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ReRecording Mixer's Toolbox


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I'm trying to flesh out my ensemble of post mixing software(s) to create as professional a final mix as possible. The list I use so far is okay but there is something obviously missing. Do you guys have other suggestions that you know are used by the big post studios to create smooth beautiful mixes?

I'm pretty good at dialog editing, music arranging and fx editing but the re-recording for final mix has always been problematic. Here's what I have been using:


Protools Video Production Toolkit

Bias' Repli-Q (and the Master collection's EQs)

Sound Soap Pro 2.x

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1. Monitors and studio acoustics that you can absolutely trust. Not just that you've gotten used to, or that sound "great"... but exactly reflect what's on the track.

2. A realization that the dialog - after all you've done to it - has to sound absolutely natural by itself. Don't worry about mixing effects or music until the dialog's right.

Beyond that you might want to think about clean and very tunable multiband dynamics control, sharp cutoff filters, and maybe a de-esser.

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And in addition to iZotope, I would recommend John Purcell's book, Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art. While it actually covers the step prior to the re-recording mixer, I think it goes into a lot of useful plug-ins, procedures, and ideas that help a lot. Jay Rose's book Audio Postproduction for Film and Video is also very useful.

For Pro Tools, the Waves and Sonox plug-ins wind up getting used more than any other on my system. They're not cheap, but they go a long way in helping to coax good results from problematic dialog.

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I know that you are looking for software, and I'll get to that, but here's a piece of hardware for ya, the Radio shack SPL meter (analogue version). Everyone should have one.One of my first films I worked on as a effects editor. I attended the first day of the final mix. Right off the bat the mixer was looking around very concerned. We came to find out where he did his pre-dubs hadn't been calibrated in a while as was way off. Now every time I go into a room or stage to start working I calibrate the system. I don't care where it is. I can't tell you how many times the levels of the monitors have been off, once +/- up to 6dB!

I find that for software for re-recording mixing is at times pretty minimal. A lot of the heavy lifting has been done in the editing and especially pre-dubs. I've seen some mixes that were just stocks Pro Tools plugs. The new channel strip from Avid is pretty awesome. Its amazing what you can do with what's included. I wouldn't suggest buying until you know why you can't do it with the stock plugs.

But of course there's a lot they can't do, or can't do as well. Let the list begin!

I like to use the Waves Renaissance plugs, especially the Compressor. The Q10 gets a lot of use. A number of the Soundtoys plugs for certain effects. Although I haven't purchased them yet, the Equality and Compassion plugs are awesome and are seen a ton as of late. GRM tools gets a lot of use as well. In addition to Altiverb, which is nice, Revibe is pretty standard as are a lot of the Lexicon reverbs. Speakerbox can be extremely useful for worldizing.

Hmm what else. Oh! Sorry to suggest hardware again DBX 120A is pretty awesome and cheap. Software alternatives are Lowender and Lo-Air.

And the list goes on and on but those are some off the top of my head that seem to get a lot of use in the post world. Good luck!

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I don't wish this to sound like a snipe or an overly glib comment, but the number one tool that the top mixers use that makes their mixes sound impressive is "experience."

The number one skill that you, and I, and everyone needs to develop is the skill of critical listening.

The natural tendency is to want all the "magic boxes" the top pros use, but the truth is that those toys are secondary to their listening skills learned over years of experience.

I think it's important to remember the above to help maintain proper focus, rather than always thinking, "If I just had the right tools, I could do what they're doing." That's actually true, but the "right tools" are critical listening and years of experience practicing it.

And +1 for RX2. I also recommend the Massey CT4 Compressor and L2007 Mastering Limiter.

The Massey products are actually free to use but require purchase to be able to save settings, employ automation, etc. They're quite reasonably priced -- for the quality, they're a bargain. The Massey compressor is my first choice for dialog, even if cost were no object. My second choice is the Waves Renaissance Compressor mentioned earlier.

