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Can someone tell me who is mixing the 2nd season of The Walking Dead ? For what is this guy paid ?

Awful ambiences going down during dialogue then up again with an awful pomping effect...

What do you think about this mess ?

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    I'd personally be a little more careful who you spat this sort of thing about over the internet - especially on this site. I neither know who the mixer is nor have I seen the show, but with posts like above, not the best image is created, if you know what I mean. Any professional I have ever met doesn't go off on how bad or messy something is - they view it and save the low-grade things for reference later, they don't practically insult the person and assume he isn't worthy of the pay he's getting. – Utopia Nov 10 '11 at 19:55
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    I'll second that @Utopia. And @simon, if you want to know who the mixers are, stick around for the credits. – user6508 Nov 11 '11 at 12:49
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    According to an IMDB search, the only attached mixers I can see (maybe there are others but not listed) have 4 Primetime Emmy wins between themselves... this indicates to me that they know EXACTLY what they're doing. But even if they haven't garnered such noms, I'm still in full agreement with @Utopia. It's is never okay to go around bash colleagues. – Stavrosound Nov 12 '11 at 22:58
  • I just finished watching the season 5 premiere of Mad Men streamed through the AMC website. Same over-compressed problem there too. All the background noise and mouth noises were louder than the dialog. This unprofessional crap needs to stop. Figure out at what stage of the process this is happening and put and end to it. I would point the finger at AMC rather than the individual shows. – user3681 Mar 28 '12 at 23:20
  • I'm working on the audio for a short-film and it's confusing/inspiring to notice the audio in The Walking Dead. Overall it's great! Some really awesome sound effects and music and etc.. but why can I hear the camera operator's footsteps? Why do some of the zombie killings sound shallow and fake instead full and realistic? Why are there obvious ambient problems with the dialogue? Why do the same audio tracks continue to play at the same volume over fast and drastically different shooting angles? Why do some scenes completely lack audio and only have music? I also noticed this last one in The Hu – user3757 Apr 8 '12 at 21:34

13 Answers 13

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While I haven't heard the second season of the show, I agree with Gary on this. As a re-recording mixer, I have heard plenty of my shows degrade once on air. One of the biggest things we are faced with now is the use of expanders by the networks. In a misguided attempt to compete with the volume levels of commercials, broadcasters are resorting to expanders in order to keep program material at an 'average' raised level. In effect they are trying to reduce any sort of dynamics on a program so the 'viewer' doesn't complain about low volume. By doing this you get a pumping effect between dialogue lines where the dynamics are low, which in turn brings up the ambiances that are playing low in the mix. The level bumps of the ambiances could easily be the result of the expanders. Also, as Gary also pointed out, you never know how broadcasters are airing your show. I worked on a show that was having its video transmitted via satellite, audio via landlines, having both signals recoded onto a recycled Beta SP, and then re-transmitted via microwave to the local service provider. Can't really compensate for that. I know that once the mix leaves my stage it's out of my hands and it can be really depressing to watch a show I've spent a lot of time working on get butchered, but you do the best you can.

  • Thanks for this explanation. This is really bad, we are in 2011, broadcasters should be able to transmit correctly an audio signal without spoiling the work of all the people who worked on the sound track. – Simon Lebel Nov 10 '11 at 19:35
  • @SimonLebel - just to clarify, it isn't that they aren't able to transmit correctly. It is that the commercials are loud relative to the quieter parts of a show. In order to prevent rapid volume shifts (which would upset most customers) they make alterations to the audio which end up having a negative impact on the audio in the show. It's not a question of ability, it's a question of intent and what has the least negative impact on the most people. It is sadly not always perfect or even satisfactory for the more discerning. – AJ Henderson Feb 13 '14 at 15:58
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Before you guys start bagging on the mixers for the show, you should know that there are many possible causes for the issues your discussing. Once the "Final Mix" is complete and signed off on, it goes off to the network and then your cable provider get's ahold of it. Sometimes they'll run it through their own compressors even though the show meets the networks specs. It's hard to know what happens to it.

On shows I've worked on, we've had mixes that sounded great on the stage but sound like crap on air. And sometimes it sounds good on one cable provider but completely different on another. While most big shows are mixed in 5.1 and delivered an LtRt mix, I've heard of networks not using the provided LtRt and making there own from the 5.1. Why? Beats me. There are many a phone calls placed between producers, mixers and network people to try and resolve these issues. It's been happening for a long time and probably won't get any better soon.

You'll have a better chance of hearing the actual mix on DVD or Blu-Ray than you will on air.

Just my 2 cents.

