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I'm new to dialogue, I'm wondering is my dialoge premix too muddy? It is a film project, would be output to DCP and play back in an normal cinema. The whole film is redubbed, any one can give me some opinion?

Dialogue sample link

  • sounds good. unless that english voice in the back is supposed to be super clear. that one is a bit drowned out. – Daniel Nov 2 '15 at 11:54
  • Thanks reply.Actually that English voice is off screen. To compare other mix extracted from bluray, mine is a little bit muddy, but if I don't roll off the high-end, the sibilant will be too much, course the dubbing is too close mic. – Ah Kei Nov 2 '15 at 13:31
  • By "muddy", do you mean having too much mid-bass making the dialog less intelligible? If so, then "no". Either way, I think the word "muddy" does not mean the same thing to different people, so you might want to re-phrase your question to be more specific. Is there something about this dialog that you don't like, and you're wondering if others agree? If so, what is it that you are hearing that you don't like? – Todd Wilcox Nov 2 '15 at 14:20
  • Sorry about my bad english. Actually I want my dialogue to be more air and brightness. But when I try to boost the high end, the sibilant comes out. – Ah Kei Nov 2 '15 at 14:37
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To my ears, it does indeed sound as if there is too much build-up in the lower mids. I wouldn't say "muddy", but rather more boomy, boxy, or honky - those are three words I would use to describe it. Cutting these will clean it up for you, but as you said, this was definitely miked too close.

Two more things to keep in mind for dlog editing: 1) You will almost ALWAYS get more natural sounding results by cutting what you don't want, as opposed to boosting what you do want. As you carve away some of the lower freqs, the spectral balance of the dlog shifts to the highs, and as a result will sound brighter, more airy, etc. 2) Generally speaking, tighter Q factors will cause the dlog to sound more unnatural. Usually I try to stick with broader Q factors, and subtle changes. In my opinion, a slightly under-corrected problem often sounds more natural, than a slightly over-corrected problem. 3) Don't be bashful about cutting the low end. I am constantly amazed at how much of the lows are cut in film dlog.

Tips For This Situation: I uploaded an example of your dlog, with some changes made to it. The first clip is your original dlog, the second clip has a +2.7dB boost @ approx. 460Hz (to highlight the offending frequencies), and the third clip has the following changes.

  • I cut roughly -1.3dB, @ 1kHz, with a medium Q factor.

  • I cut about -2.7dB, @ approx. 460Hz, w/ a medium Q factor.

  • I cut the lows, with a -2dB low shelf, @ approx. 115Hz, w/ a pretty gentle Q factor.

  • I cut more lows, by adding a medium HPF @ 70Hz.

  • There were no other changes made to these clips, except a universal volume boost of around 4dB (before processing), and I used some make-up gain to roughly match levels (post processing). The only thing in the signal path was one EQ.

  • If you still feel like you're missing "air", I would suggest using a harmonic enhancer, as opposed to a traditional EQ. Slate Digital's "Revival" is an excellent one, and best of all, it's free. Obviously, you have to be subtle with things like this, but it does a really great job of lifting the highs, without adding a bunch of harshness. Potentially, you could also add a de-esser if you're still having issues with the harshness.

In hindsight, I probably should have cut another -1dB with the low-shelf, and maybe eased off on the cut @ 460Hz, and left it at -2dB.

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  • Thanks so much! I have uploaded another sample extracted from other movie: soundcloud.com/ah-kei-6/sample03 I want something like that. Btw, which EQ plugin do you use? – Ah Kei Nov 4 '15 at 14:27
  • I was using the H-EQ from Waves. Any EQ plugin should work though - even the stock one in your DAW. – Joseph Santoyo Nov 19 '15 at 6:59
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Well what Joseph Santoyo said is pretty right, i mean it can get you in the ballpark and have a decent sounding vocal recording, but in no way a serious one.

If you take 2 voices make a big Q around 250-500 in your situation you will be a lot less muddy but what i have seen is that when i EQ stuff that were recorded in the same room (and the room/mic/recording has problems) they tend to sound alike thus losing their character and to my understanding actual clarity in the mix.So if i was watching a scene with 2 guys talking i really want to be able to separate those voices in my ears.

