge my bets a little with respect to surrounds and the Boom.

Generally I am careful about putting super dynamic material in the surround because it is a weak link in many theaters. I don't avoid them, I just take into consideration that the surrounds in the average theater are going to crap out at lower levels than they will on a dub stage. I very rarely put super dynamic material only in the surrounds. I will generally spread the sound between the front side speaker and the surround. Part of this is to protect against distortion and part is because aesthetically I personally prefer using the surrounds as an extended field that starts in the front sides. I want a unified feeling that is connected to the screen because to me that is natural and not distracting to the audience. I avoid taking their attention away from the screen because the drama is there, however it does sometimes work really nicely in horror films to surprise and disorient the audience by crashing something into the surrounds.

Regarding the Boom, I consider it an exclamation point and like to keep the material going to the boom pretty short in duration and reserved for those times when I really want to make a point that needs some extra whammy. This works for me on a couple of different levels. First of all, the shorter I make it, the louder I can make it. I can really viscerally jolt people without them even knowing what happened. Secondly, if the boom sound is short, even if it varies in level from place to place in the theater, it is gone quickly enough that it doesn't mask other sounds as much. Nothing is worse than constant rumbling in the boom for people in the back of a theater. It eats up the entire mix and masks more important sounds. I learned this the hard way many years ago when I arrived at a premier screening late and wound up sitting in the last row of a really great sounding theater in Westwood. I had bled all the thunder effects of an extended scene into the booms to give it oomph and I couldn't hear a word of the dialogue. Later I apologized to the director for the problem and he didn't have any idea what I was talking about because he was sitting in the best seats in the house where there wasn't a bass buildup. He thought it sounded great. Now I put short boom hits on the biggest crashes and nothing on the lesser ones. That gives me better dynamics and avoids masking. It also keeps the big guns in reserve for when I really need them. After all, if you use an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, they just wind up being periods.
Old 15th February 2009
  #7
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Jfriah's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
Who are you mixing for?
I'll be the first to admit I haven't mixed as 'big a project' as others on the board, but I'm going to be flat out: I wrestled for quite awhile until I came to the realization:

I mix for myself, first and foremost. They're MY ears, after all. There was a point I mixed for the client, especially if I knew "what they liked" / "what they didn't like". Just made life easier if they corrected the same things over and over.

But now I mix for myself. Straight-up.

If a client hears something differently from me, something they want to change/add, they'll tell me. That's what I go on now. It's all you have, really, I figure. It isn't arrogance. It is "that's my ears working on a project until the client shows up". Director/producer will tell me what they are at odds with, and I'll change it to meet their vision/idea, but I have to start with myself first.

And, after all, let's face it: people sometimes say "the dub stage is where the project sounds the best". I have to agree, because: that's the system you're mixing in/under. How could anywhere else sound 'better' if it is not the environment it was created within? The client is happy(happiest) at the end of the mix and whatever happens afterward...

If you work in a good room, it should translate. If not, you should know HOW your room translates.

I don't mix lowest-common-denominator, either. I check mixes, etc. etc. but I mix for full 5.1 foremost. Otherwise, I'd mix in 2.0 and check 5.1, you know? As for laptop playback, low-quality speakers. I understand the concern, but: not my problem. If you're going to go download movies or what have you; you have to keep in mind how the different elements were put together, and where. There was a period of time where some folks were mixing on headphones, or at least checking mixes on headphones. Naw, sorry. Not for me.

As for what goes where/how much---personal taste/taste of the client. Even on a TV series when I remixed it in 5.1 for DVD release, I got fairly judicious with some DIA in one scene which a lot of folks would not have done, but the character ran around a parked car, smashing on the hood, the doors, yelling, so what the heck. Have some fun. Stuff panned.

I once applauded a co-worker on placing some DIA solely in the surrounds ( a very gutsy move); it was a door-knock and the person "outside the door" said "helloooo?", and the door knock and the voice were solely in the surrounds. Technically wrong, perhaps, but I give the guy credit.

Again, that's just me, but: you don't want it to be distracting, but if the picture cuts swing, what the heck. But yes----keep in mind downmixes, people not having surrounds hooked up, yada yada. Fold a bit back if you do that kind of thing.

[quote=nathand;3913898Have you ever had a director physically move around the dub stage during a re-record to check how certain decisions are translating to different seats in the room?[/quote]

Yes--not on purpose, either. I've never had a director sit somewhere 'on purpose' to check a mix. It just so happens on a particular day or two the director has spent a lot of time on the couch and was making critiques, then after lunch, sat up front and was making critiques.

-J

p.s. when I go see a feature in the theatre, I typically sit about 2/3 of the way back, slightly left of centre... force of habit. Everyone else should get there early enough to sit there, too. If not........sorry folks.

Last edited by Jfriah; 16th February 2009 at 07:25 PM.. Reason: oops--typo
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