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Broadcast/Hollywood FX Chains
Old 26th January 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Broadcast/Hollywood FX Chains

Hi everyone, this is my first post on these forums, so I'd just like to start by thanking everyone involved in this community for making this as helpful and knowledgeable as it is. I've came across this forum several times in the past looking up techniques for audio production or post production, but this will be my first time reaching out for something that I haven't been able to completely figure out on my own.

Little bit of backstory if anyone wishes to know: I'm 24 years old, live at home, and have a bedroom studio where I've been producing electronic music (trance, progressive) for around 4 years under the moniker "Helion Tide", and have moved on to doing post production audio (mixing/scoring) for short films and promotional videos for an independent production company for around the last 12 months now. So far I'm having a blast learning about mixing vocals, sound design, foley, etc. In fact, just the overall post production atmosphere and how it presents entirely different challenges from that of music production is a nice change of pace. I now want to pursue a career in post production audio for film or video games, and I suppose is where the reason for this thread is derived.

Recently, perhaps over the last 2 or 3 years, I've noticed a very different sonic "quality" emerge from Hollywood films and even in AAA video games where the audio was professionally mastered to match that of a feature film. This seems to be a very fresh trend that is taking over the film industry, and for some reason I find it difficult to describe. Instead of having the audio mix sound highly dynamic, (which is obviously more pleasant to listen to), Hollywood has gone for a very dramatic, over-accentuated approach now, where it almost seems like a lot of the low end frequencies that aid in adding realistic "weight" to sounds are being notched off in favour of a more punchy and mid-driven, almost broadcast-like sound. Of course bass frequencies are still there, but the real drive and punch in the mix is more around the 200hz range, almost like that of a really heavy snare drum. Movie trailers and video game trailers are running with this new technique like wildfire now, and it seems to be the new norm. Unfortunately I'm not formally educated in audio production (having taught myself), so I lack the ability to describe exactly what is occurring in the mastering process, but I can generalize it and come quite close trying it on my own. I suppose what I'm wondering, is if anyone can offer advice on how to achieve this kind of sound "quality"? Again, I add quotations because it is in fact a "larger than life" approach to audio mixing/mastering, and for the record, I am certainly in favour of preserving dynamics and having your mixes breathe, shaping or cutting rather than boosting, subtractive mixing over additive, etc.

Typically, when I mix an audio track for a video, or even when I produce music, I leave a healthy deal of headroom (-6 to -10dB usually) on the master buss. I'm curious to know if anyone here would be able to direct me roughly on how to achieve this kind of sound in the mastering process on a final mix. I'm not the most knowledgeable in mastering techniques, but I am also practicing the "less is more" approach when it comes to mixing now, so this is a real challenge for me. Normally I just run it through an EQ and accentuate a few areas that will help the mix pop slightly, and cut anything that does harm. I then use dynamics processing to achieve the gain and drive without distorting anything. Really simple. I've been able to come close to achieving this kind of radio broadcast, over-the-top kind of sound on my mixes, but I end up using anywhere from 5 to 10 plugins to really beef it up in the chain, and I'm sure there's a more minimal and effective approach to this. I try to stay away from the all-in-one mastering suites, as I feel they have this "easy button" feel to them, and as I've learned very well over the last few years, there is no such thing as an "easy button" if you care about how things sound.

So yeah. Sorry for rambling, but I'm so used to being able to do my own research, and so far I haven't really found a very good source to learn how to approach this kind of sound. It's very broadcast-like and punchy. It literally sounds as though any mainstream film coming out of Hollywood is using the same plugin and preset for their audio tracks. Their EQ curves sound very similar, as well.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Old 27th January 2013
  #2
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danijel's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Welcome to the forum

Sorry if this will disappoint you, but there is usually no mastering process in film or TV post production. Every sound effect and line of dialogue is sonically treated on its own and there's usually light limiting on the stems, so as to stay within the technical specifications. So, the mixing 'style' depends on a lot of small decisions made by the re-recording mixer during the entire process.

But I'm curious about the changing quality of film mixes that you hear. Can you name some recent titles where you hear this new quality, and also some less recent that have that 'older' sound? I didn't notice that shift, and, certainly, every mixer only follows his own guts, so there are very different mixes being made at any given time. But styles do progress, especially after sound design milestones (like 'The Matrix'), or big technical/workflow advances, though I only notice these things in a decade or greater time span.
Old 27th January 2013
  #3
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for some clarification, Danijel. Appreciated! I actually have thought for the last 4 years or so that film or TV mixes were mastered; learn something new every day. Quite a surprise, actually, and makes me really appreciate the work these engineers are doing that much more.

In terms of this new sound style I've been hearing, I can name a few instances off the top of my head, but for a really intuitive list, I'll have to get back to you. For now, if you're interested, check out the official trailers for these titles if you get a chance, perhaps you or anyone else reading this might be able to clarify things for me.

