help needed- my first film mix

Hi Guys,

long time Cubendo user here, I’ve done the music for a documentary and its all been done on a shoestring budget. I was just doing the music but after speaking to the director the company that was going to help him do the final mixing have let him down so he’s asked if I could do the mix.

OK, I have cubase 7 and Nuendo 6, a nice room, lovely monitors (Quested VS3208) and I’m well versed in producing and mixing music, however I’ve never done a film mix, so:

1: Can I mix it all in stereo? I see no reason why 5.1 is needed for a documentary
2: what technical differences do I need to take into account when doing the final mix…see next question…
3: Can I do the finished version in Nuendo,and what format does it all end up?

sorry for the basic questions but film is a whole new world…any advice will be greatly appreciated.


O boy.
There are many other points also.
But first…

  1. Stereo or 5.1. It is really a matter of artistic taste and production company may have also opinion about this.
  2. Tech question, later…
  3. Really dont understand the question. You deliver the final sound track to video facility that makes the final copy of the film to be delivered.

Other stuff: is it TV or film mix. They have different sound levels.
Also you need two pop at the beginning of the film to make sure everything is in sync. Google two pop…

Best would be if someone who has done film mixes previously would come to see you and teach you a bit. There are so many things you need to understand and know…
Buy few beers for him and pay his lunch…

Bye/ Tumppi

Well, yeah, you don’t need to do it in 5.1, unless that’s what’s required. But if I was you then a warning flag would go up when you’re told that the director was “let down” by a financial sponsor, and you’ve already done music on a “shoestring budget”. To me those are warning signs of something not being entirely kosher. They might be, but I’d be keeping my eyes and ears open.

So seeing that that’s the case I wouldn’t lift a finger to do a 5.1 film mix if I’ve never even done a film mix before. Not a chance. Think of the investment in studio space/equipment and time that’ll be all on you. I wouldn’t bother. But that’s just me though.

“difference” compared to what? Music?

Film is a complex thing and in my opinion a huge amount of what you can do will be based on your dialog edit. For a documentary even more so. Have you done any dialog editing before?

You can totally do all that you need in Nuendo, delivering a stereo mix as a Left/Right audio file. It’s what’s called a “LoRo”, “Left Only / Right Only”.

Like Tumppi said, make sure you get delivery requirements squared away to make sure that you’re getting the levels correct.

And speaking of requirements; make sure you get everything routed correctly from the get go. Some delivery specs require stems or splits and alternate versions (mix minus narration, music+effects etc) and you better get that straight from the beginning or it’ll get very messy if you have to go back and tweak things.

Feel free to PM me if you need anything. Where are you located?

thanks Guys, everything is Kosher he’s a friend of mine just come out of film school and has put his life savings/inheritance into making this documentary.I’m helping him out,and the place that originally said they’d do the final dub for ‘x’ amount quadrupled their fee when it came down to a firm quote,hence him asking me if I could help.

I think my main question is what are the various levels I should be working to?

there’s narration, the live location interviews etc and of course the music track. I had a little browse last night on the net but couldn’t find anything that specific.

As a music producer/mixer I’m used to hitting things near 0 and using limiting/compression etc but I know that’s not the case with film.


Greetings Marcus,
These guys aren’t kidding, coming from ‘near flatline’ music production - the film world can be a mind-boggling place! The hardest thing to grasp being that there really aren’t set levels for audio - it’s mixed in a properly calibrated room at a determined playback reference level by (experienced) ear. Done correctly, with proper dynamics: you won’t believe how much lower the levels will seem to you!

It might be useful to check over at the GearSluts post production forum :

in particular, the ‘sticky’ : Standard Mixing Levels for Movie Theater, DVD, TV, Internet, Radio and Games

may help with starting to get your head around the concepts… ?

good luck & let us know how it goes!

and here’s a quick tutorial for helping to set up proper ‘monitor calabration’ for post


Stereo is often considered sufficient for documentaries even on major US networks like PBS, if the music is sparse… or if there’s a lot of music, but it’s mostly historic/archive. It’s also certainly sufficient for festival entries of documentaries (and even many narratives).

But bear in mind, there’s a lot more to a film mix than the music.

Great. And very nice of you to help him out.

Well, the thing to realize is that you have different playback systems and therefore different delivery systems and different levels. So like the other guys said, if you’re mixing for movie theater playback then what you do is calibrate your room and then mix according to taste. Mind you, it’s a quite different experience going from a small room to a theater. And then if you’re going to mix for broadcast you’ll have to figure out what the specs requested are.

But there’s plenty on Gearslutz for you to read on that topic.

If you want to get started then what you can begin with regardless of what levels you’ll end up with is dialog editing. Since there’s so little going on it’s going to account for a lot of the listening experience.


