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Old 01-26-2014, 04:24 PM   #1
Scotty Fox
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Audio Mix for Short Film

Hey everybody,

I've had a few posts going in the post production forum. Getting things locked up picture wise, and now trying to get some info for the audio mix.

I have a short film running 26 minutes.

I've read a few posts on here that were very informative regarding cost and the process of audio mixing.

I have a couple questions.

I've been looking into DCP transferring, because I do want to submit to festivals and luckily I'll be able to screen at some. Even if I don't, I plan on screening for the cast and crew in a theater.

So I know the audio needs to be mixed for theatrical release. My question is, getting the audio mixed for this, will it also sound good playing over your home TV or internet... or would that need to be mixed differently? Might be a stupid question but I'm hoping a theatrical mix is good for everything else.

Next is price. Someone recommended I get a 5.1 mix, especially for the transfer to DCP. Now I assume this costs more and takes more time. My question is, what would the next step down be? Since it's a short film, I want it to sound nice, but it's not like it's going to be distributed anywhere. I want people to appreciate what I've done while watching the short and not be distracted by poor audio.

Also it'd be great to find someone who could mix in Foley/SFX and mix everything together. Basically a one stop shop instead of going to numerous people. I have put in place holders into my timeline, but a lot of it needs to have better quality sfx.

Would it be out of the question to have all this done for $1K? And have someone provide a good sounding competent mix?

Let me know if I'm crazy.

Thanks all.
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:18 PM   #2
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I'm only learning this side of things, but I'll put something into perspective for you on the $1k question.

APE has mentioned multiple times that it takes between 6 and 8 hours per minute of footage to do a proper mix. With 26 mins of footage, that is between 156 and 208 hours of work. That's between $8 and $5 an hour. Yes, you're probably going to be able to find someone willing to do it, though expecting a professional (to get professional results) to put in those kind of hours for that level of payment isn't realistic. You're most likely to find a student or someone who's graduated that needs some credits to their name, trying to break into the industry. Your results may vary.
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Old 01-26-2014, 07:35 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sweetie View Post
APE has mentioned multiple times that it takes between 6 and 8 hours per minute of footage to do a proper mix.
Actually, that's me... It takes me an average of six (6) hours per linear minute to do audio post on a film.

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

The issue here is the delivery format. You want DCP. This may be of interest:

http://www.dcpinfo.com/

Audio: Minimum 3 channels (Left,Right,Center) or 5.1 (L,R,C,LFE,LS,RS) - audio can be part of the QuickTime file, or provided as separate mono 16 bit/48khz WAV or AIFF files.

You need a dialog edit (and perhaps ADR), Foley work done and sound effects created/edited in plus cueing and editing the score and source music. You can most probably find someone looking for experience to do the work for a small stipend. It's getting a DCP-ready mix that is going to be "expensive," as there is little chance that up-an-comer you get will be able to do a 3.0 or 5.1 mix, so you may need another facility to handle the mix.

Just some food for thought... Since your ambitious-up-and-coming-looking-for-experience audio post person is doing this for the experience it may take a lot longer than my six (6) hours per linear minute; figure ten (10) hours minimum. Call it 250 hours to be generous. Even if s/he gives you 20 hours a week that's still about three months of work.
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Old 01-26-2014, 08:03 PM   #4
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My apologies Alcove. Sorry to mix you up ;(
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Old 01-26-2014, 09:16 PM   #5
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I'm going to start a thread on the DCP 'issue' at some point. My partner and I will be submitting to a bunch of festivals in the next month or so. The submissions will be on DVD (basic sound mix) but if your entry is selected (a long shot I know), then many of the festivals want a DCP.

Is that really indie? Spending $5k+ getting a DCP for your short that you put many many hours into but shot on a micro budget of under $1k...

No wonder most of the shorts selected by Sundance are shot on REDs, Alexa's etc with plenty of money behind them - you basically can't get in without a lot of $$$$$ due to the DCP requirement... That sure is not the spirit of indie Short film making to me.
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Old 01-26-2014, 10:21 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
Just some food for thought... Since your ambitious-up-and-coming-looking-for-experience audio post person is doing this for the experience it may take a lot longer than my six (6) hours per linear minute; figure ten (10) hours minimum. Call it 250 hours to be generous. Even if s/he gives you 20 hours a week that's still about three months of work.
This goes back to the oft-cited adage: good, fast, cheap; pick two.