So what you can do to avoid this is use a distortion box really subtly with a compressor after it but EQ will be mandatory for this, you have to feed a pretty nice vocal signal into the distortion box.

The subtle effect you are going to create with the distortion box is going to individually add some grit just on top of the vocals making them much more separated and colorful.

Now of course this is not a process that you are going to be able to make right away , it needs a nice balance between your EQ - Distortion - Compression , plus you have to already have the voice "in your head", i mean when you hit that spot you have to understand it and stop , you have a good voice, it's just a matter of turning 3-4 buttons really , when you master it :)

You can use whichever compressor / EQ you want , but i would recommend you use Decapitator VST as a distortion box OR some other really hi end one that is for mixing don't just go stick the vocals in a guitar box, save that for later.

One last thing, if you had let's say a very colorful voice you know with grit and nice bass and generaly nice qualities you may not wanna touch it just soft EQ Co

Good Luck!

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  • I have tried Slate Revival, the result is so far so good.Now I have to deal with music and sfx. The music composer obviously didn't concern the dialogue. I try to EQ the music to give more room for dialogue, but the result seems not good enough. Beside riding the fader, what else can I do? – Ah Kei Nov 6 '15 at 14:46
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To answer the comment on my answer:

You can put a frequency analyzer on the speech channel , try to see the dominant frequencies should be 2 , 1 around 5k where the "s" are and a bigger Q area from 200-450 where the body of the vocal is (or at least those are the frequencies to look for).You want the S to have more clarity.Note that this is just to see the freqs , do nothing else on the vocal channel.

So now go add a multiband compressor like C6 to the music channel and use the 2 band pass controls which just focus on a specific(variable if you like) bandwidth. ***c6 plugin (or other) must be SideChain mode !

So now feed the sidechain multiband with the vocal signal as key, have semifast attack and smooth release , let it cut around 3-5 db depending on the music behind and you should have a pretty good separation effect. Try to play a bit with the settings until you get a transparent effect,you dont want the compressor to pump!

Bypass the other bands on the multiband and leave only the 2 specific band areas affected by the multiband.

If you need more info on sidechain multiband check some youtube video:)

Good luck!

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  • I have tried C6, but I wonder is it an usual way to use sidechain in movie mixing? – Ah Kei Nov 7 '15 at 16:11
  • I don't really understand your question so ill answer as i think i should. Whenever you get to work on a sound material there's allways a target, theres something to be achieved and there are more than one way to do that. If you ask anyone, if something does the job at the end , it doesnt really matter if it is a multiband plugin or whatever. If it does the job , it's good , but the "job" is the target , so first of all you have to have a target and not worry about anything else when trying to achieve it cause you are only limiting your creativity. – frcake Nov 8 '15 at 22:22
  • Furthermore, you ask if multibands are used, well i would say no, but are there generaly problems that dictate the need of their use? Maybe the composers or music mixers take more stuff under consideration or the vocal recordings are better! Keep in mind, every time you process sound trying to fix something that's wrong you are going to be losing some too! So it's a bad thing but most of the times u can't avoid it. This is why you try to work with people that know their job well enough so the result itself is more prirstine and professional. Hope i helped! – frcake Nov 8 '15 at 22:31
  • When I watched others Hollywood movies through frequency analyzer, I noticed that their music started roll down gently from 3-4khz, and seldom hit 1-2khz. I wonder is this caused by multiband compression. I always received some music with so much brightness just like listening to commercial CD. That brightness of music cant sit in the mix and affects dialogue and Sfx. – Ah Kei Dec 1 '15 at 11:05
  • well ok, let's jump into more heavy stuff. First of all , of course if someone that's not a professional is asked to mix a song for a movie without clear directions , he's just going to mix the song.Secondly the most sountrack style music lives at mid to bass bands , you are right if the music gets loud , like a rock song maybe and speech has to be on it , but you still want the music loud sometimes the solution is simply turn down the music until speech stops and turn it back again, if you watch carefully this is done with some kind of timing between the scene change speech and music. – frcake Dec 3 '15 at 16:10

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