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Tag: mixing

Lost in chaos

I’ve been through some pretty hectic days, and it’s not over yet. Planned to post some short tips and some “in progress” work tips, but as usual I miserably failed to make time for it.

Now I’m in the middle of a final mix session, a full 68 minutes of music for a 100 year-old silent film. Obviously the schedule just turned into a turmoil, so long hours and unexpected tasks just turned up in every minute. But enough complaining…

Interesting posts are on the way. As soon as I’ll have some time and energy I’m going to finish a few blog posts about:

  • feature film score recording
  • feature film score mixing
  • installing Pro Tools HD and controllers into our refurbished studio
  • some Mac related Pro Tools tests (hopefully including new laptops…)
  • our different workflows at the studio
  • why we chose to purchase controllers with real knobs and faders instead of a touch surface
  • additional Pro Tools tips

All these articles are whether prepared or planned so stay tuned, I think you’ll find it very interesting and informative.

On a closing note I would like to thank the huge amount of emails, I try to answer all of it, and of course, will write about the suggested things. But for today, I’m going to finish the final mix!

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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.

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Ruler-flat faders

Time to time this question/observation comes up on different audio forums, or someone ask another guy about this, or sometimes I get emails about this. Is it good or bad practice? What’s the idea behind it? Is it just a game? Or some weird habit? Questions like these emerge. I saw guys who swears that it is the only method, heard others who ridicule it.

As it seems to be, this is one of the dark spots of mixing, I’ll try to shed some light on it. But first things first, let’s see what it is. After the soundcheck, raw mix, pre-mix, pre-dub, etc. you see this on the console or control surface.

rulerflat faders

Everything at unity, not even a millimetre below or above. How does it make sense? Well, there are multiple answers for this. If you see this for example in a live sound environment and then see the guy mixing with the gains to adjust his/her mix, than it’s simply a bad habit, or if you like twitter, it’s a #mixfail. Faders are there for us to help adjust, massage the levels inside the mix and as we have more than one fingers we can adjust multiple channels/groups at once. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain why it is good.

On the other hand, there’s logical explanation for the “ruler-flat faders”. When you begin a mix, be it live or post mix, music or for picture it is definitely a good idea to adjust everything so if your faders are at unity (ruler-flat) then you have a good starting point. This is the point of this whole thing. With all faders at unity, you have a good raw mix, pre-dub, etc.

  • If you have to send the session into any other place in the World, they open it, and can start to do their mixing job right away. With faders at unity, they don’t have to do anything, able to start automation, trimming, anything, but first of all, listening to the mix, they have a good starting point.
  • In live sound, after the often frantic sound check, you have ample room to go below or above unity, but at the ruler-flat state you should have a pretty good mix already

I don’t say that this is the only method to follow or even the right one, but still, I hope with this in mind it at least makes sense why so many people doing this way.

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