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I'm working on a job where the delivery specs are calling for a non-optional 5.1 surround mix.

Unfortunately the space I am working in is pretty asymmetrical and almost the opposite of ideal for a surround monitor setup, so I was wondering if there are any good systems out there for mixing 5.1 on headphones.

I'm planning on doing a very basic surround mix (fx to LCR, Dialogue to C, music and BG to quads). I understand the general limitations of mixing on cans but I honestly think it is the best option in my current situation. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Working on headphones for a 5.1 mix is not a good idea. Nevertheless, what you might be looking for is a 5.1 to binaural renderer. An example of such a product can be found here : http://smyth-research.com/technology.html

What I would suggest is doing most of the job (editing, premixing stems, filtering, etc.) on a stereo monitoring system (therefore downmixing your 5.1 mix) and rent an appropriate mixing room for a few hours to finish the mix. I wouldn't consider delivering a 5.1 mix that I have not checked on an appropriate monitoring system.

If your mix is for home cinema or broadcast release, a small room can do the job. If it is for a theatrical relase, you need to go into a theatrical stage.

  • Thanks for the info! It's just for a network gig so I'm going to try to convince my boss that renting studio time is the best option. He wants to have a full in-house surround setup, but I just don't think it's worth it given how rarely we get jobs that call for 5.1 – Andrew Scott Oct 27 '15 at 17:19
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I don't know a direct answer to your question. But maybe you could make everything in 5.1 and monitor through an LtRt encoder (e.g. Neyrinck) on an AUX Master track. This way you could at least hear everything you put in the surround channels. How it translates to the actual surround mix is another question.

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There are vst plugins like spatial audio designer from new audio technology that allow you to monitor with normal headphones and diffuse/pan export a mix for various surround setups. Having said that, i don't know how this would translate in a movie Theatre but perhaps it might be an interesting test (build a 5.1 mix with the headphones and test/adjust it in a studio )

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