At $1000 (cheap), your only options are good or fast. It's one or the other. I've certainly done audio post on a few shorts for a very low price, but if the producer or director wanted it turned around quickly, I had to sacrifice some things. In cases like that, my focus is on getting the dialog edited to a passable state and then mixed properly. There won't be much (if any) Foley, though I will go there if I simply do not have the right sound in my library. Even then, it's for simpler stuff. Spotting in FX is rushed and reserved only for things that are absolutely necessary. Then it's on to the overall mix, which is done in only a few mix passes.

To answer one other question, Scotty, the theatrical mix may be fine for DVD. Internet distribution is different; you'll want something mastered specifically for that. This isn't very time consuming, though. I usually take the theatrical mix and use some compression and limiting to bring the peak level up and to reduce the dynamic range just a bit. This doesn't take long to arrange, and then it's just a matter of bouncing the new mix out of ProTools.
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Old 01-27-2014, 08:00 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Scotty Fox View Post
Would it be out of the question to have all this done for $1K?
No.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scotty Fox View Post
And have someone provide a good sounding competent mix?
Ah, in that case, Yes! Of course though, it depends on what you mean by "good sounding competent mix". The average cinema goer is used to $100m+ blockbusters and to a lesser extent, much lower budget (say $5m-$30m) films. So, achieving a mix which sounds "good" or "competent" to an average cinema goer is crazy expensive compared to the amount of money available to no/lo budget filmmakers.

Due to the fact that on a purely technical level it's relatively very cheap to create a mix for DCP, there are lots of professional boutique audio post facilities who can create a DCP audio mix but it's not going to be "good" or "competent" compared to the mixes the average cinema goer is used to. The best you can probably hope for is "not too distracting". But even this kind of level is going to cost many times your available budget. With a $1k budget, you're in the range of the aspiring professional who doesn't have the tools/facilities or experience to do a competent job but should give you something much better than an audio student or DIY filmmaker.

You might find this thread informative.

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Originally Posted by Sweetie View Post
APE has mentioned multiple times that it takes between 6 and 8 hours per minute of footage to do a proper mix. With 26 mins of footage, that is between 156 and 208 hours of work. That's between $8 and $5 an hour. Yes, you're probably going to be able to find someone willing to do it, though expecting a professional (to get professional results) to put in those kind of hours for that level of payment isn't realistic.
Yes, as mentioned it's Alcove who has said this and within context, I completely agree with his rough guide of a minute or two of film per full working day. Indeed, this rough guide follows all the way through the various filmmaking budget levels, even up to the blockbuster level. The difference is that at the essentially no budget level you are talking about a "1 man doing it all" type of job and at the blockbuster level you're talking about audio post teams working together totalling usually 35-60 audio post professionals. Even in the micro to low budget film sectors there is usually a team of 6-15 or so.

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Originally Posted by IndiePaul View Post
My partner and I will be submitting to a bunch of festivals in the next month or so. The submissions will be on DVD (basic sound mix) but if your entry is selected (a long shot I know), then many of the festivals want a DCP... Is that really indie?
That all depends on how you define "indie". It seems to me that many confuse "indie film making" with "indie video making", albeit in the more accomplished instances; "film like" video making. Most of the smaller film festivals are not really "film" festivals at all, they are "video" festivals which screen videos in bigger, cinema sized rooms or, with a bit of jerry-rigging, even in actual cinemas.

With the bigger film festivals though we are talking about actual films rather than videos or even "film like" videos. In fact, working cinemas can't actually play videos (even "film like" videos), they can only play films, of which there are only two main formats (and increasingly only one): DCP and 35mm film. Making videos is potentially so cheap that it can be accomplished with virtually no budget, but making films is not. Having said this though, the DCP format does potentially allow for incredibly cheap film making, that is, incredibly cheap compared to how much film making used to cost, rather than incredibly cheap compared to how much video making can cost. DCP is potentially 10 times (or more) cheaper than 35mm film, although at the cost of reduced quality of course. It seems to me that it's never been cheaper to make films and potentially get screened at a film festival, so much so that it's increasingly coming within the range of serious enthusiasts with moderate incomes rather than being pretty much exclusive to commercially established film/video makers.

G
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:10 AM   #8
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With a $1k budget, you're in the range of the aspiring professional who doesn't have the tools/facilities or experience to do a competent job but should give you something much better than an audio student or DIY filmmaker.
This is where I'll probably end up. Simply because there's VFX (which I plan to do some myself) and color grading (which I really don't want to do myself) and sound, which I know someone who is an aspiring professional will do much better than I ever could.

