SFP: 'Robin Hood'

May 21, 2010 5:48 PM, By Mel Lambert



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“With so many [effects] tracks,” Giammarco adds, “pre-dubbing provides the opportunity to become familiar with all the sound elements—blending, treating, balancing and spatializing them as they get organized into manageable mixdowns. It also presents the opportunity to understand where each sound needs to be positioned in the composite surround mix and consider where they might need to be augmented to blend with the music and dialog.”

Massey began his dialog pre-dubs several weeks prior to finaling at his Signal Sound facility in Ojai, Calif. “I have a 128-input/64-bus Harrison Trion console that is automation-compatible with the [320-channel] Harrison MPC3D digital console I use at the Cary Grant Theater,” he explains. Massey’s premix room also features three 64-channel Pro Tools HD rigs—two for playback and one for record—a Christie projector, and JBL and BMS main monitors, plus Meyer subwoofers, powered by Parasound and Crown amps via a Lake crossover. “The dialog onRobin Hood had a lot of difficult and noisy locations, so I made use of the Trion’s new 6-band de-noiser and other tools within the console’s automated Toys package.

“I premixed the dialog to 40 tracks: eight for original production [including PFX and X-Tracks]; eight for group crowd recorded in an exterior setting; and 24 for group ADR. The group was premixed into separate categories: walla, English call-outs and international call-outs. There were a lot of French-speaking actors, and it was important to keep them separate for the foreign-language releases. Actors’ schedules caused the majority of the principle ADR to arrive at the final mix as raw tracks, which was challenging but not that unusual.”

Giammarco recalls, “I spent 18 days [on the Cary Grant Stage] premixing the effects tracks while receiving updates and picture changes. The way [we] approached the pre-dubbing was, when it worked in the temp dub, we could use it and embellish as needed. We moved forward, ensuring that the effects supported the dramatic action and helped to create a realistic ‘world’ onscreen. In the final mix, when doing my FX pass, I prefer to work my effects against the pass Paul [Massey] has completed with the music and dialog tracks. This gives us a good starting point to begin working together and mix with all our collaborators.”

Marc Streitenfeld composed the orchestral score for Robin Hood, which was recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios. Together with cues tracked at the composer’s Venice, Calif., facility, the score was premixed at Todd-AO West, Santa Monica. The music arrived at the Cary Grant Stage as a 24-bit/48kHz Pro Tools session and included a total of 14 5.1 premixes of separate instruments.

“We recorded the final mix to six multichannel stems,” says Massey. These comprised a 5-channel/LCR dialog stem, a 5.1-channel music stem, a 5.1-channel sound effects stem, a 5-channel background FX stem, a 5-channel Foley stem and a 5.1-channel effects sweetener stem—all recorded to a 96-track Pro Tools recorder.

Massey and Giammarco describe mixing Robin Hood as one of their most challenging projects. “We were faced with a lot of new elements as they arrived on the stage following picture changes and new visual effects shots,” Massey says. “It’s what we are used to and it’s becoming more the norm than the exception, but it doesn’t make the process any easier!”

“We knew going in that Robin Hood would be a big effects film,” Giammarco adds, “with scenes requiring a multitude of sound effects ranging from atmospheric backgrounds to practical hard effects to stylized sound design. We always tried to move the story forward and keep audience interest heightened. There were inevitable changes and new visual effect shots regularly updated: More arrows would be added in a shot during a battle sequence and the flight paths altered. We addressed this in pre-dubbing and throughout the final with sound effects sweeteners.”

“We need to be specific in what we choose to highlight for the audience,” Massey concludes. “Quite often, less is definitely more!”

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

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