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mikerophonics - the art of sound

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Musings of a freelance dubbing mixer/sound designer/sound editor & independent studio owner

My Template Plug-Ins

Post Production Sound Posted on Tue, May 13, 2014 15:32:00


a list of my favorite template/workflow plug-ins and why I use them:

Dialogue EQ – Fab Filter Pro:

For my
dialogues (as it is native only, and precedes the native Cedar DNS One in my
chain), I love the look of the interface, it’s so clean and uncluttered. It is
very easy to use with and works very nicely with the Slate Raven touch
interace. I love the built in spectrum analyser. This plug-in sounds great and
is insanely flexible, with up to 24 bands, zero latency or linear phase – but
best of all, I LOVE the ability to be able to solo each band – it really helps
you get the Q right.

Noise Reduction – Cedar DNS One

The “daddy
of noise reduction”! The fastest way to whip out bad room tones, aircon or
lighting whines on your dialogues. I tend to use the Cedar on all my dialogue
tracks, post eq (so I can remove rumble and hiss), but pre dynamics. The Cedar
works best on sources where there is a reasonable signal to noise ratios. Again
– so fast with the Slate Raven touch screen.

Noise Reduction – Izotope RX3 Advanced

suite needs no introduction. I really like the de-clip and de-crackle, and
de-click modules too. I use the de-noiser when the original clip has a “noise
to signal” ratio rather than a signal to noise ratio. I always keep a safety
track with the un-rendered version on. When doing multiple renders with
different modules, I am careful to name each step in the process – so that I
can backtrack.

Dynamics: Sonnox Dynamics

so much dynamic control available, it has long been my favorite dymanics
plugin. It has bullet proof automation too, which is so vital in post. The
warmth control is magical – as is the post dymanics eq to add some sparkle back
to the highs.

post mixers don’t use dynamics at all, which to me seems some form of foolish
snobbery. There is no way you can ride the faders to millisecond accuracy. It
is not just about levels, I much prefer the sound of lightly dynamically
controlled dialogue. It sounds fuller ,fatter, tighter and all the overused
adjectives that music mixers use – enjoy!

Fabfilter Pro-DS

I have
now replaced my trusty Sonnox Suppressor with this as my go to De-Esser, as I
find it quicker to get great results. I do think however that the Sonnox is
more powerful as a general dynamic filter, as it has more control over the time
constants etc, but it takes longer to set up.

Music & FX Eq: Sonnox Eq

Sonnox EQ has great bullet-proof automation and a great, but flexable sound.
Used to be my only eq at all, but now nudged out in my dialogue channels by Fab
Filter Pro, due mainly to the spectrum analyser and the eq band solo function.
Still heavily used in my music and FX tracks though.

Stereo Tracks: Avid Time Adjuster

on my stereo tracks as a convenient ‘low dsp cost’ way of adjusting
differential gain/stereo balance.

Reverb: Exponential Audio R2/Phoenix

One of
the new kids on the block. Built by the former guru of Lexicon reverbs, Michael
Carnes. “What he doesn’t know about reverb isn’t worth knowing”. Awesome jaw
dropping sound, and very efficient too. Totally surpasses Revibe, and has a
HEAP of great presets. X2 GUI button really helps on Slate Raven for touch
control. Great use of mac short cuts to flick through presets. Intelligent design & totally lush.

Upmixing: ADL Penteo Pro 4

I have
just reviewed this for Audio Media. I love this plug-in. Fast, efficient
results that down-mix beautifully back to stereo – a total must for anyone in
Broadcast. Programmed for multi-touch with the Slate Raven.


I like
this on my mono and stereo FX tracks, and my music tracks when working in 5.1,
especially the up-mixed ones. Very easy interface to use on the Slate Raven.

for “whoosing out the up-mix” from mono front to 5.1, or from 5.1 and “whoosh
collapsing” to a mono center. Spanner has the ability to help you pan over the
picture overlay window, to make your pans very accurate. A little mentioned
feature is its offline audiosuite down-mixing ability. It’s DSP too – what’s
not to like?

True Peak Limiting: Nugen ISL

all things Nugen, “does what it says on the tin”. My set and forget true peak
limiter for my stems.

Loudness Metering: Nugen Audio VisLM

easiest to use, most user customizable, trustworthy loudness meter in the
business. period.

