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Do composers/producers need to be able to mix surround?

Discussion in 'Mixing, Post-Production, and Effects' started by Hunter123, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. Hunter123

    Hunter123 Senior Member

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    I'm looking to write/produce trailer style music and am wondering-do the majority of these composers (who I assume mix there own music) need to mix there tracks in surround? Or do they usually get help from a specialist after they finish a stereo mix? Is 5.1 the most common or do we need to know both 5.1 and 7.1?
     
  2. mc_deli

    mc_deli n trepreneur

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    Have you written anything yet?
     
  3. OP
    OP
    Hunter123

    Hunter123 Senior Member

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    Yes I have. I've been writing tracks for royalty free in a variety of genres for the past year and have been getting more into trailer music lately so I've been studying and practicing the form and approach. Just curious as to what the pros do.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  4. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

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    The vast majority of trailer/library music is mixed in stereo. If a bespoke piece of music is commissioned for a particular trailer it's more likely that it will receive a dedicated surround mix.

    The higher end trailer libraries tend to get their stuff mixed (in stereo) by specialists, but there are also composing teams that have the chops to do it themselves and get good results.

    As long as you make a good set of stems alongside your full mix, you should be covered for future usage possibilities. Bear in mind that there's probably more chance of having your track used as underscore to an episode of reality TV than being selected to accompany a major film trailer, so getting a surround mix straight off the bat probably isn't a sensible use of budget!
     
    JohnG, givemenoughrope and Hunter123 like this.
  5. OP
    OP
    Hunter123

    Hunter123 Senior Member

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    That makes more sense and takes the pressure off from learning surround mixing techniques, I have to work on my normal stereo mixing first anyway:). Thank you!
     
  6. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    What would your stems be approximately? And would they include separate tracks as dry or reverb returns? I hear/read about mixers sometimes just adding reverb to existing tracks for the surround channels as a quick and dirty approach but if you stems already have a layer of reverb...? Maybe I’m overthinking this.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Hunter123

    Hunter123 Senior Member

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    If you go to mostly any of the production music websites you can listen to the tracks. For example Revolt Production Music-click on an album, click on the track options and then the track details it will show the stems (alternative versions of this track). I think what they're looking for is just the separate instrument tracks or bus tracks but I'm not totally sure. Maybe Scoremixer would know?
     
  8. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

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    Delivery requirements for the library companies are different to delivery requirements for yourself! Libraries might want cut down versions, beds, drone-only etc but if you want useful stems that a dubber could use to remix your track with then you'll have to go deeper than that (full sets of stems are also very useful for creating the above deliverables for the library companies, probably easier than re-arranging in your DAW with MIDI).

    Obviously stems will vary massively based on what you're doing, but if you want to provide the rolls royce service on a full fat hybrid orchestral track they might look something like:

    Strings Long
    Strings Short
    WW
    Brass
    Orch FX
    PercLow
    PercHi
    PercCymbals
    PercTuned
    Drums
    Plucked
    Piano/Keys
    Bass
    PadsLo
    PadsHi
    SynthLo
    SynthHi
    FX
    Choir
    Solos

    Just provide mixed stems as is, ie don't worry about separate dry/wet stems unless you've got something really crazy or controversial going on.
     
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  9. benmrx

    benmrx Senior Member

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    As someone whose workload is roughly 30% composing and 70% sound design/mixing for TV, Film, Ads, etc. I would absolutely NOT want the composer to send me a baked surround mix. If the project is to be done in surround, send the stems and let the mixer put it in surround.

    Not sure on deliverables for libraries. Though I assume it can be a case by case basis depending on who you're dealing with.
     
  10. synthetic

    synthetic Senior Member

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    They’re going to remix the score in 7.1 on the stage? I doubt it, not well.

    Of course if you can afford a mixer then use that person for the surround mix. But surround mixing is a skill that can be learned. Every DVD ends with a suite of the film’s best music in surround. Get a surround monitoring controller (I have the old SMC), mute the LR, and listen again to what is being panned to the surrounds. It’s easy to provide a stereo mix and/or stems if they really want to remix it. But most dub mixers want to pull up (then down!) the faders on the music.
     
