RE: Boz - differences between mixing music and mixing film

Ugh stuck airport because I missed my damn plane to a music theater gig Miami… Thought you might find bits and pieces of these last few days of discovery interesting though.

So…There is an enormous emphasis on groove and lead vocals in music. Right? That’s still important in background music, but in the big picture its minimized in the overall scheme of things. There’s a lot of emphasis on spoken dialogue, which in processing and mixing an entirely different craft from mixing human vocals in a song. It feels a lot like managing an entire forest vs micromanaging a single tree.

@Cristina said something a while back that’s been in the back of my mind…something is like: ‘mixing [a song] is about making a shit ton of small decisions’. I’m starting to feel that the film thing is really about prioritizing the big decisions and knowing what not to waste time micromanaging. The expectations in dynamics and tone matter, but in a very different way.

Here’s the real catch (for me anyway). The content is much more different than people realize. There’s a tendency to think. Audio - Music. Audio - Movie. Audio - DAW/plugins/meters. Same difference. No? I think I’ve pinpointed the biggest reason this isn’t the case: Music mixers spend a lot of time studying what snare drums sound like. More importantly, they spend time studying snare drums in a different context. Unless you’re mixing a movie about a drummer, you’ll almost never have to deal with a snare drum in a film in any kind of isolated context. So what caught me off guard was how irrelevant and useless the last couple years of growth in music mixing was when the film dub hit my desk for the first time.

There are some things that apply though. Balancing and managing low end explosions are something I could never have done without all of my walls and ceilings covered with bass traps. My room is far from perfect, but the intensive studying I’d done in kick/bass/808 management over the last few months benefited here a little. I already had a good handle on 5.1 from working in broadcast, but the attention to metering in 5.1 film was much more demanding than in Broadcast. I did find that a knowledge of verbs, reflections, dampening, gating and transient design was beneficial. That carries over from music. Also, your knowledge of the relationship between your mixer and your DAW can make or break your ability to mix a film. But it won’t by any means make or break your capacity to mix a song.

So…I had to call to some friends to confirm this, but the same mix is used for theaters, film fests, netflix, youtube, DVD, BlueRay etc… You only mix it once. But the mastering processing is different on each one. What that means is different formats (7.1.2 Atmos vs 5.1 broadcast surround vs BlueRay) all require different loudness specs in the deliverables. But its all one mix. So if what you meant was that its mixed for commercial theater vs a song being mixed for a car stereo or laptop, then I don’t think it follows that music but not film is mixed to sound as good as possible on everything. Because Thor or Divergent or Hunger Games (which I have the mix for because they weren’t wiped from the drive when the government confiscated this mixer and computers to auction them off) are printed off of one main mix. And they’re expected to sound consistent if someone streams them on an iPad or an Android phone. Same goes for games. If you’re watching a youtube walkthrough of Halo 5, its SUPPOSED to sound like Halo 5 regardless.


Yes, but if you are playing your movie through a small TV, the Dolby Digital standard will apply compression to it that won’t be applied in the movie theater. Different dynamics processing is performed on broadcast and films, even though the mix is the same. Very very few music playback devices do this

I did have a car once that had a stereo that had a compression option. It was a convertible, so super heavy compression makes more sense when the noise floor is at 85dB.

For film, the compression is a required standard in playback devices.

Okay, out with it, what kind of car?

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In my understanding, that’s why we need several different versions of the dub mix mastered for different formats.

I was given different specs for the different deliverables…

I think we’re talking about the same thing…aren’t we?

But somehow missed this. So no, we weren’t talking about the same thing. Sorry for the confusion.