For the final product, it is a short. I want people to watch it and enjoy it, know I put time, effort and money into it. But if they're going to sit back and ridicule the audio, well, sorry, haha.. In my state of mind i'm making shorts to gain experience, a reel, get my name out there, in an effort to get to making features... So hopefully people watching these films that can make those things possible, or fellow filmmakers for networking purposes, know what boat small budget flicks are in in regards to budgets.

That being said where to I find these aspiring professionals? Mandy.com? Any good sources?

Also, what should I be looking for when finding someone like this? I saw the other post referenced and if it sounds good or great on their home theater doesn't seem to mean much in terms of playing in a theater... so what should I be looking for?

Thanks for the informative posts again, wealth of knowledge and I really appreciate the time you guys have taken to respond.
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Old 01-28-2014, 03:02 AM   #9
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Let's step back a minute...

Why do you want a DCP compatible mix? Are you planning on major festivals and/or distribution? Go to a few festivals and check out the competition. Then be ruthlessly honest about your chances.

If you do opt for a stereo mix instead of a rush job to get a DCP compatible mix you can sit next to a professional (or at least someone who is relatively competent) and watch/listen as they edit dialog, do Foley work, cut sound effects and cue/edit score & source music. Look at it as an investment in your education; you'll observe and begin to understand how someone who does audio post and only audio post tackles a project. This will be 1,000% more effective than reading dozens of books and hundreds of forum posts. And you'll get a mix that will sound really nice on the 'net, your laptop, etc.


Food for thought........
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Let's step back a minute...

Why do you want a DCP compatible mix? Are you planning on major festivals and/or distribution? Go to a few festivals and check out the competition. Then be ruthlessly honest about your chances.
I plan on submitting to festivals and I think I have a pretty decent shot with what I have (not necessarily major ones). That being said I don't assume I'll get in.

But I do plan on screening the short for the cast and crew.

So that being said I'm really open to audio professionals (like yourselves) to kind of give me a heads up to the quality of audio I need?

Is it smarter to do the stereo mix for a DVD. Submit that to festivals, see what happens, then if I'm fortunate enough to get into some, go back and mix for DCP?

If so, is a stereo mix cheaper than a DCP mix?

Is the DCP mix quicker once you already have a stereo mix?

Lastly, assuming someone has a decent picture on their hands (in my case a short), how much does audio play into getting into a festival? Speaking of the quality mix of course. I'm not talking about horrible audio, but the differences in the final output.. whether that's 5.1 or less.

Maybe this is a question for those who've judged festival submissions, but let me know what your thoughts are.

Thanks for bringing this up Alcove.

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Old 01-28-2014, 02:17 PM   #11
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let me know what your thoughts are.
The big issue is the audio before you get to the mix. Are your tracks well organized? In other words, does each character have his/her own dialog track? What about the room tones and/or "left over" production sound tracks? Does each character have his/her own Foley track(s)? Are the sound effects tracks logically organized? Are the score and source music tracks logically organized? Is everything in perfect sync? Are the individual sound bites logically named?

Also, how are you outputting the video? And what are your plans for getting the audio tracks to the rerecording mixer? Actually, when you decide on who will mix you need to find out exactly what they need. You should also make notes on problem areas such as where noise reduction will be needed, and copious notes on what you want to hear and what are important "hit" points.

The issue here is that you are on an extremely limited budget, so you don't have any time to waste fixing out of sync dialog, Foley, etc. once you start the mix, and you don't want the mixer wasting time finding things.

You should also contact the festivals to whom you are considering submissions and find out what their audio and video requirements are. Some require a complete 5.1 mix, some smaller festivals are okay with just a stereo mix.
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Old 01-28-2014, 03:35 PM   #12
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The big issue is the audio before you get to the mix. Are your tracks well organized? In other words, does each character have his/her own dialog track? What about the room tones and/or "left over" production sound tracks? Does each character have his/her own Foley track(s)? Are the sound effects tracks logically organized? Are the score and source music tracks logically organized? Is everything in perfect sync? Are the individual sound bites logically named?
I actually was going to start organizing the timeline because I'm going to need to export an EDL for the VFX and color work. So I was going to clean up the audio as well.

So I split up dialogue per character in their separate audio track(s)? Meaning in an NLE I'd have audio 1 and 2 for Character A. 3 and 4 for character B, etc., etc.?

Then I would do separate channels for Foley, SFX, Music and room tone?

