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Putting the final touches on a 2-hour documentary project - complete sound re-design, nat sound, variant dialog, and a primarily orchestral score....etc, etc.

I will admit, this is one of my first full post-mixes. I'm a rookie, but I'm shooting for that Rookie of the Year spot!

Is there a standard reference or target level for the music alone? Dialog RMS/Peak is about -27/-9 on an LEQ(a) meter, and from what I've seen thus far....I should be shooting for -23/-6 or -9 on the full mix. (Yes?)

The fx stem is fairly irrelevant in this case, as far as the over level goes. It's fairly sparse.

Any insight or links to further reading on "levels" in general would be appreciated!

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    I don't know the correct answer to this, but like you I was taught to mix dialogue to RMS/Peak -27db. When it comes to music, -24 to -23 feels right to me so that's what I've generally used. Great question though because I've never learned a target value for the music. – Miles B. Apr 7 '12 at 15:15
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    For sure! When mixing the orchestral music itself (because...I do that too), I do mix a little higher. I'm looking for a "rule of thumb" on where to put the music WITH the dial/fx over it. – Audiophile.2010 Apr 7 '12 at 15:26
  • Ah. Well I'm curious about that too :P Though I have a feeling that it's a bit harder to define. It seems that it depends on what the frequency characteristics of the music are, and how they clash with the dialogue. I find that depending on the type of music it will be mixed higher or lower. Still though, looking forward to an answer. :) – Miles B. Apr 7 '12 at 16:09
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To me, it's one of those subjective things in the mix. You're dialogue level sounds appropriate (equal to -27dB on a DOlby LM100 for LEQ(a) ), but for music, in my opinion you sort of have to ride it against dialogue to what feels right, especially since the dynamics of music are always changed compared to dialogue. It should probably be nice and full, but not drown out the dialogue. Again though, all depends upon what the music itself is doing at any given time and that to my knowledge there isn't a 'correct' answer to the question aside from 'don't drown your dialogue'.

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    Just keep in mind that one of the biggest complaints from viewers is that the music is too loud, while one of the biggest complaints from producers is that they can't hear all that beautiful music that they spent so much money on. :) – Steve Urban Apr 8 '12 at 9:17
  • Or the music dept fights against the brief moments of design trampling on their score. The 3-ring-circuis ;) – Stavrosound Apr 8 '12 at 16:43
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I agree with Stavro, it's totally subjective. Get your dialogue to sit at the right average level, then mix the music around it. Numbers won't help you much, as different instruments will interact differently with voice. A lower pitched instrument like a bass drum might need to be boosted where a trumpet, or other mid horn, would need to be cut.

Also, bear in mind that home tv sound systems tend to boost vocal frequencies a little (in my experience), so music may appear lower than how you mixed it. As long as it's not fighting the dialogue, feel free to really push it.

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