Peak Metering: PPMulator XL

habits die hard – my eyes and ears are very familiar with BBC peak metering,
due to my BBC heritage. A bit of an anachronistic comfort blanket really.

Mastering: Nugen Audio Visualizer

liking this new plug. Again, like all things Nugen, very customisable and
efficiently coded too, doesn’t bring a computer to its knees like Izotope’s

Nugen LM Correct

strictly a plug-in as it is either audiosuite or stand alone software, but I
use it most days. Once I have printed my stems, I measure my stems with LM
Correct Analyze.

Monitoring: Neyrinck Vmon

I use
this in combination with my Avid Omni for monitoring. Having been weaned on a
DFC and AMS Logic desks, I love stem monitoring. I have the ability to monitor
my DX (my dialogue bus), or to monitor my DX print stem, and flick between them
in PEC/Direct style monitoring – avoiding monitoring through record tracks
(which is a big no-no for delay compensation).


nifty Swiss Army knife utility for switching talkback on and off. It enables a
feature rather sadly missing with an Omni (Avid, what were you thinking?).

I use
this in conjunction with a 2Q wireless remote to give my producers a wireless
TB switch – which they love.

Source Nexus

not really an audio processing plug-in as such but another awesome Swiss Army
knife utility. I use this most days, as an audio router; either as a way to get
audio in and out of Pro-Tools, such as to Source-Connect Now or Source Live (so
that producers can listen in on the web) or a way of getting audio from some
other software into Pro Tools. Indispensable.


I have many more plug-ins in my armoury, some I like to use for sound design, like Audio Ease’s Speakerphone, Sound Toys Bundle, or Avid’s TL Space – but I won’t use them live in a mix as I can’t trust their automation.

Others that are new and are under test include the Nugen Stereoizer, Monfilter and Stereoplacer

Some plug-ins I am beta testing, so I can’t discuss

Note – no Waves plugs…..

after the edit – some sound advice

Post Production Sound Posted on Fri, May 11, 2012 12:36:47

Today’s rantlet (a comedic piece of sound advice in the style of Jeremy Clarkson) is aimed at video editors and producers:

Number one to tick off on any editors todo list should be chat to your dubbing mixer. We are often nice and know the latest jokes from all the super talented vo comedians we regularly record! We can suggest workflow and solutions – we want to make it work smoothly for you so that you come back for more. Communication is vital. Even more so if you are editing a drama…..

Please understand the term “locked off” to mean what it says – and understand the implications otherwise. I totally understand the need for changes due to late arrival of GFX and VFX etc There are workflow solutions to this such as reconfirming software like conformalizer (by maggot software) and the use xml files from your edit (in fcp). These solutions help speed the process up dramatically, but it still takes time and you need to both allow for this and budget for it. If there is a possibility that you may need to alter your cut, flag this up at the start and plan for it. Throwing in a change at the last minute can mean horrendous complications – not to say that it is not do-able, but it can have many ramifications.

Consider your audio tracks layout. Number one of any dubbing mixer’s pet hate is the randomness of audio tracks from an edit and the mixing of mono and stereo tracks on the same audio tracks. Please see this example of naughtiness:

It slows us down inordinately and makes copying tracks from your omf import to our pro tools tracks very time consuming . this example took a while to sort out:

to something nice like this:

So the rules are:

  1. Stereo tracks must start with an odd number i.e 1&2, 3&4 etc and not 2&3, 4&5 etc
  2. do not mix stereo and mono on the same track

good guidelines for practice are:

1) keep your talking heads on separate tracks to music and/or fx – see my example omf above where I have separated out the dialogue (red), music (green) and FX (blue).

2) keep same interviewees on the same track – it really speeds up sound mixing if ‘man a’ is on track 1, ‘man b’ on track 2 etc especially if they occur multiple times in a show.

3) keep cut-aways if they are non dialogue based on different tracks

4) if a track is mute – discard it. The golden rule of post is “do not pass sh1t on!”

5) keep vo (or guide vo) separate on its own track so that we can mute it whilst recoding new vo or mixing the M&E

I am sure handling vast numbers of tracks in any edit program is not as easy as in sound, but going some way towards these goals will help your production sound better as more time is spent doing sweetening – rather than rescuing a train smash of random bits!

Talk to your dubbing mixer about video codecs before you hand him a low bit rate h264 formatted for ipod (as in the nicest way) – it may not best please him.

