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Since moving to LA I have found two types of houses for mixing.....houses that want you to creatively tell a story and work with the producers to realize a vision not yet manifested and houses that want you to not mess with the already mixed material and design they have approved coming out of an AVID suite. They simply want you to take that mix and "make it legal" for air. One views audio as a fun wonderland of interpretation and possibility, while the other sees a mixer as a technical position created to optimize things for broadcast and clean unwanted noise. I literally had a producer say to me this week "It is basically already mixed, just run the limiter thing on it."

Has anyone had this experience as well? Is this a growing epidemic? When did an AVID editor become a sound designer and pre-dubber? Are they really given time like that to cut? I was stunned.

  • I am not sure I asked this question well. The clients in the places I have been asked to "make it legal", don't want to approve, hear anything, or make changes. They want you to run their spot through the DMM and limiter, set the correct overall volume and spit it back out on a server for them to retrieve. Any modification is cause for dismissal. I have seen people lose jobs because they switched out an FX or changed the balance of music under dialogue to make dialogue more audible. Perhaps I am the only one here who has had this experience. I always want to make it better. – Karol Urban Aug 18 '13 at 23:56
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I am currently working on an animated series where the director and picture editor do a lot sound effects editing as they go. I get an OMF with 15 tracks of precut SFX already in place. But I barely keep any of it, most of the time none of it all. The director and I look at the effects as a first pass or guide track. He knows I can make the soundtrack much better because of the much much larger sound library I have, and the ability to record custom sounds for each unique scene when needed. He encourages me to take the concepts he and the picture editor laid out and to make them more dramatic/funny/heartbreaking as is necessary.

Also with most of the sounds they source in the course of the picture edit, they do not actually have broadcast rights for. So legally they put them selves at risk if I don't go and replace the temp sounds with new SFX from my library.

We look at the ability of the picture editor to do a more elaborate sound edit as a tool for the director to communicate quite effectively the mood he wants me to create in a given scene.

Granted not every project treats things this way, but it might be worth while to encourage clients to look at things this way. Maybe even take one of their projects and do a full proper pass on it and let them hear the difference between the more crude pass done by a video editor and the more nuanced version a true audio post professional can provide. I think too many producers have trouble relating to the whole audio process and thus devalue it. Its in some ways up to us to try to educate them on the value we provide. Easier said then done though.

  • "true audio post professional" – Internet Human Aug 8 '13 at 13:24
  • very much agree with your last paragraph. – Brad Dale Aug 8 '13 at 15:05
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Every client and project I have worked on has varied somewhere on that scale. Sometimes our job is purely technical and sometimes our job is largely creative with the technical aspect being an expected addition.

On any job it is important to understand your role and accomplish it.

Same goes for mastering. The best mastering engineers I have worked with see themselves as artists as well as technicians just like mixers and producers. They "color" sound much like a colorist does in picture finishing. You hire them for their artistic aesthetic as well as technical expertise.

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Ah the perils of temp love. In my experience you run into some directors/producers that want to keep it close to the Avid tracks and no amount of discussion will change their minds. I take the approach that if thats what they want then its your job to make it the best you can for them. However that doesn't mean you should just push the faders, make it legal and call it a day. As a mixer its your job to establish a dialogue with them and hopefully together you can make the project better. I usually know before a show hits the stage how strongly they are married to the temp tracks and will adjust accordingly. You can approach it different ways:

1) Use the temp tracks as a guide and mimic with a fuller sound design.

2) Take the best sounds in the Avid tracks and use them and augment.

3) Do a full sound cut but carry the Avid tracks in the bottom of the session and if they don't like something you can always bring up the sounds and replace what you've done.

I find the majority of the time the parties involved will use the new tracks and will only go back to their tracks in places where they had spent a large amount of time working on them to get them just right. I find it usually ends up being just a couple of elements that they feel strongly about.

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What i discovered in Germany:

There is like no money in advertising and corporate movies for audio in smaller companies + the recoding equipment became much better and the software just to easy to use.

So more and more movie cutters start to %&/() around with audio and fade from left to right thinking they know exactly what they do.

Then it sounds pretty ok but not as it could be. SO they do not wanna pay 100-200 € more on professional sound mixing since the equipment and &/()& "premix" sounds okay.

Furthermore more and more movie cutters start to record the voice overs. They often give a /%&/( if the sound is not as it could be.

This leaves the companies calling me just to "check" the audio and applying some compression on the master channel and adjust the volume for broadcasting. So i can only charge 1-2 hours of work.

And people accept the sound since more and more people just don't care about good sound anymore. Listen to the top 100s. And moreover people get used to overcompeessed and degraded sound from youtube on /()&& iphone speakers :D

I think audio became to easy to use...

  • Or then they might not care to work with people who demonstrate the above kind of attitude that implies that everyone else is wrong/doing wrong. Or who think that there's something wrong with making technology more affordable and available (there isn't!). Or who thinks that sound is some sacred art to which no-one who doesn't belong to the sound tribe is allowed to touch. Or who thinks that people aren't allowed to have subjective opinions about entirely subjective things. – Internet Human Aug 8 '13 at 13:44
  • I agree, but in the last two years, the creative work in audio feels so unrewarding (in Germany, Munich at least.) At least with the new R128 guideline the situation might become better... – MrToBe Aug 8 '13 at 14:25
  • Well, with the availability of affordable technology comes freedom. And the arts and entertainment fields have always been popular, because of obvious "fun factors". And it's more popular than ever now that one doesn't need to invest a lot of money for the equipment. It's inevitable that that kind of situation leads to increased competition and devaluation of the entire practice (or to valuation of stuff that's exceptional over mediocrity or commonality when there's what to choose from). On the producer front it leads to a very stressful and competitive environment. – Internet Human Aug 8 '13 at 14:46
  • Loudness standards are meant to standardize loudness, which is a practice that serves both producers and consumers. But one cannot standardize art or the perception/consumption of art, i.e. everyone is basically free to have a go at producing it, everyone's free to consume what they want and everyone's free to form an opinion about it. That's just how it is. – Internet Human Aug 8 '13 at 14:56
  • What your original post displays is something what I consider some sort of a "professional artist"'s paradox: trying to do something professionally, when that something has a vague professional and practical grounding (because it's art). Thus, while possibly irrelevant, I would suggest anyone working in the arts and entertainment always try to keep the fun in the work and not see what you're doing as "work" or a job, because then it might just get stressful and too serious and one may not be able to occasionally relate to things with the required lightness and humor (as opposed to seriousness) – Internet Human Aug 8 '13 at 15:00
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I think the question generalizes too much (to assume that all mixers and mixing would be of one "type").

But in general I'd think that mixing and especially mastering are mainly technical endevours. A mixer's or masterer's main responsibility is to have the final word on what comes to "sound quality" or "what sounds good" and make the given tracks work in as good or appropriate way (e.g. for a certain playback system) as possible. Yes you can shape what you're given, but what you're given can already be "pre-mixed" to a very high standard or it might just be recorded very well. Everyone also knows that a masterer doesn't adjust anything, if the mix coming in is good :) It's just a different focus that they have and different aspect that they are concerned with.

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