Quote:
Also, how are you outputting the video? And what are your plans for getting the audio tracks to the rerecording mixer?
I'll be outputting an EDL, then bringing RAW footage into each program (for VFX and color), then bringing back into Premiere for final syncing with the audio tracks. Should I wait to do sound until after I have my VFX and CC done on the footage and have round tripped it back to my NLE? Or can I start working on the audio now?

For getting the tracks to the mixer, I was going to ask them what they preferred as a delivery method. What's typical?

Quote:
The issue here is that you are on an extremely limited budget, so you don't have any time to waste fixing out of sync dialog, Foley, etc. once you start the mix, and you don't want the mixer wasting time finding things
For sure. I still have to meet with a couple people who do post for sound (foley, sfx). I'm hoping they do mixing as well.

Thanks!
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Old 01-28-2014, 04:09 PM   #13
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I want people to watch it and enjoy it, know I put time, effort and money into it. But if they're going to sit back and ridicule the audio, well, sorry, haha..
I saw the other post referenced and if it sounds good or great on their home theater doesn't seem to mean much in terms of playing in a theater...
The real problem, which is ALWAYS an issue, at every budget level and for every type of media and playback device is "translation"; what the mix sounds like in the studio/mix stage where it was created compared to how that mix "translates" when played on the destination playback system. The destination playback system for a theatrical film is obviously a cinema and cinemas have professionally designed acoustics and sound systems which are relatively well standardised. But even so, there are variations/discrepancies, not to mention faults, such as cinema owners changing the levels/calibration after the professional installers have finished. So, even spending big bucks on a commercial full-sized mix stage (very precisely built to this cinema "standardisation") there is no guarantee that the mix will always translate well to every cinema. It's always just a probability! In the case of the top commercial full-sized mix stages you are essentially paying for the highest probability of good translation it's possible to attain (let's say, over 95%) and the assurance that you have a "reference" quality mix. Meaning that if there is a problem, that problem is most likely due to some fault in a specific cinema rather than with the mix itself. In a high-end boutique (but not full-sized) facility you are down to a probability of say 80% or higher, which is not bad considering the cost is going to be half to a third of the cost of a full-sized facility. Although, you have to realise that these boutique facilities have very knowledgeable re-recording engineers who are using their considerable experience to avoid or "play it safe" in those areas most likely to cause translation issues and of course, this is to some degree going to compromise the mix. It's unlikely to compromise the mix to the point that it's distracting, I mean "compromise" in terms of how effectively the sound mix aids pace, excitement and the generation of the other desired audience responses (in other words, the storytelling). As you go lower down the audio post budget scale the prices are lower due to some combination of; lower quality (cheaper) acoustic environments and equipment and less skilful, knowledgeable and/or experienced audio post personnel. All of which will of course lower how effectively the sound mix aids the storytelling and increase the probability of translation issues serious enough to make the mix actively distracting. Even at the extremely lo/no budget level there is a chance that a mix will translate well enough not to be too distracting but there's also a chance that it will be so distracting that it will completely destroy the screening (!) and of course, even in the event of it not being too distracting, there's an extremely high probability that the mix will not aid the storytelling well. Your budget is higher than this level though, so you would be hoping for a much smaller probability of: A completely destroyed screening (let's say 20% chance), a mix which is not distracting in places (let's say 40% chance) and a mix which does not aid the storytelling well in places (let's say 85% chance). Which is better than say 30%, 85% and 99.99% respectively! Of course, these probability figures are all guess-timates based on my experience/opinion and there's certainly no scientific evidence or "official" figures to support them.

There's also a problem with translation when creating mixes for TV, Youtube, DVD, etc., but I won't go into that just now.

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Originally Posted by Scotty Fox View Post
...so what should I be looking for?
When you don't have the budget for a "reference" quality mix, your question encapsulates the problem! In terms of the mix itself, there is nothing much you can do beyond just relying on the extremely rough guesstimates I've provided, aside from testing the mix on a full-size commercial mix stage. In terms of employing the right "someone" in the first place, that's also tricky because unless you're an expert yourself, it's pretty difficult to tell the knowledgeable from the bullsh*tters! However, in response to this same type of question previously on IT, I came up with a few questions to ask candidates which should help separate the genuine ones from the pretenders:

1. What is the relative difference between the sub woofer calibration level and each of the surround channels in a theatrical surround system? A: The sub woofer is calibrated +13dB higher.

2. At what SPL level is their studio calibrated? A: 85dBSPL for the front main speakers and 82dBSPL for the surrounds is the international standard but ONLY for a full sized dubbing stage! A smaller room could be anything but somewhere around 79dBSPL (and 76dBSPL for the surrounds) would be most likely. This answer is a bit vague but is still a good question because if they don't know the answer or say the Dolby standard (85dBSPL) when they have a small room, you know to run away!

