Working in 5.1 or 7.1 can provide you a lot of freedom when it comes to sound design and mixing in movies, TV shows, video games, and music. Whether you’ve been mixing in surround for a while or are just starting started, here are some pointers that may be useful.
Check your monitoring setup
It’s worth taking a few minutes at the start of a mix session to double-check that your equipment is set up and calibrated correctly. The P&E wing of the Recording Academy has released a useful PDF guide with tips for surround sound production. While you’re reading it, make a checklist to go over before each session.
You may also create some unique test sessions so that you can easily assess the accuracy of your system and resolve any issues right from your standard DAW or NLE. Using a second DVD or Blu-ray player to play a test disc may not disclose issues with your software settings or audio interface.
Listen outside the sweet spot
Sitting in the middle of well-arranged studio monitors may provide stunning imagery of all of your surrounding effects, but don’t forget about the other people in the room.
Most viewers are unlikely to be able to sit in the sweet spot and get the same immersive experience you do from your mixed location. During your mixing session, get up and walk around, sitting in a few various spots and analyzing how your mix transfers.
Support the storytelling
It’s critical that the sound design, soundtrack, and mix always support the screenplay, performers, and storytelling rather than being a distraction. Close your eyes or switch off the video monitor for a moment and listen to how the storey plays out without the graphics. What can you do with the mix to ensure that all of the performances’ passion and emotion are captured?
Carve out space for dialogue
It’s critical that the sound design, soundtrack, and mix always support the screenplay, performers, and storytelling rather than being a distraction.
Close your eyes or switch off the video monitor for a moment and listen to how the story plays out without the graphics. What can you do with the mix to ensure that all of the performances’ passion and emotion is captured?
Mix beyond the speakers
Remember how we used stereo techniques in the past to generate depth and width with only two speakers? A soft high-shelf filter can assist position sounds far away from the speakers, as if they were coming from behind them. To add more drama to a distant sound effect as it comes into view or fades behind the viewer, automate the strength and frequency cutoff of a filter.
There are a variety of additional methods to employ filters and EQ to enhance a film’s cinematography. Examine the depth-of-field inside a picture and listen to see if applying small EQ moves to specific conversation tracks can help the camera follow the focus.
Upmixing from stereo to surround
Did the stereo film you mixed get picked up for distribution? Do you have a last-minute requirement for surround mixes? You can use these recommendations as a starting point for constructing your 5.1/7.1 mix if you have unique stems or submixes of the dialogue, music, and sound effects:
- Dialogue: 100% Center Channel
- Foley: 100% Front L/R Foley: 100% Front L/R Foley: 100% Front L/R Fo (but usually panned to phantom center)
- 100 percent front L/R + 50 percent LFE Hard Effects