  • This is bang on. There are some real horror stories out there from cable providers messing about with their broadcast compressors. If the AMB is pumping this is most likely the culprit. – AzimuthAudio Nov 10 '11 at 16:49
  • Makes you wonder what their QC standards must be like! I'd be well annoyed if I was a mixer listening to my butchered mix as it aired :/ – Andy Lewis Nov 10 '11 at 17:10
  • +1000 I've had mixes I've spent 3 weeks straight on for TV shows not even see the light of day because some idiot in the transfer room chose the wrong master or chose the wrong audio file to marry up with the pix - when it was named correctly... I have also heard of directors who were totally set on the sound effects for a certain scene replace out the mix with the temp Avid guide-track because he didn't like what the audio team did (and didn't tell the audio team about it until it aired). – Utopia Nov 10 '11 at 19:44
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    It's also sometimes mind boggling what will sound "good" to your ears when you've been up all night mixing :) You come in the next day and plant a palm on your pate and say "WTF???" – Utopia Nov 10 '11 at 20:13
  • I know this topic is a little old now, but I've had the series saved (UK Broadcast on Fox) and have finally got round to watching it and it sounds fine. I noticed these audio issues when I watched one episode online; I assume this was 'recorded' from the AMC broadcast. So as people have been saying, this issue is AMC's "fault" and not the sound designer's. – Skarik Jan 26 '12 at 9:14
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I'm glad I'm not the only one to have noticed this. Ive been meaning to post but you beat me to it lol I can't imagine the mixer would have done that on purpose. Makes no sense at all. I'm guessing theres some kind of encoding/decoding prob somewhere? Maybe something funky with the dialnorm settings going on? Who knows.

But you're right. Some episodes I've caught sound like the dialogue has been used to side chain the ambience track. Quite distracting to say the least. Would love to hear thoughts as to what's happening there!

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I agree with Shaun!

But yes some broadcasters use a expander with negative settings thus raising low level sounds often together with some form of peak limiting.

Our own Swedish national broadcaster does this.

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I'll be honest, I haven't watched the show.

That being said, as a general principle, I have to agree with Gary and Kelle. In the broadcast world, there are a lot of factors beyond our control that can affect the quality of the transmission. This doesn't absolve the mixer of responsibility, but there needs to be recognition that there may be more at work here than just his/her ability.

Two HUGE, intertwined, ideas that haven't been mentioned yet are budget and scheduling. I don't care what anybody says, you get what you pay for. People have bills to pay, and there's a limit to how much time you can (and should) spend on a given project. More money can pull in more effort. [Please don't misunderstand this statement. I'm not necessarily referring to individual effort when I say that.] On the flip side...at a certain point, it doesn't matter how much money you've got if you don't have the time to do the job properly. Yes bringing in more people can mitigate the time issue, but there's a point of diminishing returns there as well.

Again, haven't seen the show. So, I can't really comment on it. I'm just putting forward some ideas for people to consider. One thing I will say, is that I'm fond of this particular community's ability to approach these matters in a constructive way. I'd prefer to see questions of this nature posed in a less negative/incendiary fashion in the future.

  • Oh psh psh Shaun, if I gave you 5 Gs you would work so fast to edit out every single one of those out-of-sync clock glitches from a project and not complain one bit! :) – Utopia Nov 10 '11 at 20:19
  • @Utopia - HAHA. Sure I'd do it, but I might have to hire you on to make sure it got done in time. ;) – Shaun Farley Nov 10 '11 at 20:46
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    @Shaun. You are right, I meant to say Upward Compression. – KellCole Nov 10 '11 at 20:56
  • @Shaun You know I would work for you any day! – Utopia Nov 11 '11 at 2:24
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Anyone else watched Episode 07 yet?

it seems those bugs, although still present, have been pushed back to a more appropriate level and especially in INT scenes haha, maybe they read this thread?

anyway i think it works better because of it, they really pulled me out of the story, the way they instantly dropped out when someone spoke then popped back in again. even my non soundie friends noticed this.

now they just need to work on getting the story back on track, the last few episodes have been a little to days of our lives-y for me.

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Oh god, I noticed this as well and wanted to post but didn't want to seem like the only one. It's frustrating, it's almost like there is side compression on the dialogue to cut out ambience. I'm watching it quite loud as well which just enhances the awfulness.

First series wasn't mixed all that well either.