3. What is the crossover frequency of the sub woofer in a theatrical sound system? A: Trick question, there is no crossover with the sub in a theatrical system, only in studio or consumer bass managed systems.

4. What is "frame edge alignment" and do they have it? A: Frame edge alignment is where a house master clock and sync unit are used to reference and synchronise the audio sample frequency of the audio equipment with the video ref of the video card or picture playback device. Having a frame edge aligned system is not something you would commonly find in most low budget audio post studios. They should still know what Frame Edge Alignment is though!

5. What is the Dialnorm setting for a Dolby Digital theatrical mix and a BluRay mix? A: -27 for BluRay/DVD and -31 (or off) for theatrical.

These are basic questions that any moderately experienced/knowledgeable audio post person would be able to answer off the top of their heads.

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Originally Posted by Scotty Fox View Post
That being said where to I find these aspiring professionals? Mandy.com? Any good sources?
Mandy is probably as good as anywhere. You might try Gearslutz's "Post Jobs Offered" section but you'd need to give a clear indication of your budget in your post and make clear that your film is very low budget because Gearslutz is populated by a lot of industry professionals (some of them top industry professionals) but there are also some aspiring audio post peeps who may well be interested.

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Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
You should also contact the festivals to whom you are considering submissions and find out what their audio and video requirements are. Some require a complete 5.1 mix, some smaller festivals are okay with just a stereo mix.
I absolutely agree with this essential advice! I had assumed you (OP) were asking about DCP because you had already identified some target festivals which require a DCP for screening. If this isn't the case, you don't really want to be spending time/money on a 5.1 theatrical mix if the festivals you want to target only accept stereo!

To answer your other questions:

Stereo would be cheaper than a 5.1 mix. Creating a 5.1 mix when you already have a stereo mix might be a little quicker, depending on how well organised the stereo mixing session is. In my experience making a 5.1 mix from a lo/no budget DIY level stereo mix is not much, if any, quicker than starting the 5.1 mix from scratch. JFYI though, creating a stereo mix from a 5.1 mix is very substantially quicker than starting a stereo mix from scratch.

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Originally Posted by Scotty Fox View Post
Lastly, assuming someone has a decent picture on their hands (in my case a short), how much does audio play into getting into a festival?
That's a complicated question to answer. On a technical level, the answer is "not that much", providing the audio is of a basically decent technical standard, so dialogue can be easily understood, etc. Remember that the initial decision of whether to accept a film for a festival is usually decided by watching a DVD on a standard stereo TV or even on a laptop. It's worth baring in mind though that depending on the festival, audio quality is usually the most common technical reason why films are rejected for screening. On an artistic level, the answer is potentially "quite a lot", to understand what I mean by this it might be worth you working you way through the Principles of Sound Design thread.

Depending on the time available between acceptance and screening, it might well be worth just creating a stereo mix and not a 5.1 mix until you know if you've been accepted. But again, check that the festival actually requires a DCP (multi-channel mix) for screening.

G

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Old 01-28-2014, 05:04 PM   #14
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So I split up dialogue per character in their separate audio track(s)? Meaning in an NLE I'd have audio 1 and 2 for Character A. 3 and 4 for character B, etc., etc.?
Why two (2) tracks for the production dialog? Dialog (DX) is a MONO source, so you should have only mono files for the production dialog. If you are using stereo production sound files they most probably have identical audio (unless you used two [2] mics or lavs), delete/mute one of them.

Ask your rerecording mixer how they want the audio tracks organized. My personal system is:

DX = Production dialog
FY = Foley
SFX#m = Mono sound effects
SFX#st = Stereo sound effects
AMB = Ambience
MUS = Score and source music.

DX1
ADR1
DX2
ADR2
DX3
ADR3
DX4
ADR4


etc.....

FY 1A
FY 1B
FY 1C
FY 2A
FY 2B
FY 2C


etc.....

SFX1m
SFX2m
SFX3m


etc.....

SFX1st
SFX2st
SFX3st


etc.....

AMB1
AMB2
AMB3


etc.....

MUS1
MUS2
MUS3


etc.....


It's not unusual for me to have 60 to 80 tracks, although most scenes will have 20 to 30.


Your mixer may have a VERY different organization.
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Old 01-29-2014, 02:02 AM   #15
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Lots of great advice from AudioPostExpert and Alcove Audio. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. Damn useful thread this.
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