Certain video codecs like h264, whilst being small and dandy for internet transfer, do not play so nicely with pro tools – as they are very processor intensive. These codecs operate by working out how a frame has changed compared to certain key frames and calculate the difference – this calculation can lead to laggy video performance.

Personally, I have an avid mojo for guaranteed frame accurate sync (unlike rubbery quicktime). Anything that is sync critical (or for long form work) I transcode on my avid media composer whilst I import the omf and sort the audio tracklay.

In my studio I spend my cash on the best plug-ins and software for sound that money can buy, and not on HD video infrastructure/playback. SD video is good for me to see lip sync well and for me to work nicely to picture. You can enjoy your HD pictures at the layback.

My picture preference is for avid dv pal mxf media at 720×576 (or widescreen equivalent)

For fcp users I like a dv pal quicktime at 720×576 (or widescreen equivalent)

If internet video transfers are required, I will accept H264 pictures, but I like every frame to be a key frame. I have 100mb fibre internet connection, so if you have a fast server, I can download your video very quickly, so major league compression may not be needed!

Consider your sequence.

1) It is common UK practice to start your picture/programme at 10:00:00:00. Deviation is by consultation (i.e if your programme is longer than 90 minutes as it can cause some versions of pro tools to be a pig at 11:30:00:00 timecode and beyond.

2) have you considered part breaks? Please start them at logical whole minutes.

3) agree final out time for your parts and final duration time for the entire show with your dubbing mixer. Reverb tails chopped off by networks are very ugly sounding.

Consider synchronisation – belt and braces is the sensible option here.

a) A good old fashioned 2 plop and sync flash at the beginning and end of the film are hard to beat when used in tandem with

b) burnt in timecode (bitc). Please avoid putting your bitc over name supers and subtitles etc – it makes it tricky to see what is going on (or can make lip sync a chore)!

Current UK digital production partnership specs require

  1. The sync plop must be between timecode 09:59:57:06 and 09:59:57:08
  2. The audio plop must be 1kHz tone on all tracks at -18dB (standard zero level)
  3. The duration of the vision flash must be 2 frames to allow it to pass through standards conversion successfully
  4. The audio plop must be synchronous across all audio PCM audio tracks and with the video flash (within +/- 5 ms)
  5. If an end sync plop is used it must be no closer than 10 seconds to the end of the programme and comply with the points above.

Delivery requirements – who are you mixing for and what do they want?

Suddenly asking your dubbing mixer to deliver a 5.1 version of your programme by tomorrow (because you forgot) may cause him to choke on his food.

Making a 5.1 mix is not just a simple thing. Ask your editor to turn a shot into 3D and watch him fall off his perch.

If your programme is for different clients, then they might have different loudness criteria to mix to and different delivery requirements. Discovery Channel have very different mixes to Sky or Nat Geo. DVDs often have a different mix to broadcast.

How is your stereo mix derived? from a fold down of the 5.1 mix in the satellite box (Sky) or from a separately made stereo mix?

I try and avoid “scope creep” on a project by asking the right questions at the beginning of the project and making sure that each party’s hopes and expectations are agreed, along with the implications of any changes.

Payment terms should also be agreed up front so there are no nasty surprises for either party. In over 15 years of busy freelancing I have lost only one weeks work due to non payment.

Forwarding the broadcaster’s delivery requirements really help those nasty little “quality control itches” that can occur. Here is the Digital Production Partnership version for the for the majority of the UK.

Please bear in mind that it is often a job requirement of many qc departments to do silly things such as in these examples (they pay peanuts – they get monkeys):

  • 1) fail a period drama for having nothing in the subwoofer channel (not really required – as no space ships are landing or atom bombs have gone off)
  • 2) complain that there is voiceover on the M&E – when they are in fact listening to the M&E tacks and the full mix tracks all together (strange they didn’t notice that it was phasing or that the mix was sounding just plain wrong)
  • 3) fail a programme for digital clicks when there are clearly footballs being kicked in the back of shot

Consider the export options.

Before you export have you checked your sequence that it doesn’t contain mixed sample rates or mixed bit rates?

Is your sequence locked – no really, is it locked or “locked”….

Are you exporting an AAF or an OMF?

Have you discussed handle lengths? This really can save your bacon. Ignore at your peril. Long is good!

Is your export embedded or referenced? – this can have a massive effect on the metadata.

