Culver City, CA (November 4, 2020)—With the coronavirus pandemic still limiting in-person gatherings, this year’s seventh annual Mix Sound for Film & TV event moved to an online format while retaining much of its popular programming. Hosted, as ever, at Sony Pictures Studios, the virtual event successfully recreated the physical experience with nary a glitch during its two-day premiere.
As it always has, the event gathered the interest and input of top players in the industry. Held by Future PLC (parent company to Mix and PSN), sponsors included Apple TV+, Clear-Com, Dolby, PMC, Sony, Netflix, Genelec, Grace Design, Krotos, Meyer Sound, NTP Technology, Nugen Audio, OWC, Pro Sound Effects, RSPE Audio & Video Solutions, Shure, Sound Particles and Wholegrain Digital Systems, while event partners included the Cinema Audio Society, Entertainment Industry Professionals Mentoring Alliance and Motion Picture Sound Editors.
One annual highlight is the Opening Day keynote address. Walter Murch, the only person ever to win Oscars for both sound mixing and film editing, for The English Patient, predicted that one day the two jobs will become one. Murch, who was at the forefront of film’s transition to non-linear editing, observed that the technology made the process “easier but relentless,” eliminating the long pauses that previously came with rewinding film and changing reels.
Offering his opinions on mixing in Dolby Atmos, Murch advocated for dialog to remain anchored to the center channel, regardless of where those speaking appear onscreen; the brain compensates, he said. Some mixers change the audio perspective with Dolby Atmos to match the visuals, which is fine when there are no edits, but “weird,” he said, when cutting between two people talking. “It’s a matter of taste, I guess,” said Murch.
Sound designer and re-recording mixer Ren Klyce, presenting the Day Two keynote, spoke about his transition from music to sound. “From a very early age, I was taught that music is sound and sound is music, if you open your mind to it being that,” he said. His first job working to picture, he recalled, assisting a filmmaker on an animated short for Sesame Street, was all about city sounds as music.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended everyone’s lives, and various panel discussions offered insights into how audio post practitioners are using existing technologies and adopting new platforms to work remotely. The single biggest challenge with working from home, it seems, is internet bandwidth, which can vary wildly according to each individual’s circumstances.
For many, moving chunks of video and audio around has become a grind. “You have to plan for it,” said Sean Massey, MPSE. “It’s become part of your day.”
That said, cloud-based solutions for collaboration and tasks such as ADR have become essential. Panelists recounted their initial attempts at ADR when work-from-home orders first came down. Initially, productions had actors record lines wild into their iPhones at home. The process quickly evolved, with productions sending out microphones and mic preamps for actors to record into their laptops or other devices.
But some actors have absolutely no idea how to use microphones, including which end to speak into, it seems. Plus, added Gabriel Guy, CAS, “You have to do a screenshare to make sure they hit record.”
New York post shop Parabolic now offers home ADR recording packages for clients in the U.S. and Europe, including a choice of microphones, and Delux has launched its similar One Dub system. The sound team also now takes remote control of the actor’s laptop, said Mendell Winter, MPSE. Using a combination of dedicated remote collaborative and asset-sharing platforms such as Sohonet’s ClearView, Evercast, PIX and Zoom alongside Source-Connect and other remote recording workflows, managing ADR from home now feels just like a stage session, panelists reported.
One remaining bottleneck, however, is loop group, which has become much more time consuming. Cleaning up noise issues, now multiplied by the number of individual mics being recorded by the group, and correcting the latency on each dialog track, adds significant editing time, participants reported. Todd-AO’s Absentia DX software got a shout-out from several panelists for its dialog noise-cleaning capabilities.
With COVID-19, playback and notes sessions are also remote, and use some of the platforms previously mentioned platforms by necessity. “We were afraid of weird notes because of what people were listening to” at home, said David Fluhr, CAS. Netflix solved that problem by sending everyone the same model headphones, he said. Netflix has also been holding playback sessions on its platform, streaming directly to each participant’s location at a scheduled time, Fluhr added.
Sony took the opportunity to present its new 360VME (Virtual Mixing Environment) throughout the two-day program. Check PSN’s December issue for a full report on the technology, which virtualizes the dub stage for remote work using headphones.
Mix Sound for Film & TV • www.mixsoundforfilm.com/2020