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LCR or stereo or mono for dialog-heavy docy?

Jay Rose

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I'm prepping a 2-hour docy that has an important one-shot premiere in a historic theater... in ten days. (Needless to say, it's not locked yet.)


Of the two hours, about five minutes has stereo music or sfx. The rest is archive footage and new interviews.


The theater can handle DCP, but the producer can't take the time for a lab. He's leaving my studio with a hard drive under his arm, hopping on a plane with the editor and his laptop, and they'll be syncing and compressing as necessary during the flight to the venue.


The theater can also take BluRay with AC3, or play a stereo or LCR track with picture from a hard drive.


I want to leave as little possible room for error at the venue. But I'm also concerned that in a 'historic' theater, having them use just their screen center channel for 96% of the movie won't fill the room. Or it will cause problems for people at the extreme sides of the front rows.


Ideas? Mix as LCR, but also send my dialog to L and R down 6 dB or so (to keep things centered) at the same time? Mix stereo with a phantom center and hope for the best?


After this premiere, they'll be shortening for theatrical /streaming and we'll have a chance to give the track more thought.

Fortunately, picture is someone else's worry.

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With that little of time, uncertainty about how the theater is, and the fact that it is all going to be recut anyways, I'd be conservative about it and just stick to stereo.  Then once it's actually picture locked and you have more time, knock it out of the park with a proper 5.1 mix.

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Jay, if it's still troubling you, I'd do what you probably want to do all along - do a strong balanced mono mix and bleed sound to the left and right. If it's really 96% I would even force that other 4% into a (consider it temporary, but do it as good as possible) mono "best" signal. There is absolutely no reason to 'show off' the stereo to the detriment of balance and storytelling. Still, the imperative thing is of course to run all this by the director, it's their choice after all. But you know it's a case of storytelling: many of my favourite films were mixed in mono, though some in different aspects of stereo, some had a great story, great performances, some cool costumes, nice hats or ties (Cassevetes, Sinatra), sets I wished were my house ...


(But secretly you probably have already realised my end gameplan: BACK TO MONO! heh heh)


Best, and enjoy (hopefully the vintage mono is of excellent quality), Jez

(What WOULD turn me off would be wild abandon of aspect ratio but we've been there!)

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Saw a current English/German feature production in a good small theatre last weekend.


I was surprised that the dialogue was placed left or centre or right or in surrounds!


It seemed like it was ready for release on DVD or Netflix


A bit unnerving during a dialogue sequence during different shots!!



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