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Is it neccesary to mix all films in 5.1?

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Hello,

I get asked to mix some very indie projects  in 5.1 and somtimes I don’t really see why. If there is nothing but a single boom track and music there really isn’t that much to mix. Is it worth the time to convert those projects to 5.1? I would assume you would at least want some foley/sound fx to really make a difference. Or is it that important to have more music in the back of the theater than the front?

 

Thanks,

Louis

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With exception for web only (YouTube / Vimeo etc) streaming, I think every deliverables requirement sheet I've seen in the last 5+ years has state explicitly that a 5.1 and a stereo mix are both required.  That being said, if you don't have a deliverables sheet for some indie project that's "trying to get sold" and doesn't have a good budget to begin with, I would just provide a stereo mix unless they are willing to pay for the surround mix.

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On 4/4/2019 at 1:05 PM, codyman said:

With exception for web only (YouTube / Vimeo etc) streaming, I think every deliverables requirement sheet I've seen in the last 5+ years has state explicitly that a 5.1 and a stereo mix are both required.  That being said, if you don't have a deliverables sheet for some indie project that's "trying to get sold" and doesn't have a good budget to begin with, I would just provide a stereo mix unless they are willing to pay for the surround mix.

 

That's pretty much where I am at now. But the only real difference between a 5.1 mix and stereo mix with only 2 source channels of audio would be more music in the back right? I'm pretty new to 5.1 mixes but from what I've read (from Izotopes guide to converting stereo to 5.1) you want dialogue front center, foley/sound fx mainly front L/R with some in the back L/R, ambience in the back, and music 75% in the front L/R and 25% in the back. If all I have is dialogue and music to work with that would basically mean dialogue in the front and a little music in the back. I don't see how that would sound much better than a solid balanced stereo mix because most 5.1 systems still play a stereo mix out of all of the speakers. Unless you just don't want that much audio coming from behind the audience. Some stuff I mix is being submitted to festivals so there is a good chance it will be screened in actual theaters.

 

Izotope guide for reference (number 6): https://www.izotope.com/en/blog/mixing/6-tips-for-mixing-in-surround.html

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That's pretty must the gist of it although there's no total 100% set perimeters on what constitutes a 5.1 mix.  Something maybe to look into is something like Nugen's Halo Upmix which is a Pro Tools plugin that "upmixes" your stuff to 5.1 (or even 7.1 / atmos-ish stuff).  It's not "perfect" but it's only $500 for the plugin and for those cheap clients, you could offer that service to them as a budget friendly alternative if they can't afford going to a proper 5.1 facility.  I've used it on stems before for something I didn't mix originally (was mixed in stereo) and we did a pretty convincing surround mix from the stems although YMMV.

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My answer to your question is that lots of small movies don't need 5.1 to make their soundtracks work, but that is not why we do the 5.1 mixes.  We do them because the film will hopefully enter the stream of films going to festival and other exhibition venues, and all those places prefer if not demand DCP format files to play.  DCP, and theatrical exhibition in general, really wants LCR mixes, at least, if not 5.1.   Although many if not most films get mixed to 5.1 (or beyond) first and foremost, with the stereo mix being a downmix from that, there is no reason why you can't go the other way (stereo>5.1) if you know what you are doing.  You can do this with an upmix plugin, but you can also do it with just a regular DAW if you have a 5.1 listening setup to monitor with.   The sort of 5.1 mix I am talking about for a smallish film might not really have a ".1" LFE track at all (ie nothing blows up in the film), and while you'd send your dialog to the C channel you can just repeat what's in the L and R channels to the Ls and Rs at a lower level, for a gentle "ambientizing" of the music and stereo SFX.  One reason to go 5.1>stereo and not the other way around is that you won't have unpleasant surprises re: handoffs between stereo and mono sounds, which don't matter in stereo but are audible in 5.1 since they might be coming from different speakers.   If you drive a cheap PT rig here is a tutorial: 

The cheapest way to get real surround bussing is probably via Reaper, which works quite well.

 

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9 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

My answer to your question is that lots of small movies don't need 5.1 to make their soundtracks work, but that is not why we do the 5.1 mixes.  We do them because the film will hopefully enter the stream of films going to festival and other exhibition venues, and all those places prefer if not demand DCP format files to play.  DCP, and theatrical exhibition in general, really wants LCR mixes, at least, if not 5.1.   Although many if not most films get mixed to 5.1 (or beyond) first and foremost, with the stereo mix being a downmix from that, there is no reason why you can't go the other way (stereo>5.1) if you know what you are doing.  You can do this with an upmix plugin, but you can also do it with just a regular DAW if you have a 5.1 listening setup to monitor with.   The sort of 5.1 mix I am talking about for a smallish film might not really have a ".1" LFE track at all (ie nothing blows up in the film), and while you'd send your dialog to the C channel you can just repeat what's in the L and R channels to the Ls and Rs at a lower level, for a gentle "ambientizing" of the music and stereo SFX.  One reason to go 5.1>stereo and not the other way around is that you won't have unpleasant surprises re: handoffs between stereo and mono sounds, which don't matter in stereo but are audible in 5.1 since they might be coming from different speakers.   If you drive a cheap PT rig here is a tutorial: 

The cheapest way to get real surround bussing is probably via Reaper, which works quite well.

 

Thanks for your reply. That makes a lot of sense. My issue is I only have a stereo studio monitor setup. I have a 5.1 home media setup downstairs on my TV but basically have to guess and check in my DAW or editing program if I’m going for a 5.1 mix. I primarily work as an on set sound mixer and when I do work post it’s generally for web content so I haven’t been able to justify upgrading to a 5.1 studio monitor setup. I generally like to deliver stereo mixes because I can more accurately monitor them on my nice speakers/digital to analog conversion and most of the time the stuff I’m working on doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff to pan even if I wanted to. But for short films and festival entries I’ll proabably start taking the time to get a solid 5.1 mix since that’s what they are looking for.

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You could buy one more speaker for the center and you are done or use a downmix plug to listen to your stereo setup, leave the rear channels and the lfe empty...

the center is realy important because it is bringing the dialog upfront where the Movie plays...

i find it more easy to mix with a dedicated center track even if stereo is the final delivery, you gain easier a balance of dialog, fx, ambience and music.

if you have to make a dcp for festivals then a 5.1 mix is the most secure way for delivery.

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Also, 5.1 is in its autumnal years. I wouldn't put a ton of time and money into it. The new Immersive formats, Dolby Atmos, DTS-Z and the like, are the now and the future. The cool thing is doing an atmos mix can go out to 5.1, or stereo without a separate mix.

 

But if you do the 5.1, make sure that you check the fold, or just work in the fold. If it is for home, TV youtube and the like, leave those back speakers alone. they will cause some problems on poorly configured playback systems. Which is 99% of home 5.1 systems.

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