Culver City, CA (September 19, 2017)—The annual Mix presents Sound for Film and TV event has grown considerably since its inception in 2014, this year attracting more than 600 attendees to Sony Pictures Studios for a day of panel discussions and technology presentations. Mix collaborates with the Motion Pictures Sound Editors (MPSE) and the Cinema Audio Society (CAS) to present a multi-layered schedule focusing on film and television audio post production workflows, composing for picture and production sound at the one-day symposium.
Sponsors Dolby Labs, Meyer Sound and Yamaha Commercial Audio offered technology demonstrations throughout the day, while Avid presented a deep dive into Pro Tools’ integration with Dolby Atmos and a series of panels on major productions, including Game of Thrones. Meyer Sound, in a first for the Mix event, launched a new product, the Bluehorn System, a 3-way, full bandwidth monitoring system incorporating amplifier technology derived from the company’s Cinema Systems and LEO line array family. This year’s event was also sponsored by Auro-3D, Audionamix, Focusrite, Line 6, Fortium Technologies’ MediaSeal, RSPE, Sound Particles, Steinberg and Westlake Pro. Formosa Group sponsored the evening showreel presentation.
Keynote speaker Tom Holkenborg—aka Junkie XL—traced his career from the countryside of Holland to the dub stages of Hollywood. “I had a technical background first, before I broke through as an artist,” he said, engineering at a local radio station in his teens.
“I saw in the mid-nineties that music for commercials, video games and movies would be, for me, the new radio for electronic music,” said Holkenborg. He had a #1 hit in 24 countries when he relocated to Los Angeles in 2002 to reinvent himself as a scoring composer, starting out as an assistant cutting loops for Harry Gregson-Williams. His hard work paid off; Holkenborg’s partial credits just since 2014 include Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Mass and Deadpool.
A panel on immersive sound formats debated the relative merits of mixing in Dolby Atmos natively, from the get-go, versus upmixing from a 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack, a process referred to as “After-mos.” “I find the post-final upmix not to be very rewarding,” said sound designer Jay Jennings. “You have to be careful you don’t break the soundtrack you just spent four weeks mixing by moving something to the ceiling; that’s a creative choice,” and key creatives including the director and film editor are often no longer in the room.
Formosa Group’s VP of engineering, Bill Johnston, on a panel discussing immersive audio workflows and technologies, observed that there is a large quantity of mix data associated with any Atmos project. “On the editorial side, when you are mixing native Atmos, there is more to do—it’s harder, you need more equipment, you need bigger systems. You have to take that into consideration when you budget.”
Time and budgets were recurring themes throughout the day. “Unfortunately, films are greenlit based on release dates, and come hell or high water, they’re going to make that release date,” said sound editorial assistant Jesse Ehrents.
Oscar-winning re-recording mixer Scott Millan related that his team finished Spectre on a Thursday night; it was released on Monday. Since the sound department essentially touches a film last, “Should anything go wrong, we’re at fault.” But, he added, “It just happens until we fail—and none of us will allow that to happen.”
“We are being pressured to do more in less time and to do the work of more and more people. You don’t want to be the one that fails,” agreed film editor Steve Rivkin, ACE. “It’s important that we stand up to the producers and studios.”
Various technologies are enabling the new immersive workflows. Focusrite’s Kurt Howell praised the Dante AoIP network. “It’s changing the way we share files,” he said. “You can send audio to multiple stages at the same time.”
“The beauty of the Dante network is the ability to A/B and switch between various formats,” agreed Marti Humphrey, whose Dub Stage facility in Burbank, CA, is outfitted for Atmos, DTS-X, Auro-3D and IMAX 6.0 and 12.0. A Dante-enabled Pro Tools | MTRX and QSC Q-SYS processor manage the stage’s 128 dedicated outputs, he said. “If you mix in Atmos then want to hear it in IMAX, you just hit a button. It streamlines what you are doing. As a studio owner, that makes all the difference.”
A Production Sound Pavilion panel discussed RF coordination challenges as the 600 MHz band post-auction repack progresses and available spectrum continues to shrink. “All production sound mixers, if you haven’t applied for and gotten your Part 74 license, please do so,” urged moderator Phil Palmer.
Howard Fine, FCC frequency coordinator for Southern California since 1979, reported that the repack in Los Angeles has started and channel 30 is no longer available. Channels 14, 15, 16 and 20 are used for public safety in L.A., said Fine, but there is some good news: “We will always have three channels open in Los Angeles: 17, 19 and 21.”
Motion Picture Sound Editors
Cinema Audio Society