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I know a lot about running a post production studio from home, and even in larger post suites, with digi surfaces and such. I've done it for a long time, and I've developed a method and workflow that works for me in my studio. But I've never worked in a large dubbing stage before. I'm going to be working in one off and on starting later this month. The stage is running on 5 PT HD systems on a Harrison Console.

Pic of the stage I'll be working on:

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For those of you that work in large stages:

Can you give me a basic workflow from the project entering the stage to the finished product? How do you handle the stems? To what extent are the designed sounds broken down into parts vs given to you as a single sound? How much is Avid used on the stage (apparently it is used a decent amount on this one)? Any other comments on the differences between mixing in a home studio (in the box) vs working on a stage?

Thanks!

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Wow, looks like a lot of fun! Anything new that you have learned that you can share about it? –  Miles B. Aug 19 '11 at 19:32
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The mixers will be your main source of answers in terms of how they want material presented & in what order.... for me its usually:

  1. Dialogue/ADR predub 5+ days
  2. Ambience predub 2+ days
  3. Foley predub 2-3 days
  4. FX predubs 2-8 days

Then

  1. Final mix (reel a day) 5+ days
  2. Double head screening (dummy print master, stitch + screen)
  3. Fixes... and possibly another doublehead screening 2+ days
  4. Print master Digital & LtRt 2 days
  5. M&E
  6. Deliveries/TV Mix etc....

You & the mixers will decide how many stems to predub to for most things (eg current film Ambience was predubbed to 4 x 5.0 and 2 x LCR) & you will defintiely need to provide guidance on how many stems FX predubs go out to. Smaller films here tend to be 4 or 6 5.1 FX predub stems, larger films can go past 15.... The main aim is to reduce the number of source tracks down while also retaining control in the final mix by not locking anything that might conflict together. Its a big waste of time if you have to go back into stems to solve a problem.... This is obviously helped/avoided by having final run throughs with the director before predubs start so that all source material has been signed off on.

Usually the mix techs handle the dubber in terms of managing the predub stems, so once predubs are finished the playback dubber will handle playback of the Ambience, Foley & FX Predub stems in the final mix, in one big session..... but again thats dependent on how the stage/mixers like to work....

I always also run a live PT session (ie un-predubbed) of material in the final mix which contains the most subjective elements, and anything that might clash with score... This session is also where I add any fixes....

Check the delivery requirements for the project with the post supervisor - depending on the producer/studio I am often responsible to provide a copy of everything that went into the final mix (ie all predub stems & the live PT session) and in some cases we also have to provide all elements thats went into the predubs... This process can take days & may well be over 100GB of material....

We dont use cue sheets at all & havent in the last decade due to the mixers having cloned monitors displaying all PT tracks.... but again check with your mixers, some still request them....

In the final mix here, aside from the mixers, there are usually 3 sound editors constantly present: myself managing the FX/Ambience/Foley PT, dialogue supervisor handling Dialogue/ADR/loopgroup/crowds PT and the music editor managing the score/source music PT...

  • Make sure all data is being backed up every night
  • Make sure all sessions have picture cut version number in their filename
  • Don't let yourself get too tired during the mix - it is intense focused work
  • Be selfless & be prepared to sacrifice your best work for the sake of the film
  • No one can ever predict context 100%, so be prepared for some surprises
  • Have fun! Its as good as it gets - you are present the first time the director gets to see & hear their film come together! They may well have spent the last ten years of their life making that film - it is truely magic to experience!

Also see my comment re fixes in final mix here: http://socialsounddesign.com/questions/961/fixes-during-the-mix-how-to-go-about-it

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Wow, great stuff Tim. This is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for! Can you add some definitions for me? Not sure about the Double Head, Dummy Printmaster, Stich + Screen. Thanks! –  Colin Hart May 8 '10 at 14:45
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Colin, you're in for a great experience! The dub stage is my favorite part of the process because it's where everything comes together, collaboration takes place and the final vision is achieved. The flip side: Personalities (read: egos), long hours, junk food, time away from your family and many dBs hammering away at your skull. But those are not all necessarily bad things… :)

Some notes on workflow from my experiences:

MACHINE ROOM: The backroom person is your friend! He/she is your point person, making sure that all the correct sync/frame rate/bussing issues are taken care of, coordinating any plug-in needs and version snafus, directing you to servers and informing you of how the stage operates.

WHERE YOU WILL LIVE: Depending on your job title, you will find yourself hanging out on one side of the console most of the time, either the Dialog/Music side or the FX side. Or, if you're supervising, you'll be in the middle.

TRACK DELIVERY: This varies widely, with some crews sending traditional mono/stereo tracks to the stage for predubbing, and others delivering virtual 5.1 premixes with live plug-in automation running. It is CRITICAL to discuss this with your mixers, engineers & post-production supervisor ahead of time so there are no surprises. If you go the virtual route you have to be sure that the stage has all the same plug-ins that you have!

CUE SHEETS: Your mixers will be expecting these. Make sure you know how to generate them from your session and double-check them before you arrive for legibility or potential mixing problems (ie. same material is not on the same track, not enough room between events for the mixer to make his moves, etc.) Often you don't see that kind of problem on the editing screen but it becomes evident on paper.

STEMS: Traditional configuration is DIA stem (LCR or 5.0), FX stem (5.1), BG stem (5.0 or 5.1), FOLEY stem (LCR), MX stem (5.1). Channel assignments depend on the complexity of the project, ie. 5.0 DIA stem vs. LCR DIA stem. Also, some of the busier shows will have an extra stem for a particular item in the movie, say a MONSTER 5.1 stem or a WATER 5.1 stem.

AVID/PICTURE CREW: I have yet to work on a film where the picture crew actually had the Avid on stage. They are often nearby (sometimes across town) but very seldom are they set up on stage. Projecting the image is normally done through a projector room and not off the Avid.

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Oh man, can we favorite an answer? This is fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing. –  Matt Cavanaugh May 5 '10 at 1:17
    
Super interesting, thanks so much for this great insight! –  Andrew Spitz May 5 '10 at 20:35
    
My pleasure to drop some knowledge on you guys! Glad you find it interesting and helpful. –  Jay Jennings May 5 '10 at 21:48
    
1 question (might be lame) but if you had some sort of creature voice that you had a subharmonic synth on like Tree-Beard from LOTR, how would you include the .1 in the voice stem? –  Utopia May 7 '10 at 16:47
    
Ryan, I would provide the voice elements as 1 or more predubbed 5.1 stems that would come up on the console as either 5.1 master faders or sets of 6 individual faders (mixer's choice of how to lay it out). If more separation is desired, simply move the element in question out to another predub and now you have it out on its own set of faders. –  Jay Jennings May 7 '10 at 17:47
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Got a little more info on the console:

It's a Harrison MPC-3D. Here's an official description: "It has 448 digital inputs, 336 AES Inputs, 224 AES Outputs, 112 D/A converters and 112 A/D converters. Fifty-six pec/direct channels and a 112 x 16 output PreDub “stem / Monitor Summing Matrix plus a router 1344 x 1344 rounds out this system."

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Are you going to be mixing or doing something else? –  Jay Jennings May 5 '10 at 7:08
    
That's a tad more inputs than my 702 ;-) best of luck with this, sounds like you're going to be having a lot of fun! –  Andrew Spitz May 5 '10 at 20:38
    
Editing sfx and dialogue. No mixing for me yet –  Colin Hart May 6 '10 at 0:04
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