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5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 21, 2019 11:24 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
The Elf wrote:It would be fascinating to hear the approaches that TV mixers take with 5.1 - one for the mag?

I have discussed how 5.1 mixes are made in previous articles on the making of Later with Jools, and The Proms
I suppose I was thinking more along the lines of Coronation Street, where those guys have to deliver the goods day n, day out, and must have some tight standards.
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue May 21, 2019 11:35 am

Sorry, I don't know anything about the way they do the sound in Corrie, and I've not listened to it in surround -- I'll check it out when I next get a chance.

But with a show like that, it's a more-or-less fixed rig, experienced crew, well-known sets, and pretty standard drama shoot process, so easier to come up with something that generates a reasonable surround sound effect reliably, despite the tight schedules and fast turnarounds.

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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue May 21, 2019 12:44 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Slightly off topic but I have wondered (and, IIRC, asked the question before) about the content of the centre speaker signal. I assume it is mostly dialogue? I'm 66 and my hearing is undergoing age related deterioration, Many films and TV drama's have the background, ambience and music set at levels that make the dialogue difficult to hear if you no longer have 20 year old ears, would mixing the centre speaker signal into the stereo mix (I have no desire to adopt surround sound at home) increase the relative level of the dialogue?
A fascinating question!

I am right now as we speak, adapting a series of short stories to a screenplay. Most of the page-space is taken up by direction. The first three pages are almost totally direction - i.e. no dialogue!

I take the view that dialogue is just vague noise. It's part of the sound design and not necessary to tell the story at all! The characters may speak a bit, but what they say is just the usual social noises people make "Come in!" "There you are!" "Hello!" Goodbye!" "Why does it hurt when I pee?" stuff like that.

Yes, the dialogue usually comes from the centre speaker and I personally take the view that you should be able to switch off the centre speaker and still be able to follow the film. If you have to lay a load of pipe (create the plot) through dialogue, then there is something wrong with your story.

Obviously, you sometimes have to give some pipe-laying to the dialogue in the same way that they had to occasionally use 'intertitle' text frames in silent movies. In those cases, it should be clear and underscored by the action.

That's all fine and dandy for a movie. We usually have a wide 'Cinemascope' format and the whole story should be more like a dream or a piece of music. A movie should be like a visual poem (IMO).

TV ain't like that and the people who make TV dramas do not (usually) think like that. TV sets are often nasty little things and the audio is stereo at best. Most TV is little better than radio with pictures. And because budgets are constrained and TV is really a 9-5 daily grind, you can't spend all week shooting a rain-soaked action scene of Mrs MacWirter getting lost on the moors.

Because TV is just radio with pictures, we give the act of telling the audience that Mrs MacWirter is lost on the moors to the dialogue. The problem there is, not every member of the audience is going to hear that statement. Some may be Mutt-n-Jeff, some may have just gone to the loo and others are away, getting a beer out of the fridge or just not paying attention.

Sometimes people ask if I miss my days in television - do I hell! It's a daily grind. It's not an adventure like a movie. Come in Monday, script conference, read-through. Tuesday walk-through. Wednesday rehearsals. Thursday rehearsals. Friday dress rehearsals and taping. Monday script conference and read through . . .

Rinse, repeat, retire and die!

This sausage-factory method of churning out third-rate guff like Eastenders hardly lends itself to the creation of great art.

But things are changing. Netflix has just signed up to use 15,000 sqm of studio space at Pinewood for £6m p.a. over 10 years and is said to be out shopping for UK production companies it can swallow. It promises to bring film quality products to television.

At the same time, TV sets are getting bigger, the images are getting better as more and more stuff is shown in HD or UHD and sound systems are getting better.

With a bit of luck, we should be able to see Mrs MacWirter getting lost on the moors!
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Korff » Tue May 21, 2019 12:56 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:If you have to lay a load of pipe (create the plot) through dialogue, then there is something wrong with your story.

lol, I completely agree — but apparently lots of AAA movie-makers don't! So much Hollywood crap is littered with explanatory dialogue that's only there for the benefit of slow Joe in the back row.

"What's that, Skippy? Jim fell down the old mineshaft??"
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue May 21, 2019 1:00 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Sorry, I don't know anything about the way they do the sound in Corrie, and I've not listened to it in surround -- I'll check it out when I next get a chance.
Despite having worked on that dreadful programme back in the B&W 405 days (around 49BC) I can honestly say that I have never seen a single episode.

The idea of not only watching that bilge but listening to it in surround sound makes me feel singularly nauseous!
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue May 21, 2019 1:05 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:But things are changing.

I sense some rose-tinted spectacles there, Mr R. B. :lol:

The only thing that's really changed is that companies like Netflix and Amazon and Sky have managed to find ways of fleecing their audiences for a lot of money on a regular monthly drip. And, not surprisingly, that's allowed them to make (some of) their TV 'properly' and in a way that the cash-strapped BBC, ITV, and others haven't been able to do for a long time.

There's no rocket science here: throw bit pots of money at it and its easy to find great scriptwriters, actors, directors, skilled crews, fantastic locations, and all the post-production you could possibly want...

The really interesting thing will be whether the mass audience will be prepared to continue to pay multiple providers at the current levels, and whether there will be any significant take-up of largely pointless technologies like UHD and immersive sound in the domestic environment (although the manufacturers may well force that by not offering equipment without -- but only if they can get the retail prices down).

Personally, I have serious doubts -- as I did with 3DTV and was proven right very quickly. But then I'm old and grey and fat and wrinkly and -- as that lovely Mr Birt once told me -- 'tainted by experience' ... so what do I know? :D
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue May 21, 2019 1:27 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:But things are changing. Netflix has just signed up to use 15,000 sqm of studio space at Pinewood for £6m p.a. over 10 years and is said to be out shopping for UK production companies it can swallow.

