Many filmmakers make the mistake of expecting that mixing for the Internet is the same as mixing for the theater or for optical media delivery. There is usually lots of false economy while the filmmaker attempts to shoehorn the mix for the theater into a mix for the Internet. Well, as we know “false economy” is the death of
every production – especially in postproduction. We cover Mixing, mastering, and especially Internet delivery extensively in the Pro Members Education in the Mix Volume, but you will live or die by the level of your mix on the Internet. You either have your mix louder than your competition or they are getting your sales and your hits. It’s that simple. It’s that brutal.
On the Sound Advice Tour we conducted a test where I played two examples of the same portion of a movie for the audience. The difference between them was simply that one example was 1 dB louder than the other. 99 percent of all of the audiences we saw in the 32 cities around North America selected the slightly louder example. Not only that, they declared that they “liked it” better. If one decibel can make such a difference in the human psyche as to what a listener likes, you can see why there are federal loudness laws: advertisers would be blasting us with 125 decibels all day long. But on the Internet, it’s the wild, wild West. Anything goes. Louder is better. Too loud is never enough. And when livelihood, company, sales, and prestige are at stake, we now have all of the audio plug in tools to crucify our listeners on the World Wide Web. And you should grab some nails.
Don’t Pull Down Your Faders
It’s one of the reasons why the article listed below from Pro Sound Web tickles me.
On the whole it’s an excellent article on music mastering and problems one runs into when trying to make things loud. In his example, the percussion is distorted, and while that’s a terrible thing to do to perfectly good percussion performances, it’s no reason to take the steps which he suggests. Namely: mix everything at -10 dB. Pull your faders down. Move away from zero dB. Ludicrous. He suggests that there is no difference in sound between -1 dB and -10 dB. He is correct if he is speaking specifically of digital processing at 24-bit. But if we are talking about the RMS difference between those levels, I disagree completely. Why? Because what do you have to do in order to listen to a -10 dB recording? Turn up your volume of course. What does that do? Turn up 10 dB more noise in all of your analog components and all the grunge that goes with it. Gross.
Of course, if you ARE going to be taking your mixes to a mastering engineer, then it IS an excellent idea to stay away from 0 dB, because the last thing you want to do is “pre-Master” any music which you’re mastering engineer must work with. But since none of us are going to do that, mixing for the Internet must be done brutally, specifically, and almost always requires a different mix session to accomplish.
When I mixed Star Trek: Axanar, we had one of the world’s greatest mastering engineers, Moshon Shabah, do an
Internet mix of the 5.1 stereo downmix. I told him to mix it as if it were a “hip-hop record.” If you watch the episode on the Internet you’ll see how hard he crushed it and how wonderful it sounds. I gave him a -23 LUFS master to work with ensuring that he had all the latitude he needed to make that crush happen.
“Mark, you’re breaking your own rules!”
It may seem that way, I understand. What I’m suggesting is that we almost never have the opportunity to work with a world-class mastering engineer, and Axanar was an incredibly rare example. Of the time we are mastering it ourselves, and we are responsible to make it sound great with our own tools and talent.
In the next part of this article we’ll cover even more brutal truths about internet mixing.
Have you tried had successes and failures mixing for internet media? Tells us about it here or Tweet about it!