The Art Of Sound Mixing: How To Mix

The Art Of Sound Mixing: How To Mix

london sound recordist
london sound recordist

This is a VERY subjective area of discussion in sound. This article will only be a guide to help you in developing your own style and understanding of what mixing is and why we even do it now we are in an age where every track is recorded.

The Art Of Sound Mixing: What is mixing?

This is when you are combining 2 or more inputs together into one or more files. This is different from just recording separate tracks as you are adjusting the levels on the fly. Your faders are used to lower or increase the level of sound in a mix.

The Art Of Sound Mixing: Why is mixing needed?

Mixing is needed for several practical reasons:

- Directors mix - your mix can be fed to a director watching a monitor of the film and the mix will help him/her understand what the film will actually sound like (at least from a dialogue standpoint) in the take. This helps them make creative decisions about performance.

- Video Editor - The video editor won't be touching the sound too much, just keeping your mix track from the different shots and then using that to help cut the visuals together without having to mix it first. Saving loads of time finding the right tracks.

- Your opinion  - The sound editors and post production get to see what you would have chosen for the type of shot and scene. Imagine a scene where a boy and his father get in a car and drive off but we are on a wide shot from the perspective of the now divorced mother. You have radio miked all the characters for the odd bit of adlib from the father a son but mainly have the perspective of the boom present. This helps post production see what you think it will sound like.

- Mixing to different sources - on multicamera shoots you may want to mix one camera with only the characters in that shot and the other camera with a different set of characters in the shot. If a character appears in both shots then you can mix them to both. This again helps save lots of time for all the people above in understanding the story and where characters are supposed to be.

- It helps you listen - If you are recording more than 2 sources it is impossible to listen to everything without the sounds being mixed anyway. Mixing allows you to assess the different sources in context to each other. PFL (Pre Fade Listening) to certain tracks can help isolate any problems if your mix is interupted by rustling or distortion.

The Art Of Sound Mixing: Mixing to camera

This is covered in more detail in Track Assignment - the gist is that you are trying to keep things clean and separate. Boom on the left and radios on the right, fading in between all the characters radios to only have the person talking. This keeps down rustling of other microphones which may lead to needing a retake.

This will be the only audio that will be at the disposal for post production so make sure you keep everything separate to post can mix it.


The Art Of Sound Mixing: Mixing separately

This is slightly different because you will be able to record lots of tracks (hopefully) if you have a mixer/recorder. This means that your mix is only really a guide for the video editor / director and post production. Post production are usually taught to not use a mix track and redesign it themselves from the ISO elements. This doesn't make it any less important for showing off your skills or interpretation of the scene but gives you a bit more safety in having everything.

Don't be fooled into thinking that all ISO tracks are clear and so your job is easy. 2 people talking very close to each other will bleed into each others mics. Mixing is about listening and being able to spot if people overlap or aren't clear is important. Without a good mix your are not a good mixer.

The Art Of Sound Mixing: Mixing Boom and Radio Mics

Just to reiterate the points made earlier because it is very important. If you are not able to record each input separately then don't mix boom and radios to the same side (I.E all to the center pan) you need to give post production clean tracks. If you can record separate tracks then you can mix how you would interpret it and post sound will just use your ISO tracks and make a new mix anyway.

The Art Of Sound Mixing: Monitoring your mix

You can monitor different sources however you feel comfortable. You are in charge of the overall production sound quality so being able to isolate any microphones or actors you are having problems with is essential. Always try to get a rough level before you go into a take, knowing that it is not really a true estimate by any standard as actors react instead of just deliver.

The Art Of Sound Mixing

As you can see the this is only a very rough guide to give you a few pointers. Just remember the technical reasons behind why you are mixing and it will help inform your decisions on how your mix tracks will sound, along with if they are even used in post production.

If you feel this article needs more clarification or has missed an important point then write a comment below the related articles.