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  11. benmrx

    benmrx Senior Member

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    It's not a remix, you're just providing stems as per usual. At least in my world, the mixer should be able to keep your stems at unity and have that replicate your mix. You're not sending them all the raw tracks. The last film I mixed was a challenge regarding the music because I only had a single, full mix of the music. Trying to add reverb to the strings, but only the rears, and only to create a specific transitional element that melded with SFX/backgrounds was a real PIA because I didn't want that same verb on the big/deep/epic drums or guitars.

    This is especially important (IMO) when the music is diegetic. Imagine you write a cue where a character is in the car. The music is suppose to sound like it's coming from the car stereo, but then..., after an 'important line of dialogue' the music transitions to a full spectrum mix. I would absolutely not want that cue sent to me as a single surround mix.

    Then again, I'm not working in big LA dub stages.
     
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  12. Paul Grymaud

    Paul Grymaud Senior Member

  13. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

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    For the avoidance of doubt to anyone who may be reading this… Errbody be wanting stems. Editorial want stems. Mixers want stems (maybe not as many as editorial, but while you’re at it you may as well stem that shit wide). Unless you’re John Williams, or intend to write exclusively orchestral music for French films, people will be expecting stems, and not providing them can hurt your chances of a) winning the work in the first place b) getting a sympathetic mix of your work vs. all the other stuff going on in a dub.

    If, as a composer, you feel you can provide 12+ 5.1 mixed stems on a trailer or library music track without running into CPU, workflow, time or sheer headfuck limitations and you trust your monitoring and the calibration of said monitoring then by all means have at it and mix in surround. To my mind though, that gives a very poor cost/benefit ratio unless you’re specifically being asked to provide a 5.1 mix. The people pulling library tracks off the shelves to sync to picture would, in almost all circumstances, rather have a bunch of useable stereo stems than a single 5.1 mix, even if the final destination is a theatre (which, unless you’re an established name trailer composer, it’s unlikely to be, for now).
     
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  14. aaronventure

    aaronventure Senior Member

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    Is music mostly on FR FL RR RL channels, or is there stuff in the center speaker as well (maybe a mono fold-down of the entire mix)?
     
  15. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Senior Member

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    If you've got real orchestra on a track, then center has the Decca tree C mic in it. Lots of engineers pan sectional spot mics across the LCR as well, so there'll be some V2/Vla, Woodwind etc spots in there too. If you've recorded other real instruments with a view to a 5.1 mix, it's common to put up LCR room mics in order to have something relevant to populate the centre channel with.

    It's a slightly different situation if you're just working with essentially stereo tracks of programmed synths/samples. Normally all that ends up in the centre in that scenario is 5.1 reverbs and maybe an extrapolated centre if you've used an upmixer on anything. Definitely not a foldown of the entire mix- that's a quick way to ensure narrowness.

    Centre channel is definitely controversial, but having something meaningful in there really helps if (and when) the dubbing mixers pull the LR of the 5.1 mix rearwards in the theatre to clear out screen space for SFX etc- it helps keeps the music perceptually anchored towards the front.
     
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  16. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    @Scoremixer is spot on here.

    For a short while, libraries were mixing in 5.1 but I understand the reason they seem to have dropped it is that their tracks get auditioned in stereo, so it's the stereo mix that really matters.

    As score mixer has written, you will want to stem things out in a detailed way -- that's a good list in his post above -- so that they can send whatever they want to surrounds. Some people say "never put anything in the sub, never put anything in the centre" but I've seen others (including H. Zimmer) argue differently about that.

    If I have to deliver 5.1 I ask my engineer to do it. He knows what he's doing; I'm just the composer.
     
  17. aaronventure

    aaronventure Senior Member

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    Thanks for the write-up, many things are clear now!
     
  18. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    The best surround mixes I've heard only use the rear speakers for depth, i.e. they add a little of what you're hearing in front of you to the back to move certain things forward.

    Well, I don't want to say they *only* use the surrounds for depth, but anything else is an occasional effect.
     
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