Audio Post Production Workflows Using Pro Tools - Part 11 - Mixing Part 1

09-08-2014 03:06 PM

Last week in part 10 of this series on Audio Post Production Workflows Using Pro Tools, we looked at sound effects with Bernard O’Reilly. This week in the first of two articles Howard Bargroff, eho mixed the award winning Sherlock series, concludes this journey through the audio post production workflow bringing all the separate parts we have looked at throughout this series from the dialog editing, ADR, foley, and sound effects with mixing. Over to you Howard….
Mixing - What Is It Anyway?

Mixing? What the hell is mixing anyway? It’s a strange craft at the best of times; part science part creative art. Essentially though at its core, it’s balancing a multitude of sound elements in a cohesive way helping to tell the story and drive the drama of the project. Delivery of the narrative is everything. Coming at the end of the post-production process it can also end up as the battleground for squeezed budgets, timescales and fixed delivery schedules. So hopefully in these two articles I can show a little of how Pro Tools can be used as a tool for creative mixing within a fast and efficient workflow.
If Its Mixing, Its Pro Tools

Most of my mixing these days does tend to take place entirely within Pro Tools, as workflow, and careful preparation are the name of game. For TV projects all mixing is performed within one session, as this work tends to be a solo endeavor. Film work is greater in scope and track count, therefore, it is generally spread over a number of separate Pro Tools systems, with the ability for each editor to adjust their own material on the dub stage; which in these larger projects can be an essential requirement.
Start With A Master Template

Starting with a master template, created a long time ago, which has evolved over the years as new techniques and tricks are incorporated; track-lays from editors are loaded into this master session and any automation carefully incorporated.

The key to the track organisation is to try and make navigation around the mix as quick and as easy as possible. All automation runs live, so anything and everything is totally adjustable at any stage.
Lets Keep It On The Small Screen

For the purpose of this article we’ll concentrate on the tv template as it runs on one machine and is easier to show as an overview.

The entire mix lives under the control of 8 master VCA’s; dialogues, music, crowd, spot fx, atmospheres, foley feet, foley moves and foley spots.

This makes large macro mixing very easy; so big broad brush strokes, for example, turning everything down and leaving the music only for an emotionally charged scene, is easily achievable using only a handful of faders (and hands!).

There is some degree of further VCA’ing further to these masters, so the spot fx VCA controls spots bus A, B C etc, and the atmosphere VCA controls atmos A, atmos B, for alternate scenes.

Essentially, this structure ends up with a pyramid of macro to micro mixing; the master VCA’s at the top of the pyramid, the next detailed level of VCA’s in the middle and finally the individual tracks at the bottom. Keeping tracks organised in blocks according to the VCA discipline and layout means all individual tracks are easy to find and adjust during the pressures of a final mix. Plus, this kind of layout really works well with Avid controllers VCA spill and custom faders, both of which, are essential tools in keeping on top of the hundreds of tracks that have become the norm for most projects.
Coming Up…

In part 12 we will complete our journey with part 2 of the final mix with Howard Bargroff.
Previous Parts Of The Audio Post Production Workflows Series

Part 1 - Assistant Editor, preping sessions
Part 2 - Assistant Editor, preping sessions
Part 3 - Dialog Editor, setting up dialog sessions
Part 4 - Dialog Editor, preping for ADR and finishing the dialog edit
Part 5 - Dialog Editor, marking up for ADR and handing on to the re-recording mixer
Part 6 - ADR on location - part 1
Part 7 - ADR on location - part 2
Part 8 - Foley - part 1
Part 9 - Foley - part 2
Part 10 - Sound Effects