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The most important tools in my post biz:

--knowing how to listen to a project the way the filmmaker (and editor) do, and understand what they are trying to do and how they are doing it (as opposed to how I think the film should sound).

-- my experience, listening to mixes in my room, then in other places, how do they translate. From doing production sound, an understanding of what is happening in a problematic recording, which makes how to deal with it much clearer. My knowledge of and experience with TV audio specs and standards, what they mean, how they are interpreted, and with what measuring devices. My understanding of post workflows, and how an action in one dept affects another.

--the room and monitor system where I work: the work I've done to make it portray the recordings as truthfully as possible, and my understanding of the room+speaker deficiencies in this regard

--multivarious techniques for tastefully editing and making dialog listenable, and getting its problems out of the way of the story.

The importance of specific DAWs, plug ins, monitors etc etc that get used to help with all this are way over-emphasized, in my opinion. Sound posties have had to be able to do all of the former since sound was added to picture, and those skills haven't changed. I will add that all the really great audio post people I know try things out and make up their minds for themselves, and I almost always find that they are using at least a few really oddball items I may not have heard of because they genuinely like what they do. In the post biz there is a sort of orthodoxy that is mostly reinforced by uninformed opinion, and that orthodoxy has nothing to do with getting to a great soundtrack, really.

phil p

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Does everybody systematically makes a spectrum analysis of the room and EQ it flat to mix after it's built ?

Some people do. A lot of people don't. OTOH a lot of small amplified speakers now come with microphones and automatic eq.

Fact is, monitor eq -- even on one of those automated systems - doesn't do much good unless the transducers are already relatively flat and the room doesn't have any resonances. Too much eq will add distortion. Too hi a Q adds distortion. And a lot of mid-price powered speakers are already using a lot of eq so they can get away with cheaper transducers.

Anybody who tweaks the EQing to emphasize here and there, according to each one's tastes?

If you're talking about tweaking the monitor eq (as opposed to on the tracks during mixing), that strikes me as particularly inappropriate for our industry. The point of a calibrated dub stage is so you can predict what the release will sound like in a theater.

Music mixing might be another story...

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All dub stages are EQ'ed, at least the professional ones. As Jay mentioned, almost all monitors come with switches on them for rough adjustments. For edit suites and small mix studios those usually will suffice. The newer technology with automatic calibration is a tool but many times isn't used even if its available. Outboard crossovers and multiband eqs for each channel are used much more often. Depending on the the intended release format, being theater or direct to disc, the X-Curve will be applied to the room. This is all done as part of the finishing touches when building the room and is usually checked once to twice a year, or whenever needed to meet spec. When I say I calibrate the rooms before starting I'm mostly checking the levels of each speaker to make sure they are matching. And no you don't tweak the settings to fit your personal preferences for the reasons Jay mentioned.

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New Izotope app: "IRIS"--I'm buying it, it looks like a great fast sound design tool with that bitchen Izo interface. Even works on necro-OS like WXP!

phil p

I hope you have a TIME to play with it.

Looks like a super app.


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Thanks all. These are all great suggestions.

John Smith -- I already have a stand alone SPL meter which I use to calibrate my near field monitors in the room (I have a 5.1 mixing setup with yamaha SM series powered monitors).

The room is irregularly shaped with an angled slat ceiling which helps to diffuse higher end frequencies (though it still needs a little love with better bass management and better back wall diffusion.

I am in the process of figuring out the best way to treat the room. Currently the room has multiple curtains to control and absorb stray reflections.

Also, I am amazed by Izotope RX2's price point and can afford to go with that right away. A lot more intuitive than SoundSoap pro's multi-slider graphic EQ frequency approach.

I have been using Purcell's Dialog editing book as gospel for a while now with great results and will looking into that book Audio Post Production for Film and Video.

I now think I can push my mixes it to the next level with a few more basic tools, perhaps even training with a post guy who has some street cred here in LA. I've been doing Production Audio here in LA for a while and need to do more at home to insure continued work during the rainy/winter months.

Again thanks for all the great advice. ;D

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