Recently, we had a Cinema Sound Member have some issues with his re-recording work sound as he expected in a theater. We answered his questions on the Cinema Sound Forum, but I thought it merited being an actual post here on the blog. Here are the 7 checks you can do to make sure your surround 5.1 mix translates in a theater.
First, I’d double-check that your bussing and routing printed to the master. You may be listening to the output of
your M & E and discreet DX tracks, but if, for whatever reason, 100% of their summing didn’t get routed to your Print Master Tracks, well, you’d sure have a different result in your output.
Second, double-check that the theater indeed played your surround mix and not the stereo mix – or worse – just the LCR.
Third, if you were using reverb in the surround channels but didn’t tune your room as we suggest in the Cinema Sound education, your reverbs in the surround channels will automatically be -3 dB low. The same would apply if you accidentally printed the Stereo Downmix into your LR channels of the surround mix.
Fourth, if you are mixing at dialog norm 78 dB (for example), at least in North America, the dialog norm is 85 dB. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, read this article. If you haven’t listened to your mix at that level, then there’s no way to actually tell what the more subtle parts of the mix are doing. Usually, at a louder level, softer things are heard better, not worse, but mixing at a level 7 dB lower than actual presentation volume can cause all manner of issues including wrong EQ and compression settings.
Fifth, if your room isn’t tuned to handle the primary and secondary reflections of your speakers as we outline in the Cinema Sound education, then your short reverb/ambient reverbs are going to be mixed wrongly. Or, conversely, if theaters which will play your mixes aren’t THX standard or are in giant ringy rooms, those short reverbs will get wiped out completely by the reflections in the room – and you’ll wonder why your mix seems dry.
Sixth, If the theater has lousy speakers, or if the theater has some kind of expansion plugin running, anything below a certain level is going to get smashed. Although this is unusual, I’ve seen it happen.
Seventh, if your speakers are not aligned to your listening position – specifically around how far apart they are – and especially if they are TOO far apart, your mixes are going to sound VERY MONO in a theatrical presentation. We go over how to place your speakers in and where they should be in the Cinema Sound/MZed Pro Education. We also have an article on this here.
Eighth, if you haven’t listened down to the entire project from end-to-end and made notes in context – as we show you how to do in the Cinema Sound Education – there’s no way you’ll ever get your mix to translate.
Ninth, if you have crummy speakers – even if they ARE positioned correctly – or if you’ve got a lousy (or nonexistent) audio interface, please get yourself a MOTU Ultralight 4 and some JBL LSR 305s immediately.
Be sure to check out our articles on Surround Sound here:
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