Have you made an XML file or vision edl before you go ahead and make changes to your “locked” picture?

Is your AAF/OMF embedded file less than the 2Gb file size limit. If not, split the omf into parts out vertically into tracks (i.e tracks 1-8 and tracks 9-16 etc).

How are you doing the Layback?

The cheapest option as I am sure you are aware is to have the mix completed while you grade, and then have the dubbing mixer send you files for you to layback sound and graded picture concurrently.

Some dubbing mixers are aghast at this and worry – in my view unnecessarily. I work with many very good editors and have never suffered a problem yet in many years of working this way. I include line up tones on my mix files and stems as per the delivery requirements. The editor just has to light blue touch paper and listen to my mix, smile and collect the BAFTA! The wonders of SDI and an agreed synchronisation workflow are the key here.

short films – some SOUND advice

Post Production Sound Posted on Tue, May 08, 2012 16:22:25

Today’s rantlet is aimed at independent and short film makers.

I like to start a conversation with any new Director/Producer by putting a few cards down on the table and making a few things clear to manage any expectations and avoid disappointment, and I also often have to remind them of some good universal rules.

So filmmakers, some food for thought:

The post production triangle:

pick two. The three do not occur concurrently.

I am not a charity and do not work for free – I have been successfully earning my living this way for nearly 25 years (as I am very good at it). I have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay and I like skiing! Please don’t ask otherwise and risk offence.

I will not LOAN you my time and experience and skills while you try to earn money selling your completed film. Ask your bank for money, that is what they do.

If you want a great deal, then you have to be very patient! Good people are busy – and they are worth waiting for!

Please do not try the cliche about “when I get my first feature, it will be you, I promise”. Often production and post productions deals are out of your hands when you hit “the big time” and your hands will be tied.

Why do you have no budget for sound post production? Would you buy a Ferrari if you can’t afford the petrol? If you have no budget, please go ask a school leaver to mix your film (and then change your career). You should be allowing as very rough rule of thumb a bare minimum of at least 30% of your budget for picture & sound post.

Make sound your friend and “think sound”. Have another look at your script and have a think about the sound – have you missed a creative dimension? Sound without picture is radio, but picture without sound is just surveillance!

Get your recordist and picture editor to talk with the sound editor / dubbing mixer BEFORE you shoot and arrange a workflow and communication. Film and TV is easy if you get it right, and tortuous if you don’t.

PLEASE make your composer and dubbing mixer talk, 128kb MP3s in mono from your neighbours iPod are not a good idea…. and yes i have been sent them many times before!

Don’t think you can “do the boom thing” yourself – you can’t and your film will sound like a dog’s dinner. Don’t put a trainee’s hand on the recording by doing this.

It is pointless shooting on sparkly 35mm if you have no budget for post or sound. A well made video will reach more people than mute sparkly film!

Be realistic about what you can achieve in post. Do you really want a theatrical mix – it costs extra to printmaster in a Dolby approved stage. Who is really going to watch/buy your film? Ids it for TV, DVD? Most people try and cover all bases and spend money innefectively.

Think about and budget for foley. You will need it for foreign language sales and a full M&E (filled Music and FX mix). It also allows a lot more detail in your sound mix.

The sound edit and mix are fun – find trustworthy people who inspire you and sound will be your friend for life. The old cliche rings very true that pictures tell the story, but sound tells the emotion….

No I will not give you my Pro Tools session at the end. I will give you stems, and mixes as agreed before hand. Your friend who thinks he can load my mix on his laptop in his garage for a few tweaks will be in for a sorry surprise. I use VERY expensive plug-ins that you won’t have – so it won’t work. You do not have the right to my sfx, just the mix of them that I give you. Please don’t ask otherwise unless you can offer me at least six figures.

Nor will I show you how to do it all so that next time you can do it yourself (you are not THAT quick a learner, trust me. I learned from some of the best at the BBC and in Soho and my experience has been amassed over years, and just being able to push the buttons will make you a computer operator, not a dubbing mixer. It takes a long time to learn not to sit on your ears!

Often post production sound involves experimentation to get it right, which is why it is not quick. Randy Thom makes mistakes to get it perfect…it’s part of the creative process.

As one last thing, watch this quick youtube video on client vendor relationships, I have seen ALL this behaviour from production companies many times and it is not funny to be on the other end of it.

So now we have got that all straight, let’s make some great films…