Fixes On the Mix Stage

   By Sarah C   Categories: Mastering AudioMixing Techniques

One of the most critical jobs for a music editor is editing music while on the stage at the final dub of a movie.

Sometimes this situation can be unnerving and pressurised, such as when the mixer has stopped the mix and is waiting for you to fix the music and send it to them, although the mixer will usually move ahead in the mix, giving you some time to do your edit, audition for the director, and deliver to them. At this juncture, you must do your best to avoid delaying the mixing process and work quickly, efficiently, and carefully.

Picture from Flickr user maubrowncow

There are of multiple ways to transfer audio materials across computer systems on a mix stage. It should suffice here to simply mention some of the other possibilities, rather than go into the details, assuming that you the reader will either be familiar with these procedures, or investigate and practice them on your own.

Export clips as files. This is a fast way to save and send one or more clips as separate files. If you have a multiple edited piece of music, you can save a copy of the edited work and then consolidate the edits to export the clip as a single file. Remember to time-stamp the file and even embed the file timecode location in the file name.

Export clip definition. This is less common, as it requires a re-linking on the part of the Pro Tools system receiving the file edit information.

Bounce selected soloed track(s) to make a consolidated audio file. Use Bounce to Disk to achieve this by soloing the tracks with audio that you want to bounce. If you have not made a specific selection, your curser can be placed anywhere in the track timeline, and the whole track’s audio will be bounced up to the longest file in the edit window.*

Bounce selections from a consolidated audio file. After you have consolidated your edited music clips, use Bounce to Disk after selecting the specifi c audio file(s) you want to bounce.*

Export tracks as AAF or OMFI file transfer data.

On the technical side of working on the mix stage, there are a number of workflows the music editor should be familiar with.

In many mixes on medium- or high-budget films or TV shows, the music editor will have a Pro Tools rig on the mix stage, with the final music sessions ready to play back in sync with the movie controlled by the music re-recording mixer usually through SMPTE time code lock. Current practice also utilizes the Satellite synchronization protocol by Avid. This music editor’s Pro Tools system needs to be locked or resolved to the “house” sync, which the mix stage sends to all Pro Tools systems and dubbers playing back for the mix. The resolved clock is usually an SD or HD video reference, or a word clock. In order to work this way, the music editor’s system needs a Sync HD (or Sync I/O) or similar third party interface that can receive the clock and resolve the playback of the Pro Tools session (Pro Tools 11 requires the latest model of the Sync HD). You need to make sure the session’s sample rate, and bit rate, matches the mixer’s other Pro Tools sessions and digital setting of the mixing console. This is of particular importance if the mixing console is not a Pro Tools controller, and will be receiving the sound information from the music editor’s rig via an analogue or digital protocol. If using digital, and the sample rate and bit rate do not match, there is a great likelihood that the sound files will come across to the mixer with digital pops, digital distortion, or at the wrong playback speed. Once the music playback system is connected and configured properly, the mixer can easily play and re-play all of the music in real time, along with the other soundtrack elements (dialogue and sound effects).

While the music is being played through this system, the music editor needs to be able to make changes to the music as required, and perhaps be able to prepare upcoming music for the mixer. The music editor can either edit on the playback system or have a second Pro Tools rig available for this purpose. A second available system is ideal, because if there is a need to make extensive edits, the mixer can keep mixing forward in the reel while you work. Current computer technology allows the use of laptops as a second Pro Tools system for this situation, since they now possess enough power and controllability. To have everyone waiting for you on the stage while you make an editorial change is not only harrowing, it is very expensive.

While this double system workflow is a good way for the music editor to manage the music for the mix, current trends allow for an alternative workflow. Most rerecording mixers view and access multiple Pro Tools systems, feeding sound to the mixing stage’s console directly from the machine room (a room separate and isolated from the mixing area or mixing stage, that holds the audio playback, recording systems, and video projection). The mixer will either work in one super session, or sessions per reel, and can be set up to switch between separate locked Pro Tools rigs, or have all the sound material loaded into one master Pro Tools system that is integrated into the stage. The music editor makes a complete prepared music session that they then hand over to the machine room for the re-recording mixer to import into their Pro Tools mix rig. In either of these cases, the music editor will be free to use one Pro Tools system on the stage for preparation and/or editing. Ideally the music editor would have a small room on or near the mixing stage, where they can still make themselves available to the director and re-recording mixer while having a private space. More commonly, the music editor is required to be on the mix stage with their editing rig, and in this case, they use headphones to hear what they are editing, trying not to be sonically interrupted as the mix plays through the enormous theater speakers. If working in a side room, it is important for the music editor to have both speakers set up, as well as headphones. Whether you are on the stage itself or in a side room, most of your fixes on the stage will be sent to the mixer through one or more of the following ways.

Excerpt from Music Editing for Film and Television by Steven Saltzman © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Steven Saltzman, MPSE is a music editor and composer based in Los Angeles, CA. He received his Bachelors of Music in composition and film scoring from Berklee College of Music and is a certified Avid Pro Tools instructor. He has been editing music for film and television for the past eighteen years. In addition, Steven has lectured nationally, and he has created and taught numerous music editing courses. A recipient of a Golden Reel Award for music editing, Saltzman is also a member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, and he sits on the board of the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild.

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