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Jay Rose

Am I crazy?

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(Note on subject line: I'm referring to this current posting. General comments about my sanity may also be accurate, but I already know I'm cuckoo.)

 

A producer that I like came to me with a semi-freebie: a two hour theatrical documentary about a 50-year-old piece of American history, with lots of contemporary interviews with the folks involved plus historic clips. He's also licensed some scoring from a 1960s mainstream feature as a contribution.

 

I like the guy; he's given me real projects in the past, with real budgets and real schedules, and I want to do this one. 

 

Along with very little money, he has very little time. I'll get about eight days for dialog edit, premix, M&E, and remix. Then it gets one very visible screening. After that, there'll probably be time and bucks to take it apart and tweak. (Even if not... as I said, I want to do this one.)

 

Here's the rub:

 

1) He's reluctant to do a DCP right now, mostly because of the lab time involved. He's expecting to grab my final mix, hop on a plane, and be doing compression while he's flying to the venue. I know from bitter experience that anything shy of a DCP can be mangled by a theater's DVD or similar playback.

 

2) He doesn't want sweetening in the historic clips; just original footage as best I can clean it. He doesn't want scoring under the interviews; just the  folks' voices. There's very little narration. It appears the only music, other than main title and credit, will be during interstitials and chapter break titles. 

 

In other words: very little of this show is stereo. None of it is surround. Since this scoring is all archive, probably nothing will hit LFE.

 

What I'm thinking about is mixing the dialog as 3-track mono. Same material on all 3 tracks, maybe -3dB on the center one. The only time L&R will be different is probably during the title and credit.

 

I'm figuring this will give me the best chance of everybody in the front row of the theater hearing a decent track. If I just mix in stereo with phantom center, I'm worried some decoder will decide to suppress the dialog (it's happened before)... or the theater's L&R mains will never be on because everything will be matrixed to the center (ditto). If I encode for the guy's DVD from this LCR master, maybe there's a chance all three front speakers will be talking.

 

And, yes, I'll still try to convince him to pull a DCP. If there's not time for it at the premiere, at least for future exhibitions.

 

Thoughts?

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50 minutes ago, Jay Rose said:

He doesn't want sweetening in the historic clips

 

What about adding some subtle reverb sends to those mono dialogue tracks and putting those into LR instead. The original dialogue track stays center.

The basic problem is that you need three tracks for LCR, but you only have one most of the time, if I understand correctly.

 

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I haven't heard the clips yet, but from what I know of the modern interviews, they're all over the map: different offices, different crews, different acoustics. Probably a bit of (mono) verb already on them. I can probably de-reverb the historic stuff in the interests of cleaning it, but my biggest goal with the modern stuff has to be consistency.

 

But you raise an interesting point about LCR being identical. I might play with very small delays from C>R and C>L, slightly different for each, so that Haas forces the perceived source to the center of the screen. Everybody hears dialog, and the audience on extreme left and right of the screen hear less of the pre-signal coming from C so there's less of a Haas drawing them across. I'll have to play with a couple of DVD decoders to see if it messes them up further.

 

(Yes: I know there's plenty of good reasons to keep dialog in the center only. And I know DCP is the right way to do this. But I'm trying to compensate for other realities here.)

 

 

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What about weaving in the historical aspects of cinema into the mixing philosophy? Cinema ran only a mono centre channel for decades, followed by a failed attempt at stereo, then onto LCR... with the rest being history. Perhaps just mono centre for the archival footage, and centre dialogue for the interviews with perhaps a bit of ambience/room tone mixed to L&R to give it a bit more of a modern spread? 

 

At the end of the day, it might be a particularly big ask to rely on the dialogue mix across the front three speakers to fill in any narrative or editorial holes. 

 

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Interesting thought, LD.

 

Narrative or editorial holes aren't my department, fortunately. The director and editor are very good and we've all worked together before. 

 

Playing with historical stereo fields might be an idea. I'd usually do that with bandwidth. It'll be a tough sell to add crowds, however: director has already told me he doesn't want any sweetening on the historic media, and scoring will be very sparse. (Credibility is very important to him on this one.)

 

I did something similar on a music docy for the same guy about seven years ago. This traced the history of a very important club in Harvard Square, and included half-century old mono club recordings of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, etc along with contemporary interviews and performances.

 

Often I'd do something like letting the narrator introduce an archive performance, then dissolve to the mono of Joan center plus LR. After a verse or so, I'd fade Joan into a heavily stereo-simulated version to clear the center while the narrator came back. The stereo sim was mostly complementary combs rather than verb: I didn't want to distance her, just make her more of a 'surrounding' memory.

 

(Film's IMDB. The whole thing is on Amazon Prime; there's a heavily compressed clip of one of the Joan interviews on YouTube. Hearing it again, I sure wish I'd had RX7 in those days...)

 

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I say keep it simple all around.  This kind of sudden-opportunity-screening-for-work-in-progress comes up for me all the time with small personal docs like this one.  I have no business telling you how to mix the film, except that I would not pay attention to the director's idea of leaving the archival completely alone--I think he might change his mind when he hears those scenes at theatrical levels.  For me, if a director isn't going to get a DCP done for a screening (esp if, as you say, there will be time after that screening to circle back and finish up properly) then I make a stereo mix, period.   As was pointed out, anything else, like multichannel or LtRt is likely to be screwed up in projection these days, and would require way more hands-on and explanation to the projectionists than the director is probably willing to do.  It sounds like the film will play off a file from a computer, that alone is fraught enough slotted into a program that might be DCP or BluRay for the other films. 

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Thanks, Philip. 

 

I’ll check with the production how it’s going to be screened. If a computer  file, yes, LR makes sense. But if he’s planning to come in with a DVD, I’m leaning toward Ac3 LCR. I’ve seen too many LR DVDs badly de-matrixed, including one of this director’s (with his $ partner hard left in the front row, complaining about the mix). 

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Also from experience it depends in the quality of the venues sound system qualities / issues

 

A very skilled friend of mine tuned the DCP to the venue for the best launch of a low cost feature!!

 

Wow a film shot on two hand held 5D's premiered on a huge screen - amazing!!!!!!!!

 

mike

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On 8/19/2019 at 1:26 AM, Jay Rose said:

Interesting thought, LD.

 

Narrative or editorial holes aren't my department, fortunately. The director and editor are very good and we've all worked together before. 

 

Playing with historical stereo fields might be an idea. I'd usually do that with bandwidth. It'll be a tough sell to add crowds, however: director has already told me he doesn't want any sweetening on the historic media, and scoring will be very sparse. (Credibility is very important to him on this one.)

 

I did something similar on a music docy for the same guy about seven years ago. This traced the history of a very important club in Harvard Square, and included half-century old mono club recordings of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, etc along with contemporary interviews and performances.

 

Often I'd do something like letting the narrator introduce an archive performance, then dissolve to the mono of Joan center plus LR. After a verse or so, I'd fade Joan into a heavily stereo-simulated version to clear the center while the narrator came back. The stereo sim was mostly complementary combs rather than verb: I didn't want to distance her, just make her more of a 'surrounding' memory.

 

(Film's IMDB. The whole thing is on Amazon Prime; there's a heavily compressed clip of one of the Joan interviews on YouTube. Hearing it again, I sure wish I'd had RX7 in those days...)

 

 

And it is just a thought. Take it for whatever it is or isn't worth. 
Thanks for the heads up on For The Love Of Music. I'll have to check it out!

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