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Old February 20th, 2004, 10:32 AM   #1
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edit mono w/headphones?

I have read about the importance of using good, well-positioned speakers to monitor sound as you edit, and that headphones are a poor substitute for this purpose. Would the same critera apply if the final product was mono?
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Old February 20th, 2004, 11:05 AM   #2
 
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Headphones are foolish for any finished product editing. They are fine for rough editing, but for any finish work, it's a fools game.
Response curves aside, the physical characteristics of your skull and fatty tissues on same, make it impossible to correctly monitor placement, EQ, and amplitude of a source. Headphones are there to monitor during the shoot, to do rough mixes, and to hear fine level detail work. That's about it.
Having a GOOD set of monitor speakers is a must if you want professional sound on your video project. You wouldn't edit for broadcast using a 99.00 13" video monitor from Walmart, would you? Using cheap, plastic speakers such as those from Klipsch, JBL, Alesis, etc that you buy at CompUSA, Best Buy, or other box store won't cut it. Even the low end particle board speaks won't cut it. You also don't need the 18K in Mackie or 22K in Hothouse that we have in our studio, but we're primarily an audio facility with 2 audio rooms and 3 video bays that eventually feed into the audio rooms.
A good sound card and good monitors can not be replaced with anything, they're every bit as critical, if not moreso, than a good broadcast monitor.
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Old February 20th, 2004, 03:05 PM   #3
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The biggest wake up call for this is when you get some decent monitors and then go back and listen to something you thought was all finished when you were using junk speakers or headphones. Wow. Sells you right there.

I have even been watching DVDs from lower budget indie films and wince every once in a while. In Blue Car, there is a high pitched whine that comes in and out as some scenes are cut. I captured the audio and played with it. I EQ'ed it out in under a minute, without a noticable loss in the other audio. Just for kicks, I switched back to my old speakers and the original audio sounded great throughout, even though it wasn't.
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Old February 20th, 2004, 10:31 PM   #4
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In my opinion... headphones are TOO good.

A- They let you hear stuff that won't show up to your target audience (like quiet hiss).
B- They have too much dynamic range. You can hear everything on headphones... but the viewer can't. For your final mix you have to try to approximate the viewer's audio setup and make sure everything can be heard. For one project that went to VHS tape, I had the dialogue mixed so low that you couldn't hear it on a TV (the TV's speakers were damaged, but the mix was still too subtle).

With good speakers you should still check if your mix is too subtle. Turn the volume down and/or move the speakers away. http://www.dv.com/dv_login.jhtml?_requestid=157723

There are also some other ways headphones aren't as good as speakers:
C- They don't let you get a good idea of stereo placement. (not an issue here)
D- You don't get room effects. (this can be somewhat good if you room is really bad acoustically)

Decent headphones are much cheaper than decent speakers though. When on a budget, you have to work with what you have. Maybe you can get away with mixing on headphones by double checking on various audio setups of the target format?
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Old February 21st, 2004, 01:25 AM   #5
 
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You are better off mixing with crappy speakers than mixing with headphones. As someone who has mixed well over 300 records, a few of them platinum, many of them gold, I cannot stress this point enough. Mixing with a Craig boombox is more effective and accurate than mixing with headphones. Headphones shift phase at various frequencies depending on how they sit on your head. Can you assure that your hair will be in exactly the same place every time? What about ear fatigue? Headphones will rapidly deteriorate your hearing in a short period of time whereas a reasonably good speaker system will not. A professional speaker monitor, tuned well in a decent room, will fatigue ears in about 7 hours. Headphones will vary, but most studies show fatigue in under 30 minutes. Mixing through headphones, even if it's all you have, is like walking on a highwire with no safety. Checking headphone mixes on speakers is fine, but it should never, ever be a practice, but rather an exception. I've created rough mixes on my Etymotic 6's, but they are very expensive, transducer based headphones that fit the canal, and even then they don't seal exactly the same. The rough mixes are invariably off, but I'm at least within 75% of where I need to be, saving me time in the studio. I never start automation for a mix this way. Sure, mixing a dialog only and bed only track would probably get you maybe to 90% vs 75%, but with all the audio tools available to most NLE's today, there is zero excuse for bad sound.
Sorry to rant, but this is a pet point. This was a question in the music industry about 25 years ago, and it was rapidly settled there. It's so strange to see the video industry having the same struggles so many years later. endgame....NEVER mix through headphones for a finished product. It's dangerous to even monitor too long through headphones, because it colors your perception of the mix.
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Old February 23rd, 2004, 09:14 AM   #6
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Thank you for your responses.

Mr. Spotted Eagle, if your Soundtrack book contains the passion and detail of your responses here, it should be very good.

Now that I am shopping for monitor speakers, may I recieve specific recommendations or guidelines, if possible. My budget is limited, so I will be shopping in the lower end of what is acceptable. I understand that I won't be going to Walmart.

Thank you again.
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Old February 23rd, 2004, 09:57 AM   #7
 
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On the budget side, there is the M-Audio LX4 + Expander series of speaks, they are very nice in a smaller editing room. Anything bigger than about 15 x15, they'll be a little too small.
Mackie, KRK, and Event all have good surround speaks too. I really love the Mackie 628 and 626. We have both in our Aand B rooms, but they aren't cheap. Watch out for the Alesis, they aren;'t in CompUSA, but they are made by Logitech, and they are crap for semi-professional use.
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