Thank you, at times like this the internet and forums like these are a wonderful thing :slight_smile:

I’d forgotten gearlsutz had a post forum I’m quite active on other forums there so will check out the links.

I’ll keep you posted how it goes.


Absolutely !
I am mixing a short feature film this week and It’s my first time as well… So thanks for bringing the subject to the table Norbury ! :wink: And thanks guys for the links.
But time is so tight that I won’t have time to ingest all the information that I need to read. I’ll work mostly by intuition for this time (again).


My one tip I have for you guys is to focus on a clean dialog track. I know I already mentioned that, but I think it’s really really important. And for those of us with a music background either behind an instrument or console the tendency is to really focus on making dialog sound like a beautifully recorded singer, but 90% of the time in low to medium budget film/tv that isn’t the goal. Instead it’s taking care of clicks, pops and other “defects”. So rather than over-EQ-ing focus on it being ‘clean’.

Thanks a lot Lydiot !!!
These are really the good advices I’m after ! I’ll be sure to reread them as I tend to show the bad habits you described, coming from a music background.

I’ve just listened to a mix I did three days ago (a single narration over some background music I composed), and I’m not happy with the mix. The voice is too clear, yeah, like a singer’s lead vocal on a funk track. :blush:
Client is happy but I’m not.

Okay back to mix my short.
(note to self : remember to focus on the dialog, remember to focus on the dialog)

Have a good day

Okay, I finished the short feature film work.
My first discovery was that a short film is only short by it’s duration, but certainly not the work it requires !
Pfiuu ! It took me six days (and big parts of the nights as well) to complete the work.
I ended up with 80 tracks because I’ve been cautious not to create too many. I could easily have gone much higher on the track count side !

I had to redo nearly everything in the studio including some of the on location recorded dialogs.
I thought I had a big post production sound library (well, mostly sound ideas BBC collection and my own lib done on my Tascam recorder), but it wasn’t enough ! Footsteps, train, subways… Specific sounds were needed (like close up on a guy walking with flipflops on a stone pavement with one foot dragging at times…) and nothing would fit. I had english subways ambiance that of course wouldn’t fit the french subway (public announce…). Etc.

Boom sound was almost unusable, since the dialogs were buried in the subway heater noise.
HF mics were so different and badly position (one was muffled by the actor’s coat) that they wouldn’t match.
I tried everything I could to denoise with Nuendo’s tools, eq, expander… Nothing would really cut it. We ended up burying the dialogs in different ambiances but It was changing the film’s character which was supposed to be pretty minimalist and quiet… :frowning:
So I asked a seasoned film mixer and he told me Izotope RX2. I got a demo and wow ! Thanks god those guy exist !!! I’ll buy it for sure. It saved the film !

I had the occasion to use the ADR feature and it was really helpful since the talent had never done voice over.
The director had crazy demands like part of dialog would be heard from a guy’s perspective in his head or by the somebody else’s perspective (a blind man with a clearer subjective audition)… And so on.
It’s been the part that I found really time consuming cause I choose to route all the needed audio tracks to groups and use eq snapshots.
Well, theorically.
I could’nt find a way to insert eq presets to precise (at the frame level) spots ! How do you do that ?
I had to do it on the go with my controller and then adjust it manually, then copy it…

I realised I don’t master the different automation modes and man, you can’t mix films without mastering automation modes. :blush:

Finally, I’m pretty happy with my first venture into feature film mixing and Nuendo was a great and stable tool. Working 18 hours a day with HD video (on the rec booth and the control room) + my three screens, recording voices + adding some sampler on the go, 80 active tracks (many had stacked recording lanes of up to 12 takes). Not a single crash.
The new mixer that can show only what is used, and that alone is Bravo !
The LOUDNESS TRACK is great but would greatly benefit from being able to save the the measures so you can compare before/after.

Well, here’s my humble experience on my short film mixing (I had done docos before). It gave me the desire of doing more (and work on my weak points). I’d say that it is an overall more challenging experience than music for me. So much things you have to pay attention to !

My 45.23 cents.



Yeah, it’s a ton of work for sure. Happy for you it went well though.

To answer your question about automation on frame boundaries; I wouldn’t even bother with that. When you cut it that close to actual audio going through the plugin you risk getting clicks and pops. Most dialog-editors will “checker-board” dialog onto several tracks. This way you have space on either side of a shot to punch in automation without affecting other audio. For example:

Track 1: bla bla bla bla bla — --- — --- — --- x-- bla bla bla --x
Track 2: — --- — --- — x-- bla bla bla bla bla bla --x — --- —

You’d punch in automation changes where the x’s are. For example.

Thanks again Lydiot. I’ll try this method next time.

And thank you for your support…

Have a good day.