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Mono in Contemporary Scenario

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Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby sha_walia » Mon Sep 03, 2018 7:56 am

Hello,

I am starting sound design for a 30 min short which I have shot on 1.33 aspect ratio and for aesthetic purposes I wish to opt for a mono mix. Now a lot has been written about the mono vs stereo debate on the web and one can be technologically superior than the counterpart but for creative purposes, if one wishes to opt for a mono mix how do we deal with following scenarios:

1) For a theatrical mix, in a DCP mono track shall be the centre track and rest (L,R,LFE, and two surrounds) shall be silent.
How would the reproduction be in a film which lacks dialogue.
What about theatres or screening spaces which are stereo and not 5.1.

2) What about DVD and Web? Do we send same information to both the tracks L and R.

Another option which a friend of mine suggested is to go for a stereo mix where for larger part of the narrative the phantom image can be made narrow to create a sense of sound coming from behind the screen? Any suggestions on this.

Generally if someone can know any recent films which have been mixed in mono?

Thanks

Shashank.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Sep 03, 2018 10:02 am

sha_walia wrote:How would the reproduction be in a film which lacks dialogue.

Sound would come purely from the middle of the screen. It will not envelope the audience.

What about theatres or screening spaces which are stereo and not 5.1.

Are there any? Anywhere with a big enough screen to count as a theatre or screening room has at least three channels across the screen width in my experience.

What about DVD and Web? Do we send same information to both the tracks L and R.

Yes, you could encode as a dual-mono for a stereo soundtrack, or just provide a mono soundtrack for the web. If using the Dolby Digital format, just use the centre channel or provide a mono track and set the metadata as mono.

Another option which a friend of mine suggested is to go for a stereo mix where for larger part of the narrative the phantom image can be made narrow to create a sense of sound coming from behind the screen?

A dual-mono track (ie, identical sound on Left and Right) will produce a phantom image -- the perceived width will depend on the quality of the speakers and the room acoustics.

However, the problem with a phantom centre image is that it won't be in the centre for anyone sitting anywhere other than in a line extending perpendicularly from the middle of the screen. For those viewing from the left half of the screen, the phantom sound will appear to emanate from somewhere towards the edge of the screen.

That problem is the whole reason why film dialogue is routinely routed to the centre channel -- so that when someone talks in a large closeup, their voice appears to come from their mouth, not 25 feet to the left of their ear... ;-)
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby sha_walia » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:28 am

Hugh, thanks very much for replying.

Just to be sure, in case of a centre channel only, the sense of sound coming from centre would same for people who are off sweet spot. That is to say in case of mono the experience for a larger part of audience would be similar.

As an experience, you mentioned it wont envelope but isnt’t sound in its pure nature enveloping. To elaborate, if you hear a certain sound of course within the realm of perspective (which can be achieved in mono as well, if I am not wrong) the very sound and its texture would evoke something and if its direction is not very defined the audience will define it on its own. Like in many old films mixed in mono.

How about a 3 channel mix - LCR, where centre is front and reverbs and other wet entities can be in LR?

The idea here is to achieve evocation through pure hearing of the sound rather than enveloping the audience in the effect of the same. The nature of shots also has some centrality in it, also keeping in mind the aspect ratio. Not to say that square frames should always accompany a mono mix.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:46 am

sha_walia wrote:...in case of a centre channel only, the sense of sound coming from centre would same for people who are off sweet spot. That is to say in case of mono the experience for a larger part of audience would be similar.

Correct. That's the raison d'etre of the center-channel.

As an experience, you mentioned it wont envelope but isnt’t sound in its pure nature enveloping.

I think you might be confusing 'involving' with 'enveloping'.

Mono sound can certainly be involving, but sound from a single point can never be enveloping -- or perhaps a more modern term would be 'immersive'. Surround sound tracks in films were developed to make the audience feel that they are actually in the environment they are seeing with their eyes. So the rain and wind, or jungle sounds, or whatever are coming from all around and enveloping them, drawing them into the appropriate environment and involving them in the on-screen action in a way that mono sound from a central speaker behind the screen can never do.

...the realm of perspective (which can be achieved in mono as well, if I am not wrong)...

Yes, of course it can -- it's one of the key creative tools open to you as a sound designer/recordist/balancer

...if its direction is not very defined the audience will define it on its own.

Again, I think there are two different things here. There's the character of sound -- it's perspective and level in the mix -- which tells the viewer/listener something about the context of that sound within the film. And then there's the physical aspect of where that sound comes from in the room.

With mono sound from a central speaker, the audience is just watching a film. With genuinely enveloping surround sound the audience is drawn in to the film and immersed in it.

