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Old 30th November 2009
Lives for gear
LX3's Avatar

Some observations from my limited experience:

* Broadcast specs for audio mean smaller dynamic range than most music people are happy with (although from the sound of most modern CD masters, we're down to similarly narrow dynamic ranges in recorded music too). The specs seem like a left-over from analog broadcasting days, and ignore the dynamic range possible with digital TV. Shame.

* You end up limiting quite a bit to make sure nothing goes over -10dBfs, but with an appropriate RMS level. I tend to limit the peaky instruments only so that you don't need to smash the entire mix bus. Others just bash a limiter across the whole mix.

* Dubbing mixers tend to mix the non-music portions of a show (e.g. dialog) up nice and loud... which means that unless you're happy with the music being quieter than the speech, it gets even less dynamic range to work with.

* Some TV dubbing rooms have terrible monitors and acoustics. Critical sound decisions are often made in rooms where you can't hear anything properly.

* A lot of broadcast sound people I've met know seemingly nothing about mixing bands. But production (who decide who's doing what) don't realise that someone that mixes a daytime chat show might be out of their depth presented with 30 channels of drums, guitars and vocals. Most production people are more worried how it looks, than how it sounds.

* Everyone down the chain seems to love using their limiter/compressor. (One guy once told me that my already compressed/limited mixes sounded good, and just needed a little "nicing up" with his Finaliser) I used to deliver fairly dynamic masters so that they could do whatever they needed to make it sit in the programme at their end. Nowadays I give them tracks that are already close to spec... so in theory, their limiter won't really touch the audio.

* TV often seem over-keen to hear the vocal, like they're doing Liza Minelli or something.

* TV people often rig audience mics in a way that suits a live studio audience... but not a band blasting away at 100dB. I've seen audience mics hanging directly in front of line arrays.

* Having said all this, standards in broadcast music seem to vary according to country. I don't know what happens to Letterman by the time it gets shown in the UK? Does it really sound that bad in the US? UK chat shows like Jonathan Ross generally get a fantastic mix for the live band finale. And of course, there's Jools Holland...

* Although there are exceptions, music festivals are usually mixed for broadcast by music people, "TV shows" by TV people.

* Oh, I nearly forgot... the smaller live TV shows I've seen (not mixed) have been done very quickly, with quite a small sound crew. The pressure is enormous, there's almost no time to work on the band's mix. Maybe one run-thru in rehearsal. And it's often just one song - you don't get three songs to gradually pull it all together. So really, kudos to anyone with the balls to do that job.