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-   -   creating film atmosphere (mix) (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/468253-creating-film-atmosphere-mix.html)

George Zabetas November 23rd, 2009 01:31 PM

creating film atmosphere (mix)
one of the issues that i have been tackling for years is how to get that filmic ambience soundtrack - atmosphere bed of background sounds.

i realized that its best to start with nothing and add only a minimal of sounds to suggest the environment.
i.e one single bird chirp as opposed to a library SFX CD as is which sounds like i am at the botanical gardens. most sfx people do this anyway i assume - strip the CD element and not use the bed as is.

i also found that i have more luck when i record my exterior atmospheres (cars passing by, birds, etc) from the inside of my house. the sound becomes naturally more bassy and seems more distant.

also it serves better to seperate the folley sounds (footsteps, clothes rustling, object handling) and bring them forward.
kind of like we are closer to the hero than his natural surroundings.
hearing as he psychologically hears, and not what a mic at his position would have picked up.

these are probably well known to professionals, but wondering how others work for sound mixes.

Jon Fairhurst November 23rd, 2009 02:13 PM

Great thread topic!

And you're spot on about less being more. One dog bark is interesting. Two dog barks is a small pack. Three dog barks and the hero lives next door to a kennel!

I separate sounds into those that are identifiable: a siren, a bark, a phone ringing, a voice, and those that are indistinct: the wind, a low rumble, general traffic sounds, the murmur of a crowd. You can create a bed with the latter, but need to be sparse with the former.

The real key, IMHO, is to make the sound design match the emotional state of the character. For instance, if the character is afraid of the outside world, go loud with outside sounds. The character then sees a small clue and needs to think about it? go quiet for a pensive mood.

We had noise problems with the dialog tracks on our recent festival short. (Dang you Microtrack II!!!) I did all I could with NR, EQ, and levels. To hide the remainder, we really had to lean on the music, foley, and sound design. The first two were straightforward. Sound design, on the other hand, is a delicate balance.

George Zabetas November 24th, 2009 01:06 AM

its true i too would love to see more tips on how people get their mixes done. that is such an art that goes unnoticed in movies.
i agree with your posting 100%.

funny you mentioned the microtrack, i own it and curse it also :)
how they released a pieced of hardware with so much hiss is embarasing. however i would record at 50% gain (less hiss) and then boost in post.
my personal philiosophy is all dialog in ADR. but then again i dont have alot of dialog and beleive in that heady- atmospheric tarkovsky, kurosawa, kieslowski, leone world where even dialog is a bit sureal.

on the folley sounds i have found the microtrack to be pretty good.

Jon Braeley November 24th, 2009 10:50 AM

Setting up your system helps. I moved to mixing and designing audio in 5.1 surround using Soundtrack Pro. I went back literally to start from scratch and relearn mixing and using Soundtrack Pro. I installed a solid 5.1 audio set up with good monitors from a Saffire DAW, and now I emulate cinema audio much closer.
I use FX very sparingly - they often sound fake and are almost always set too loud. I work in docs, but one thing I do like is my dialog at a good volume, well above music or ambient. There is nothing worse than trying to hear dialog that is not distinct.

Mark Boyer November 24th, 2009 10:55 AM

That is one of the reasons I sold my Microtrack and went to a Fostex FR2LE (also better battery power and XLR inputs).

With the Fostex I still need to do a playback of a test recording to check my levels.

Allan Black November 25th, 2009 12:06 AM

One trick I use when knocking up a sales product DVD track is .. knowing that the viewer has the volume control, if you want to make a big sound impression, say 90secs in with a loud jet take-off, then mix the audio at about 4-5dB lower level to start.

The viewer will raise his DVD playback level to suit and jump when the plane arrives.
You'll also get cursing and the occasional letter but most clients love it.

Won't work for broadcast material tho. Cheers.

George Zabetas November 25th, 2009 08:43 AM

oddly enough i have ordered a fostex fr2 le as well for my field recorder. thomann sent me an sms msg just minutes ago that it has been shipped.
i am taking marks message as a good omen, hoping that i will finally have something decent to record sound on.

i am keeping the microtrack as a scratchpad. 100 dollars resell value doesnt get me much.

Jon Fairhurst November 25th, 2009 07:33 PM

The Microtrack II is okay if you feed it a hot signal from an external mixer. It's completely transformed with a juicedLink up front. Just leave the Microtrack input volume set at 50% and control the levels in the mixer/preamp.

George Zabetas November 26th, 2009 05:49 PM

how would the 1/8 output of the juicedlink feeed the XLR line ins of the MT?

Jon Fairhurst November 26th, 2009 08:25 PM

I don't have the MT handy, but I think it has a 1/8" input.

In fact, it doesn't have XLRs. It has balanced TRS inputs.

George Zabetas November 27th, 2009 03:33 AM

correct, my bad, the ins on the MT are 1/4 TRS. those however are the line ins.
the 1/8 input is a MIC in, does it work thru that? isnt it expecting that little mic that it will sent 5V of power to?

i had read your tests in the forum John but wasnt sure how you went in on the MT II. If it was successfull in the 1/8 w/o overloading I would definetily buy the juicedlink as the sound from your tests was great.

Richard Gooderick November 27th, 2009 03:43 AM

Hey, I've got an FR2LE too. I thought that everyone on DVinfo used H4s ;-)
This guy is mainly a wildlife sound recordist but his work does extend much further than that. I'm biased maybe because I did a course with him but his work is stimulating if you are thinking about sound:
| Chris Watson |
In particular there is a ten minute interview for what I guess is Danish TV in his download section that is relevant to the subject of this thread. Even though he is not talking about drama.

George Zabetas November 27th, 2009 12:48 PM

i had seen that video on his website. good stuff on the properties of audio and such. not as much about post production and mixing and creating your soundscape in post but good.

alot of articles also on mixonline magazine's site and sound for film site.
although at some point they all talk about how they love their 3000 dollar mics etc etc. stuff i cant afford.......

my FR2 LE is on its way..cant wait !!

Jon Fairhurst November 27th, 2009 01:40 PM


Originally Posted by George Zabetas (Post 1452818)
the 1/8 input is a MIC in, does it work thru that?

That's exactly how I use it. The JL is designed to boost a clean signal to a 1/8" mic input. Typically, it's used with an inexpensive camcorder, but works great into the Microtrack II 1/8" input as well.

A JL makes the Microtrack II very nearly as clean as the H4n, given the same external mic. The MTII has a tiny bit of digital noise remaining (rather than straight hiss), but it's down at -90dBfs or so. It's definitely clean enough for professional video use, though it's not audiophile quality.

George Zabetas November 27th, 2009 02:21 PM

thanks for the info john. i guess its a good tool to have if you also have a mini camcorder that needs the input over the little plug.
i will definetily recommed it to friends who have small camcorders.
i decided to take the plunge and go with the FR2 LE for its clean preamps.

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