Firstly I know nothing about sound mixing.

I have produced a short film which a sound mixer has created a final mix for the film in 5.1 surround sound.

I now need to create a DVD that plays the 5.1 sound but also should the disc be played on a stereo tv or other device it still sounds correct. My mixer told me that all you need is 5.1, and then the device, whatever it may be does its own mixdown to stereo and should sound fine. Is this true?

I now need to create a master DVD with 5.1 sound and also the stereo option, for film festivals.

I have called alot of various places in London, Soho (post houses) and I am yet to find someone who can do this for me. I have little to no money as this is a self funded short film.

BUT WAIT, theres more.

My sound mixer has also given me his own mixdown of the 5.1. Which I am currently using on the DVD. But no matter what device I play this stereo mixdown on, it comes out far too quiet, and I have to turn the volume upto full for decent listening level of dialogue.

This is all very long winded and I am sorry. But basically these are my questions - 1, if you only have a 5.1 mix on a dvd, does it mixdown by itself when on a stereo device? 2, who in London can create for me a master dvd with both 5.1 and 2.0 option in the menu? 3, any ideas why the stereo DVD is so quiet?I have gone back to the mixer and he has said he cannot make it any louder which I just do not understand.

Best, Andrew

1 Answer 1


Hi Andrew,

Here are the short answers to your questions...

  1. Yes... the downmix is part of the Dolby or DTS decoder built into the DVD player. It's not an option, if the Dolby or DTS logo is on it, it will do it.

  2. I'm not from London, but any authoring house should be able to do this for you if you give them both sets of tracks - you need to have two separate audio "streams" (in DVD parlance) to be chosen from the menu. You CANNOT just turn on the automated downmix from the menu - that's done at the machine level, NOT the DVD level.

  3. There are a number of reasons that the level on a DVD can be low... most of which happen at encoding. If a simple program like iDVD, or Windows DVD Maker was used, than a setting called Dialnorm was probably set incorrectly. Dialnorm can be a very technical complicated subject, but essentially it tells the DVD player how much to turn up or down the volume so that (in theory) all DVD's play the same. However it's only as good as the info it's given, and many consumer programs get it wrong - essentially telling the DVD player it's much louder than it really is, so the player "turns it down". Without knowing a great deal more that would be my first guess...

If this is for festival ENTRY then don't worry about making a menu with options... just give them a 5.1 or a stereo version. You don't want the festival folks doing anything but WATCHING your film. If it's for actual festival PLAYBACK - then my advice is JUST do a stereo version. Most Festival Theatres can't playback 5.1 from a DVD anyway. And if you do a menu version I can guarantee that an overworked, possibly undertrained projectionist at one of the theatres will pick the wrong one.

Finally, ALL indie films have little to no money... but there is a case of being "penny wise and pound foolish". Going with "cheap" services often ends up costing you far more in time and money redoing things than going with a reputable, reliable service. Spend the money you NEED to spend to get a quality product for the festival directors - otherwise, you'll be throwing good money (your entry fee) after bad.

  • I hear you. My latest short showed on cinema last fall was a disaster. The prick of a projectionist had screwed up the speaker setup for 5.1, and by the time he finally got it fixed the movie was over. I was...less than happy. Jul 19, 2012 at 17:38

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