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Mix tips #3

Considering all the elements. Recently I’ve mixed a complete score for a feature film in 5.1 and while it is great fun, there are some serious matters that you have to be aware of. During mixing the complete score it is very seldom that you can have a complete session which includes all the other elements, that’s the privilege of the dub stage. With all that said, it is a very good idea to grab even a temp dub from the dialogue for example and mix your score against it.

Treat the centre gently

Of course we all want to fill everything with nice solos and strings and effects, but we have to be modest in this area as other sonic elements must be in there. In my experience it is a very good idea if you not only try to clean out the centre channel a bit blindly, but use some real dialogue to put up against your score mix. I can assure you that it will highly affect your decisions. The dialogue doesn’t have to be from the final mix, that will happen later. Even the raw, edited dx tracks can help you make the right decisions at mix time. Make a temp dialogue track and keep it in the mix as much as you can. You’ll unconsciously mix the score to fit in naturally, which has some additional benefits for the whole production.

  • Your mix will sound much more like a finished usable mix
  • It won’t get dissected so hard because you diligently mixed it around other elements
  • The re-recording mixer will have a much easier time
  • Probably the end result is going to be a cleaner, better sounding final thanks to the right decisions

This may sound overly obvious, but believe me, without anything to mix against, it is almost impossible to judge how something will sound. It may very well be one your best shots, but if it masks the dialogue, they need to clear it out.

Be very thorough with the solos. For this discussion it doesn’t even matter if it’s a cello or guitar or piano solo, the thing is, it should be “harmless” to other things that will eventually surround your precious solo. If it lives happily with the dialogue, you’ll have a good chance that it’ll be good with other things too. If in doubt, send a temp mix to the re-recording mixer to check if you’re on a good route.


Generally it is a good idea to treat the centre channel softly as mostly the dialogue and foley lives there in a film. This does not mean that you have to kill it completely, just use it lightly so you won’t fight other elements. Remember, it is about the end product, your mix is only a part of the big picture. Whenever in doubt, ask the re-recoding mixer for input.