Posts Tagged ‘mix’

Can The Cans!

December 28, 2011 3 comments

When I first started editing, you had a lot of gear in a small room, and you took a lot on faith that you were getting a good audio mixes. The reason…the best speakers in the place were in the control room, as that’s where the meat of audio production took place. You were usually relegated to stereo speakers wired into the system, or worse, the tiny speakers that were built into the monitor that was in the rack. However, I would happily go back to those days of editing in a broom closet on speakers that crack at the slightest onset of a popped “p” then the trend I’m seeing today.

With laptop computers becoming more and more powerful, and able to handle editing in 720p and 1080p, people are editing bigger projects on smaller computers. That’s not the problem…it’s how they’re listening to it. Headphones are becoming the studio monitor of the Edit DIYer, and it’s affecting their products without them really knowing it until it’s too late.

Headphones…really good headphones…have a way of bringing out the best in music. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve listened to a song at home, then listened to it on my mp3 player with a good set of headphones. It was only on then did I fully get the layering of tracks that was done in the studio, and fully appreciated everything that the song had to offer. When you’re editing, the same things happen. You hear everything that’s on your timeline clearly, and so you therefore think that everyone else can too. The truth is you’re hearing it too good. To get a true sense of the audio mix on your piece…unplug the headphones and listen to it on speakers. There are a few reasons for this…

1)      Most people at home don’t have a sweet enough setup to replicate the mix you would be getting out of your headphones. It’s the same reason why we adhere to action safe and title safe guides when putting font into our pieces…because along the way, something is lost from our screen to the viewers. The same holds true for audio. To help remedy this, use “The Crap Test”. The behind it is quite simple…if you can make something sound great on crap speakers, then the people at home watching, no matter what their setup, will have a good audio mix. I used this theory when making an album years ago. We would set our levels on the audio board, do a quick dump to cassette, then run into the singer’s car and listen to it on the really bad speakers in his car. If something wasn’t coming through (background vocals, bass, etc), then we would go back in, adjust the levels on the board, then make another mix and test before we okayed the mix. Only after you are happy with your audio on crap speakers will everyone be happy at home.

2)      If you stick by the “one hour for one minute of finished product” edit ratio, then by the time you get to the point where you are ready to give something a full watch-through, you can probably recite your piece word-for-word like it’s your favourite song. It’s at this point that you are officially “too close” to the project. You’ve lost objectivity in listening to it because you KNOW what’s supposed to be there. This is where the Buddy System of editing really comes in handy. I’ll go more into the Buddy System in another post, but to briefly touch on it, you need a fresh set of ears to get a true feeling for if the viewer will hear everything. If at any point during the watch-through, your buddy says “wait, back that up…what did he say?”, then you should probably adjust the mix.

3)      What you do in the edit suite may not translate well to the home viewer. Have you ever listened to something and wondered “why the hell did they put that in there?” Some kind of audio effect that, while it seemed like a good idea at the time, really doesn’t translate well in the long run? It’s the same thing as video effects…some seem like a really good idea at the time, but by the time you’re done with it; you have trouble determining what you’re actually watching. Audio can be the same way. You can have BG sound, music, SFX and actual interview sound…but if one overpowers the other, or if everything resides in the same frequency, then things start to get muddy. Remember this…sparsness breeds clarity. If you’re trying to say something with your piece, let it be heard. Don’t let the medium obscure the message.

Simply put, you can avoid a bad audio mix by doing a few simple things…listen to it on speakers, watch your audio peak meters and don’t put too much when a little will do. In the end, you’ll have a more effective piece because it can be heard.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,