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So I have a post template I work with all the time. Some DX tracks (all mono), some FX tracks (half mono and half stereo) some FO tracks (all mono), and some MX tracks (all stereo).

Through complicated bussing, I have each track going into a submix bus, which then outputs to an audio print track for bouncing stems (along with the main comp).

Thing is, my DX stems are mono through and through. Is this right? When you deliver stems, you typically deliver them as [DX, FX, MX, M&E]. FX, MX, M&E are all stereo stems...but should the DX stem be stereo as well?

I've always been told to bounce the DX stem mono, but then how does it play out if you add reverb to the dialogue to match the scene? Doesn't work, right? So I need stereo DX stems?

Thanks for the help in advance!

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

My personal take on it is that usually for stems the channel denomination should equal your other stems, or at least be LCR or 5.0. In the case of working in a stereo environment, I'd recommend going with stereo.

For one, dialogue does have to be panned sometimes - whether for creative purposes, or in rare cases to fix a story issue that's hard to see visual because of how its edited and shot (such as panning someone toward the left as they run out the building while panning someone in from the right as they're chasing them). To do this you'll want your DX sidechain to be multi-channel the whole way through even though 99% of the time it's going to sit hard center. All it takes is that 1%-of-the-time situation where you need to pan something and you'll end up kicking yourself because it won't let you pan or run a multi-channel plugin since you set your whole signal path up as mono (e.g. if you patch an audio track or Aux, in this case our mono DX sidechain, into an Aux stem submaster and/or into a print track for Input monitoring and THOSE are mono, PT WILL NOT let you pan anywhere else within the signal chain leading up to that final print track). It's confusing to try and write out, but basically you'll have your shoelaces tied to each other even before you've started the race, and only realize the problem well along the way once you've already written automation and made mix decisions - unlacing all that can be a nightmare, if not costly.

Also, Stems are what play back at unity gain as-is to create your Printmaster, so everything should be printed into your stems in final form already, including reverbs and delays and such. So that another reason to use multi-channel DX stems, otherwise all of your verbs are mono.

Thirdly, I don't like dealing with the "if it's in phase, the energy is +3dB/-3dB" math. With stems, since those feed 1:1 to the Printmaster and also serve as the archival media 'snapshot' of the final mix, I want whatever is printed in my stems to be EXACTLY how its going to read on the meters, dB per dB - not having some mono track where it relies upon PT to figure out on the fly that each channel of the stereo monitoring bus with have the dialogue distributed between each channel@ a -3dB attenuation of the mono track. Doing that means there's a 3dB discrepancy you have to keep in your head, especially if those Stems have to used for something down the road (such as working in a higher-order number of channels and doing a fold down, for example). If all the stem channel amounts are matching with none of this "on the fly" math such as dealing with a phantom center, you don't need to guess what the meters are saying and work backwards and hope something isn't clipping when maybe it is etc. What you see on the meters, for each channel, of each stem, is EXACTLY the sound energy which exists, hard-written, to each of those channels, dB per dB. Personally, I like that piece of mind knowing that everything is accounted for :)

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Thank you so much for this answer!! Taking into consideration the "it depends" mentality (which I should have known anyway), this is a SOLID answer. Especially the consideration of the 3dB translation. –  Chris Bishop May 26 '12 at 18:26
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also loop group and crowds with discernible language wont necessarily be only C –  user49 May 28 '12 at 2:12
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While I agree with @Stavrosound, if you're talking tv it depends on what your deliverables sheet dictates. Different networks, even different departments in the same network, request different formats of stems as final deliverables.

If you're using a single master template for all your work, I'd bus my dialog in stereo (or lcr) for panning, verb, delay, etc. with an additional bus(ses) as a mono downmix of that stem for when a mono stem is requested. Otherwise I'd just make client specific templates accordingly so you're streamlining your system resources and not having to search at the end of every project which client this is and what their deliverable requirements are.

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Very true, TV can be a different world. Thanks for sharing! I guess I was speaking more to the film standard –  Stavrosound May 25 '12 at 9:05
    
I recall seeing TV stems once a long time ago and they were broken out quite wide with a variety of channel counts - Dialogue, ADR, Group ADR, FX, Filled FX (for the M&E), and so on. –  Stavrosound May 25 '12 at 9:13
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can we get automatic highlight on every "it depends" in an answer? :D –  georgi May 25 '12 at 11:33
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It depends..... –  Colin Hunter May 25 '12 at 18:39
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is that better? ;) –  Steve Urban May 27 '12 at 3:12
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Stereo so that dialogue can be panned separately when needed.

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