Lost, The Final Chapter

Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Mel Lambert

MIXING MOVIE-STYLE SOUND AT DISNEY POST PRODUCTION

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“Our overall stem masters are actually multichannel aux faders that are used to build an entire submix,” Weber explains. “For instance, on my section I have an aux fader as a 6-channel effects master that receives the effects mix before it routes to the recorder. Here I put a brick-wall limiter set at -2 dB to keep the input from clipping on loud effects; this also gives me a trim on every channel. That is followed by a 3-band Massenburg EQ and then an ML4000 compressor/limiter. I start the mix with only the limiter active, and insert EQ and compression as I need them” to minimize the DSP load. “I do the same with reverb and sub sends.

“On a typical session,” Weber continues, “all effects are routed through a 5-channel master chain that has an L1 limiter, Massenburg EQ and sends, set to a ceiling of +18 dB for the effects stem. As well as a 5-channel chain, I also have a stereo chain to spread things into 5.1 using a combination of Dolby Surround Tools, Waves PS22 Spreader, delays and some stereo reverbs. I can call up the stem masters on a custom fader bank, just as I would my reverb returns or guide tracks. The VCA-style faders control groups of pre-assign tracks from the [Pro Tools] editor. For example, my basic 64 effects tracks are controlled by eight VCA masters in groups of eight tracks. ”

One of the effects mixer's biggest challenges is maintaining detail within a very dense and complicated soundtrack. “When we are asked to make the scene be music-driven, have the effects play at a ‘10’ and still be able to clearly hear every line of dialog that is a tall task! It's a dance, and we are getting better at taking things out to make room for other things to play.”

“My dialog processing chain within Pro Tools,” Morrone says, “comprises a McDSP ML4000 routed into a Massenburg EQ, followed by a McDSP de-esser and then into a NJ575 Notch Filter, as necessary, and finally into a Waves LZ limiter to hold everything back to the ABC/Disney delivery-reference level. I set up the custom faders as dialog master, ADR master, group master, music master and overall master for dialog, ADR, group and music, and finally reverb return master. That way I can easily control the submix stems on a single fader or then spill them out across the same 8-channel bank to refine individual front-channel and surrounds for the 5.1-channel submixes and final. We print stems of music, dialog, foreign dialog, ADR, Futz and principal effects, plus a group stem, which streamlines the preparation of M&Es for foreign-language versions, which we develop after print mastering.

“Although I try not to EQ the music tracks, I have a Massenburg [Pro Tools] plug-in across the music master that I use to roll-off or brighten the tracks; I sometimes use a McDSP Futz filter to mimic a source cue being replayed on a radio, for example.

“Since we don't get the luxury of a premix on dialog,” Morrone continues, “while Scott [Weber] does a pass on effects — or vice versa — I am premixing tracks via headphones.” The mixer's biggest challenge is cleaning up production sound and eliminating noise on the tracks. “Our production mixers do a great job,” he concedes, “but, unfortunately, they can only do so much with some of the locations they have to work with. Getting the production to work on the beach is always a challenge because certain characters don't project, and then dialog is tough to pull out of the backgrounds.”

As the review session continues in Room Six, Burk is commenting on sound effects for a critical scene within a large temple and pool. “We need deeper bubbles,” he offers. “And can we take out the low end so that it doesn't sound so much like a Jacuzzi?” Weber makes a note and huddles with de Gorter. “We have three stereo pairs of water sounds,” the supervising sound editor advises. “Can you make the drips louder?” Burk queries. They hear the result. “It sounds better,” Burk agrees, “but keep out the rumble. And it sounds too ‘drippy’ — maybe we can back off the drips?” The team concludes that the material they have will need to be recut to offer more options, so a call goes out from de Gorter to the sound designers to prepare some alternates that will be available the next day for review. “We need separate elements to fulfill the producer's requirements,” de Gorter confirms. The mix continues.


Mel Lambert heads up Media&Marketing (www.mediaandmarketing.com), a full-service consulting service for pro-audio firms and facilities.






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