In terms of video games adopting this kind of sound, Dragon Age 2's sound design was very punchy like this, as was Mass Effect 3's. The cinematic trailers for these titles would be sufficient enough to watch to give you a general idea. Another great example with some absolutely outstanding sound design was Battlefield 3. The "Fault Line" trailer for this title was brilliantly done, and the sound mixing was phenomenal -- really set a new standard for video game audio in my opinion. I mention video games first because I spent a good deal of time playing these, so I'm most familiar with them.

You'll notice a common tone amongst these; mids and low mids are accentuated, and the bass is usually fairly wide in the mix. I've noticed this in very many films recently as well, typically ones with a lot of suspense driven action, explosions, gunshots. It sounds as though they are really accentuating a lot of the impact points differently now. In older films, explosions and impacts like that were typically bass-driven at the impact, with a swell of mid and highs afterwards. Seems now it's the opposite. Impact points are rather snappy, and then the bass swells after.

Thoughts?
Old 27th January 2013
  #4
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nzl62's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
There are a number of key techniques at play.

1. The sound designers skill and attention to detail - talent and time. Time is a very big factor here. I have spoken to sound designers that wouldn't consider that UK/European standard of 4-5 weeks for a feature (one guy doing everything).
Good sound designers will layer a sound as you would a piece of music with instrumentation for the various frequency ranges required. Often the sub is derived at mix but more often these elements come to the stage pretty fully formed
2. Bus and pre dub compression. Much more common than people would have you believe
Each mixer has his or her own opinion and approach but there is no doubt that this is heavily in play in the bigger fx type films
3. Reverb. This one blew my mind.
I have always used reverb as an when is necessary but I have recently come across a fairly common approach to setup a "go to" reverb and then putting it on everything. I kid you not but this is in play with some of the "superstar" mixers.
The idea is that it can glue effects together and smooth things out.
They may also employ short thin (eq'd the bum out of it) plate type verbs to add "pop" to certain things. It is most certainly not the European way. I am still to decide what I think of this but lets just say it is used by the biggest names in the industry
Old 29th January 2013
  #5
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cebolao's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
This reverb thing - interesting...
Old 29th January 2013
  #6
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huub's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I think it is all up to the individual mixer. I work mostly in live broadcast and have seen the top guys do everything from using just EQ and compression in the mixing console and one generic reverb to using tons of analog compressors and demanding vintage reverbs and what not. And guess what, they all create great sounding mixes
Old 29th January 2013
  #7
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Uncle Bob's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I can understand Heliontides misunderstanding that films are "mastered" since so many directors force rerecording mixers into the "louder is better" volume wars style of mix; films, especially action/adventure flicks, assault us sonically rather than involve us emotionally.
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #8
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by nzl62 ➑️
3. Reverb. This one blew my mind.
I have always used reverb as an when is necessary but I have recently come across a fairly common approach to setup a "go to" reverb and then putting it on everything. I kid you not but this is in play with some of the "superstar" mixers.
The idea is that it can glue effects together and smooth things out.
They may also employ short thin (eq'd the bum out of it) plate type verbs to add "pop" to certain things. It is most certainly not the European way. I am still to decide what I think of this but lets just say it is used by the biggest names in the industry
Wow, that's news to me. I don't know anyone who works that way, and I've worked with quite a few very well known mixers over the years. I certainly would never slather everything with reverb just for the hell of it. I don't even have a "go-to" reverb, or a "go-to" anything. I analyze each situation and apply processing as needed for each unique circumstance. It changes from movie to movie, scene to scene and shot to shot. There's no menu of secret sauces that I know of.
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #9
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Henchman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➑️
Wow, that's news to me. I don't know anyone who works that way, and I've worked with quite a few very well known mixers over the years. I certainly would never slather everything with reverb just for the hell of it. I don't even have a "go-to" reverb, or a "go-to" anything. I analyze each situation and apply processing as needed for each unique circumstance. It changes from movie to movie, scene to scene and shot to shot. There's no menu of secret sauces that I know of.
Same here.

Sounds like a case of lazy, and taking your job for granted.
I would hate to have those type of mixers as my mentors/examples to be learning from.
I don't care if they are "superstar" mixers.
Old 30th January 2013 | Show parent
  #10
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Bob ➑️
I can understand Heliontides misunderstanding that films are "mastered" since so many directors force rerecording mixers into the "louder is better" volume wars style of mix; films, especially action/adventure flicks, assault us sonically rather than involve us emotionally.
That is a fantastic way to look at it. Well said.
Old 31st January 2013
  #11
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conleec's Avatar
My ears nearly bled after Dark Knight Rises. I hated that mix, and now it's nominated for an Oscar, if I'm not mistaken. Hmmm, can't tell me politics doesn't play a role...
Old 5th February 2013 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by conleec ➑️
My ears nearly bled after Dark Knight Rises. I hated that mix, and now it's nominated for an Oscar, if I'm not mistaken.
Zero Oscar nominations for Dark Knight Rises. The music did get nominated for a Grammy. It did make $1 billion, for what that's worth.
Old 6th February 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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nzl62's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Henchman ➑️
Same here.

Sounds like a case of lazy, and taking your job for granted.
I would hate to have those type of mixers as my mentors/examples to be learning from.
I don't care if they are "superstar" mixers.
My thoughts entirely.
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