  • ok, just saw Andy Lewis said the same thing :o Sorry ;) – edmatthews82 Nov 10 '11 at 14:46
  • Great minds, eh? ;) – Andy Lewis Nov 10 '11 at 17:00
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I have also noticed it. It's not just The Walking Dead; it's also the new AMC series Hell on Wheels. I don't think it's some kind of automatic compression performed by cable provider; it sounds intentional. The background audio is constantly being intentionally subdued in order to isolate the dialog. The constant "rush" of background audio makes for a really schizophrenic experience. Here's a short sample from episode 4 (AC3, 48KHz, 5.1ch, 384 kb/s).

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    That's not intentional, thats a product of a compressor thats set wrong. While I wasn't on the stage when this was mixed I am 100% confident that what you are hearing is from the broadcast. – KellCole Nov 13 '11 at 23:31
  • How can a compressor only target dialogue? Does it use speech detection to change its parameters in real time? It doesn't seem to care about music when it overlaps with the dialog, for example. – Lobster Johnson Nov 14 '11 at 20:05
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    It's not looking at dialogue but peak level. When dialogue is present your overall mix level is higher. In between the dial, your program level is lower, if it get too low (wide dynamic range), then the broadcasters will raise the level of the show to reach a minimum program level. The pumping bg's you're hearing is the entire program raising to reach that minimum level. In the example you gave, it sounds like a very extreme form of this 'upward compression'. I've spent a lot of time on dub stages and no one would mix this way. – KellCole Nov 14 '11 at 21:07
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I arrived here after a google search because I wanted to know for sure that I wasn't the only one who has noticed the over compression. I did also suspect that it could not possibly have been the audio engineer on the job but rather the broadcasters. I'd have expected AMC to be more meticulous about the quality of what the put out and simply put their food down about some of these very easy to fix issues.... Just a thought.

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So should the processors that the networks are installing to comply to the new LKFS standards help this or be the culprit? I'm interested if anyone on here has insight into this aspect of this topic. thanks

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At first it kind of through me off, the ambience is too loud and the dialogue attenuation is pumping. However I'm beginning to think it's a creative decision, a very bold one, but none the least. The whole series comes off as b-list and has a certain production charm imo... and this plays right along with it. Perhaps they're trying to come off as a bit cheesy, hell it's about a zombie apocalypse!

If definitely has it's own sound and that in itself is an accomplishment, with so many cookie cutter series playing it safe

ps Kudos to the zombie vocal designer!

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I'm going to have to disagree with everyone saying that the poor sound is just because of the use of the network's expanders. That probably is part of the problem, but it's not an excuse for the lazy attention of detail this show has in all parts of the production. It's laughable how bad the sound, video quality, lighting, WRITING, etc in this season. Not that the last season was amazing or anything, but it definitely had it's moments. If you want to blame the network then why aren't shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men effected by this? I wouldn't even call Walking Dead's mixing bad, I would just call it lazy. There really is no excuse for using the same sound bed for the forest and inside a house. Does anyone else laugh with they hear owls hooting like they are in the other room? It's really too bad how this show has turned out. I believe it had a lot of real potential with an interesting idea and some really good actors. Now it's turned out to look like a bad idea with what seems to be bad actors because of all the awful dialogue. I'm sorry most of this post doesn't have to do with sound, but sadly getting good audio and mixing it well seem to be an afterthought to zombie makeup, unnecessary CGI, and long boring and depressing conversations.

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    Lest we forget that re-recording mixers have only about 2 days (about 16 hours total) to mix a 45 min show. I've seen these guys work and it's quite incredible to watch. I trust a re-recording mixer's work far more than I would a cable substation's ability to send a proper audio feed. I fully agree with what everyone else has said, and know firsthand was well what a mix sounded like on the dub stage, to then hear the same exact mix later in the week on-air where suffered this horrible expansion pass through, to know and agree with this being the primary source of the problem. – Stavrosound Nov 12 '11 at 8:51
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    @hank- As many mentioned, they haven't seen the show, myself included and weren't defending the "poor sound" or passing blame on the network. They were giving possible explanations for the issues originally presented in the post. I know my response was just to offer some perspective from real world experience that Simon might not have been aware of instead of just passing blame on the mixers. It's amazing to hear what is done, both editorially and in the mix, on a 45 minute show under the time restraints of the schedule week in and out. – user6508 Nov 12 '11 at 21:08
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I Just came here after a google search and I agree, the sound mixing is terrible and incredibly distracting. I don't know how it was released for broadcast with ambient cricket noises being louder than the dialogue.

  • Please read the whole thread before posting a negative 'Answers' against someones work. The sound design was pretty good, it was just the encoding / compression methods used in the specific broadcast you watched. The UK broadcast on Fox sounded fine. – Skarik Mar 29 '12 at 15:05

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