There are places for both, of course, depending on intent and context, but they are different kinds of experience.

How about a 3 channel mix - LCR, where centre is front and reverbs and other wet entities can be in LR?

That would certainly make the sound stage wider, giving it more grandeur and scale... and then putting effects and maybe music into the surround channels will take it even further... or you could go the whole Dolby Atmos route and add things to the ceiling height channels too... ;-) It's all a road into full immersion which ends somewhere in the world of virtual reality!

The idea here is to achieve evocation through pure hearing of the sound rather than enveloping the audience in the effect of the same. The nature of shots also has some centrality in it, also keeping in mind the aspect ratio. Not to say that square frames should always accompany a mono mix.

You know the content and context of the film, and presumably the director's artistic requirements and intent. I'm just trying to answer your technical questions and highlight the potential differences between the different approaches.

Is there a place for high-quality mono sound? Yes, of course. Is it as evocative as being immersed in surround sound? I think not, but it's entirely subjective.

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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby sha_walia » Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:12 pm

Hugh,

Just to make things clear I am the director of the film. The sound is being handled by one of my dear friend from the Film Institute in Pune, India. After deliberating on the mix part for long we are willing to go for a mono mix. The only thing what Shashank Kothari (namesake), the designer of the film suggested lately is to keep information in centre and use LR for reverbs and very occasional panning. Just to have enough width maybe.

Another friend suggested a stereo mix and using sound imager to contain its width, to which you mentioned the issue with off sweet spot phenomenon.

Technically, of course a 5 channel mix or an Atmos would be immersive but may be our film is not meant for such a scale. I mean it works when Tom Cruise zooms his motorcycle from a terrace and you get a sense of height in Atmos. That is immersive for sure. But for a film set in a middle class colony in a small state it might be an overkill. The very effect can make it immersive but can make the viewer distant from the narrative and the emotion intended.

But still as you said it is subjective, I feel the way sound works in a cinema psychologically as well as aesthetically is beyond the effect that creates an immersive experience. The very existence of sound is immersive enough at times.

Lastly, the doubt that kept on bothering us was that there is hardly any film these days which is mixed in mono, especially in India and hence the very reproduction of it was something we were not sure of even after knowing the centre channel would operate well in a 5.1 theatre.

But as you mentioned a good quality mono mix will work is encouraging.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Sep 03, 2018 12:36 pm

sha_walia wrote:Just to make things clear I am the director of the film.

;-) Then you will know what impression you are trying to create!

I mean it works when Tom Cruise zooms his motorcycle from a terrace and you get a sense of height in Atmos. That is immersive for sure. But for a film set in a middle class colony in a small state it might be an overkill. The very effect can make it immersive but can make the viewer distant from the narrative and the emotion intended.

It's just a tool and sure, it can be used to excite and surprise with flying motorcycles, or it can be used far more subtly to gently envelop, immerse, and involve... that's the skill of the sound mixer!

Lastly, the doubt that kept on bothering us was that there is hardly any film these days which is mixed in mono

Largely due to audience expectations. Few are made in black and white either... or in 4:3 frame formats for that matter... Moving outside the conventional norm is an artistic statement, and that';s clearly something you've thought a lot about.

I wish you all success with your film.

H
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby sha_walia » Mon Sep 03, 2018 5:42 pm

Hugh,

One more question, how to get a Dolby certification if its a single channel mix in a 5.1 wrapper. Can we have a Dolby certification for a mono mix.

You mentioned in one of your responses about it. Just need to have more clarity on this and is it worth it in that case.

Thanks.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:49 am

You'll need to contact your local Dolby office.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:51 pm

Even though this is a technical question I'll jump in with a non-technical observation. I'm not trying to start a philosophical debate or side track the original question.
I have worked on projects (as a composer),where the director and or producer seem to lose sight of the fact that if the music and sfx are doing their jobs as a supporting role then they almost disappear for the viewer. Mono, stereo, surround don't matter if we are taken on a wonderful journey. I only comment here because some film creators reach a point where they seem to lose confidence in their vision and look to music and sound to compensate somehow. If mono is part of the vision that's fantastic and I too wish you every success!
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby resistorman » Thu Sep 06, 2018 4:06 am

Put the same information on every channel.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Kwackman » Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:44 pm

resistorman wrote:Put the same information on every channel.
If you do, doesn't that mean someone sitting near the back of the cinema will hear the dialog from behind them. Also, if you were sitting near the front but (for example) to the right side, the dialog will seem to come from the right speaker (as it's the closest) but the person speaking is visually to the left/centre.
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Re: Mono in Contemporary Scenario

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:28 pm

Yep.
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