Tips & Techniques:Surround Sound Mixing Technique - MSS - Multi Stereo Surround
One approach to surround sound mixing that I've developed is to use all the possible speaker pairs in a surround speaker setup as stereo pairs.
In a 5.1 surround speaker setup there are 10 possible stereo pairs (I'm ignoring the LFE since it's not full range and won't work well for my purposes):
Left Front + Right Front
Left Rear + Right Rear
Left Rear + Left Front
Right Front + Right Rear
Left Rear + Center
Center + Right Rear
Left Front + Right Rear
Left Rear + Right Front
Left Front + Center
Center + Right Front
In 6.1 or 7.1 systems there are even more possible stereo pairs; 15 and 21 respectively.
Here's a few examples of what you can do:
The common one that everyone tries: Piano recorded in stereo. Left and Right channel panned hard left and right between the front speakers. Then send to a stereo reverb that returns to the rear speakers.
Then take that approach and use it between different pairs.
A guitar recorded in stereo. Pan hard left and right between the Left Rear and the Center Speaker. Send to a stereo reverb that returns to the Left Front - Right Rear pair. And so on.
Advantages with mixing this way is that you can achieve a nice sense of envelopment without putting all the individual sources in all the speakers (which the built in surround panners in DAW software will do unless you disable some outputs or pan hard) and the phase issues it can lead to.
A big reason why mixing in stereo requires so much compression and EQ is that since everything is crammed into only two speakers, you have to work hard to let everything get its "space" in the frequency spectrum.
Then there's summing. Analog hardcores often complain that digital summing doesn't sound good. Well, how about summing in the air. Now that you've got additional speakers available, why stay within the traditional confines of stereo and only use the other speakers for ambience or effects?
For more info on this, you can check out my website:
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