Always Mixing

Aug 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Mel Lambert

PREDUBS IN THE WORLD OF EFFECTS-HEAVY FILM RE-RECORDING

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Greg Russell: “If you give 10 different people the same elements, you’ll get 10 different predub mixes!”

Greg Russell: “If you give 10 different people the same elements, you’ll get 10 different predub mixes!”

INCREASING CREW COUNT

Seasoned re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman is more used to working New York-style on film projects, riding solo on dialog, music and effects. “But these days,” he notes, “with so many effects tracks it is simply too much for one person to oversee, so even in New York some projects have moved to two-man crews. Also, in New York the supervising sound editors or effects editors often prepare sound effects predubs for me. The downside is that these predubs are not usually balanced against the dialog predubs, which means more work for me at the final mix stage.

“On Angels & Demons, which I mixed at Sony Pictures Studios on the West Coast with Greg Russell [effects], we had a lot of foreign languages that needed to be kept separate for the international versions. For these [M&Es,] we needed to separate the various languages spoken in the film, so I created predub channels for English, Italian, Latin, Spanish and German. We had around 30 dialog tracks, where normally I might have around 16. I prefer to create my own dialog predubs so that I know where everything is and how all of the original production tracks were processed.”

Because the results need to be shaped so specifically for the film he will be mixing, Russell prefers to handle effects predubbing himself. “If you give 10 different people the same elements, you'll get 10 different predub mixes!” he says. “It is hard to take something that somebody else has done for you; if it's not what you need it to be, you end up having to ask for the original elements.

“For Angels & Demons, I had around 14 days to predub the hard effects and backgrounds — crowds and so on, of which we had a lot! I ended up with nine BG predubs across several [film] locations. While Tom was handling his dialog and ADR predubs on Stage 1/Cary Grant Theatre at Sony, I was doing effects on Stage 2. We needed an additional stage to do Foley, so Jeff Haboush predubbed [those tracks] because he's an excellent mixer and familiar with how I like Foley to sound.

“Supervising sound editor ‘Chic’ Ciccolini and [sound designer] Danny Pagan did a fantastic job of assembling a nice palette of sounds for me to work with,” Russell continues. “For example, they provided vehicle-effects elements in a number of food groups, including motors, tires, cobble squeals, skids and so on, which I mixed into three predubs: a 5.1 of doors, a 5.1 of motors and a 5.1 of tires, with reverb as necessary, plus individual skids and special sounds, all playing back off Pro Tools. I also had 30 to 40 tracks of guns that I mixed to four 5.1-channel predubs of ‘good guns,’ ‘bad guns,’ bullet whizzes, and bullet ricochets and impacts. In all, I ended up with 12 hard-effects predubs for the final mix, where I used groupers to control the overall levels of each predub against Tom [Fleischman's] dialog premixes. Since some of the visual effects had not been completed by finals — and there were many picture changes at the end of the film in the Vatican scenes — we had to sweeten the entire scene from scratch while we were finaling. There are always a lot more challenges in a big sound-effects movie.”

The 2012 crew at William Holden Theatre (Sony Pictures Studios), from left: Adrian Van Velsen, Fernand Bos, Rick Kline/music mixer, Paul Ottosson/supervising sound editor, David Brenner, Jeff Haboush/dialog mixer, Michael Keller/effects mixer, Michael Benavente/dialog and ADR supervisor and Fred Peck

The 2012 crew at William Holden Theatre (Sony Pictures Studios), from left: Adrian Van Velsen, Fernand Bos, Rick Kline/music mixer, Paul Ottosson/supervising sound editor, David Brenner, Jeff Haboush/dialog mixer, Michael Keller/effects mixer, Michael Benavente/dialog and ADR supervisor and Fred Peck

Another effects-heavy film scheduled for November release also had its sound crew working long hours to complete predubs. Roland Emmerich's 2012 was mixed on the William Holden Theatre at Sony Pictures Studios with Jeff Haboush handling dialog, Michael Keller effects and Rick Kline music, with supervising sound editor Paul Ottosson. “Like most high-intensity movies,” Haboush recalls, “we were using two stages for predubs: William Holden Theatre for sound effects and the Anthony Quinn Theatre, which was handling dialog and Foley premixes. I prepared a pair of dialog predubs and an ADR remix in Pro Tools, while composer [and writer/co-producer] Harold Kloser gave us 52 channels of music. Mike [Keller] prepared 26 5.1-channel effects predubs, plus five BG predubs and individual footfalls. For finals, we maxed out the Harrison MPC console [in the William Holden Theatre] with 250 tracks of effects, 64 of music and 64 of dialog.

“But during finals, we were still missing a lot of CGI footage,” Haboush continues, “and so we had to spend the evenings predubbing those reels [while finaling during the day]. We started off with a 30-day schedule, which, after 20 days, we knew would be short, so it was extended to 37. In the end, because there was a large amount of special effects during the destruction scenes, we spent 40 day-equivalents on predubs and maybe 25 on finals. While we could look at wire-frame [images] for some of the high-impact scenes — exploding volcanoes and major city destructions, for example — you can never fully cover the details that a final CGI will reveal. For instance, because we had a lot of rock sounds that needed to be predubbed for the volcano scenes, we had to reconfigure to accommodate new visuals, which we checker-boarded across six 5.1-channel predubs. It was a major time crunch, and will be right through our mid-August print mastering.”

“Having the supervising sound editor providing pre-panned effects tracks was a great help,” Keller reflects. “Paul [Ottosson] gave me maybe 100 car elements for the big ‘Destruction of L.A.’ sequence that had already been panned across his LCR and 5.1 Pro Tools sessions. I could then combine Paul's 10 predubs into a single blended predub; otherwise, having to pan each individual car sound would have taken a lot of time, which we just didn't have!”






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