Last week in part 11 of this series on Audio Post Production Workflows Using Pro Tools, with the first of two articles from Howard Bargroff, who mixed the award winning Sherlock series, concludes this journey through the audio post production workflow outlining how he configures Pro Tools for mixing thes large drams and the tools he uses. Back to you Howard….
Printing Audio And Stems
Printing audio is generally across three 5.1 or LtRt stems; dials, music and fx, unless the production require further splits, then a final 5.1 mix and an LtRt mix through a Neyrinck soundcode plugin is printed. Master tracks are used for a bit of gentle C4 on all the stems, and the 5.1 mix then goes through a Waves L3 for a bit of final mix compression, with some further light L3 containment on the LtRt mix.
Less Compression Needed Because of R128
Most of the compression is pretty light, especially given the greater dynamic range of R128, and everything is premixed into this compression so the project is almost being final mixed from the start. For film work only the stems are compressed, as the mix hopefully won’t need too much protection, generally being played back on sensible speakers as oppose to pieces of plastic mounted in the rear of a television!
Reverbs wise, 2 Avid Revibes are used for interiors plus occasional weirdness, and a bespoke setting on Waves Rverb for exteriors. These are all setup and automated throughout the dial premix and then copied to an identical set of plug-ins, which are bussed separately to the fx stem for the fx premix.
There are separate sends for dials, crowd, spot fx, atmospheres, and foley, giving full flexibility in the setting of reverb levels for all disciplines as premixing continues. Additionally Altiverb and Speakerphone are used for RT and spatial work, with new “wet” media, generally rendered in an adjacent track to whatever dry sound is being adjusted. This rendering method is used, as opposed to running the plug-in live as I find Audioease software can be a bit variable with the automation of some of their parameters, but as they sound so great this seems like a nice simple-ish solution. Perhaps they could tighten up the automation side of the their plugs..hint…hint! I used to use a TC System 6000 outboard reverb, but got a bit fed up with having to cart it round from studio to studio, so have been “reverbing” entirely within the box now for the last few years. The elegance of turning up with just a drive, some iloks and being able to mix pretty much anywhere in the world is a fantastic and an essential part of the workflow.
Timescales these days are pretty tight but a normal breakdown of, say, an hour long tv show mix, breaks down as follows:-
- dial premix - 1 day
- fx premix - 1 day
- pre-final mix (music, foley and crowd weaved in - general shape) - 1 day
- final mix (client attended) – 2 days.
The aim of this premixing block over the 3 days is that at the start of the final mix I can play what is essentially an initial stab at a finished product so the client has something to go on.
So after premixing, all tracks are mixed, leveled, panned, reverbed, all ADR is matched, dialog and music treatments are incorporated, and generally the mix can be played through as a cohesive piece. The final mix is then free from a lot of technical mixing, which can be pretty boring to watch, as most of this has been performed during the premix stage. Final mixes hopefully are a more fluid affair, giving greater time for the client to spend on big broad brush strokes and reviews to see what bits are or aren’t working; hopefully more of the former.
Organisation Is The Key
In writing this piece it’s become clear that a lot of the mix process appears to be organisation, with a bit of art thrown in for good measure; organising tracks, organising workflows, and ultimately organising time. During the mix I am hopefully guiding the client through the myriad of decisions to be made, carefully balancing, adjusting, and pruning sound elements; eventually arriving at a soundtrack that is a cohesive whole, sympathetic to and helping tell the story. Being organised and prepared gives you this essential thinking time. In the thick of a mix when the balancing of multiple tracks, opinions, egos and politics is going full pelt, this time isn’t a luxury; it’s essential.
Mike - And that brings our series on audio post production workflows to a close. I hope it has been helpful to you to see the processes that make up a large TV drama production.