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My question has to do with pre-dubbing and what you commit to at this stage, in particular regarding stereo sounds.

When doing pre-dub stem mixdowns, how do you know what will work in the final mix and what to avoid?

Is it a gut thing or is it more planned out? (keeping some sounds out of the pre dub mix because you know they will be a ''feature'' sound)

My fear is I will commit to something and ''bake'' the sound in and then later down the line in the mix I will be like ''ahhgg, that sound is too wide, but there is not a lot I can do about it now''

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My workflow may be different from others, as I'm primarily a one man band, but I don't see the point of "baking" the pre-dubs anymore. With the flexibility of non-linear DAWs and (relatively) low cost of storage space, my finished "pre-dubs" are simply Pro Tools sessions that I compile into one larger session. It may be necessary to bounce multiple tracks together if there's a shortage of voices, of course, but I do my utmost to compact in such a way that I am not locked into a decision. When I get into the full mix session.

Following on from that, I do a lot of work at the pre-dub/pre-mix phase. I'll do leveling, relatively precise panning, basic noise reduction, EQ for matching between takes, transient compression and enhancement wherever necessary, etc. I do the bulk of my processing as inserts on tracks, and will revise as necessary once I hear everything in context. That usually means I'm pushing a bit of processing a little harder, not backing off. For me, the point of the pre-dub is to simplify the work left during the mix; strip away the low-level sound decisions and focus on specific moments. When I pull all of the pre-dub sessions into the master mix session, everything should behave similar to how I feel the rough mix needs to sound. Then we can spend time evaluating what works and what needs to be amended. Using sessions instead of traditional pre-dub files leaves a ton of flexibility for that process.

  • thank you! i dont have the computing power to run things like that. so i have to bounce down the pre dubs. – jamesyeah May 18 '13 at 14:32
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  1. When printing stems you need to think through what you will want seperate control over in the final mix, as this dictates the number of stems you will want to predub to. Most films I work on (& many are not big films) I will still plan to predub to eight or ten 5.1 stems, so I can keep elements split to enough of a degree to rebalance. The aim is to make each stem to be balanced & work well as an element... but not stitch you up in the final mix.

  2. if you know an element is subjective/contentious/open to interpretation or the director is not 100% sure of what they want or its VFX dependent & will change with updates, it is often better to not predub it, and run it live into the final mix as a virtual predub. So it is balanced & panned but not printed. I always do this with eg creature vox, and any stings & tones as they may need tweaking (timing/pitch etc) to work with score.

  3. As to your concern about a stem not being right eg panning, the re-recording mixers still have control over the stem eg to change its divergence or spread, or even repan it to a degree - obviously the whole stem is changed, which is why my point 1 is so important ie to not lock together seperate diverse elements into the same predub stem.

Each film has unique requirements but a starting point for me with FX stems is:

  • FXA General FX
  • FXB General FX
  • FXC Movement
  • FXD Movement
  • FXE Impacts
  • FXF Impacts
  • FXG Vehicles
  • FXH Vehicles

So something simple like a door open, I might still split/print the door open/close onto FXA stem and the creak onto FXB so if someone says 'lets lose the creak' we can... Or vehicles I might split the engine sounds from the tyre/movement sounds I'll also borrow stems to split wider eg say i want a vehicle split across 3 or 4 stems - if there is nothing on Impacts then I'll use that stem to split extra elements to (& make sure I name it as such/colour code it)

  • This sounds incredibly similar to the feature FX layout I like to work with, slightly differing - FX A, B, C, etc - where on A there's the engine, B has the tires, C has the brakes, etc. and those FX groups hit seperate stems. So in a way, cutting with the stems pre-planned into the edit strategy. Over simplified of course, but I like where you're going with that method you mention. – Stavrosound May 19 '13 at 1:02
  • for sure - for Emperor we had vehicles across 5 or 6 stems at times, as there was a lot of vehicle action & multiple vehicles onscreen at once... – user49 May 19 '13 at 1:39
  • thank you for this. super. what do you do about reverb? do you add any at the pre dub stage? – jamesyeah May 19 '13 at 2:25
  • I print verbs if I've used them for say a transition or a specifically 'altered' moment or any IR processed sounds... but the dub stage have far better verbs than I have in PT – user49 May 19 '13 at 4:48
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One argument in favor of predubbing "traditionally" as in printing pre-mixes, would be archiving. You would never have to worry about corrupt session files or Pro Tools v20ish not being able to open up your R3 predub session for some remix/remaster something down the line. You'll have complete audio files that can be dropped into any DAW.

To answer you question more directly, the more planning the better. Also plan on as many fix tracks during the final as you can because inevitably you'll have to unwind something at the last minute.

  • Another reason to print predubs is track count. if each FX stem is being fed by say 32 tracks & you have say 10 FX stems that would be 320 source tracks playing live into the mix! Add ambience source tracks and you are needing a lot of ProTools for playback – user49 May 18 '13 at 23:16
  • thanks you! yeah i think, just due to computer power i will have to bounce. – jamesyeah May 19 '13 at 2:26

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