A friend just got a job at one of the largest studio spaces in Toronto. She said Netflix is trying to get yearly lockouts of the big studios around the world, to the detriment of all other film + tv producers. Could this be world domination through control of a limited resource? (My thoughts).
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby Dave B » Tue May 21, 2019 1:44 pm

It’s worth risking a conversation with Chevvytraveller about tv sound - he works in broadcast sand has fairly .. ahem .. forthright.. views on the subject. :mrgreen:

It seems that many programmes may well have a great mix when they leave the production team, but the distribution platforms (and choices about what mix to use) make a considerable difference to the end result. So, maybe a more interesting question is to whether the surround mix is ‘optimised’ knowing that it may get altered on broadcast ...
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby Brian M Rose » Tue May 21, 2019 1:57 pm

I don't know if anyone was at a BBC presentation several years ago, about the technical requirements for HDTV Drama. It was requested that at least stereo front, and rear be recorded for all Drama production.
One very experienced and cynical recordist questioned the need for the rear channel, but yes, that was a requirement.
"Well, I suppose that takes care of the Genny and tea wagon.' he remarked. :headbang:
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby blinddrew » Tue May 21, 2019 2:21 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The only thing that's really changed is that companies like Netflix and Amazon and Sky have managed to find ways of fleecing their audiences for a lot of money on a regular monthly drip. And, not surprisingly, that's allowed them to make (some of) their TV 'properly' and in a way that the cash-strapped BBC, ITV, and others haven't been able to do for a long time.
And they're starting to run a real risk here of too much fragmentation. If you make acquiring content legally and cheaply too difficult for consumers they will either find 'other' ways, or just stop watching altogether.
Which is something I can see happening and would be a massive shame. :(
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue May 21, 2019 2:33 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:And, not surprisingly, that's allowed them to make (some of) their TV 'properly' and in a way that the cash-strapped BBC, ITV, and others haven't been able to do for a long time.
That's the BBC that spent £200,000 in 2017 on booking taxis, trains, and hotel bookings which were later cancelled and left unused.

That's the BBC that has just spent £47m on a street set for Eastenders.

That's the BBC that spends less than half of its money on programmes.

That's the BBC that spent £1bn, yes one whole billion pounds building New Broadcasting House!

That's the BBC that spends about £5m p.a. on management consultants.

That's the BBC that has just spent £30m setting up a new Scottish HD channel that they forgot to commission any programmes for and as a result, dipped down to just 4,000 viewers for its main news programme. That's £7,500 for each and every pair of eyes!
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 21, 2019 3:05 pm

It's easy to be a bit sniffy about soaps (and I don't watch them myself, I should admit), but you have to have respect for the people that manage to get them out there on time, every time.

And if you were part of that history, then respect to you too! :thumbup:
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby CS70 » Tue May 21, 2019 3:16 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:The only thing that's really changed is that companies like Netflix and Amazon and Sky have managed to find ways of fleecing their audiences for a lot of money on a regular monthly drip. And, not surprisingly, that's allowed them to make (some of) their TV 'properly' and in a way that the cash-strapped BBC, ITV, and others haven't been able to do for a long time.

Not sure why "fleecing"? I am a Netflix customer and I dont feel fleeced at all. I barely notice the outlay, and I have 4 quite active concurrent viewers most of the time. The price/performance to me seems perfectly sensible.

So long Netflix pays its content creators properly (unlike the Spotifies or other audio streamers), it's doing just the right thing - like cinema used to do, selling relatively inexpensive tickets in very high volumes.

And while at start I basically got Netflix because my older son wanted it, I've come to appreciate the incredibly well done productions that they have been making in the last few years - which brought me to expand the subscription to, as said, four people and even, occasionally, watch some production myself.

Great content viewed by an high volume of people, each paying relatively little: what's wrong with that?
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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue May 21, 2019 3:42 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:That's the BBC that spends less than half of its money on programmes.

I'm the last one to defend the BBC's profligacy, having seen much of it at first hand. However, some of the costs you cite aren't anywhere nearly as exceptional or wasteful as they might appear to the uninformed and the infrastructure costs do have very long life cycles to amortise the investment.

Plus, a very big chunk of 'its money' -- meaning the Licence Fee income -- is actually spent propping up all sorts of other bits of the broadcast and film industry in the UK and elsewhere, as well as covering a variety of social and political expenditures which should be -- and were originally -- paid for by HMG... like World Service, Caversham, and pensioner's licenses etc.

And don't get me started on external consultants! Pointless money-extraction exercises to satisfy the demand for 'compliance'.

While it doesn't do itself any favours sometimes, the BBC is also a victim of a wide range of politically motivated policies which have induce crippling expenditures. Like having to pay third parties to operate the transmission networks that it once owned and ran in-house.... and so much more besides... I could go on but life is too short.

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Re: 5.1 mixes that are really just botched up-mixes!

Postby The Red Bladder » Tue May 21, 2019 3:45 pm

The Elf wrote:And if you were part of that history, then respect to you too! :thumbup:
I was just a lowly goffer!

Those were the days! The cameras didn't sync, so there had to be a 5-second break on every switch and the tape had to be physically cut into the black-burst to make the picture sync. This was done using a sort of paint with magnetic filings so that one could see the magnetic stripes and the black-burst at the end of each frame.

Sometimes there wasn't the time to copy the tape over to a second tape for broadcast and that lead to the 'edited' tape breaking while on-air!

Tape was expensive, so the cut tape could be thrown away, but the play-out tape had to be wiped and used as the next cut tape and then was binned.

The newsroom studios upstairs had cameras that did sync! S1 and S2 had exactly and precisely three cameras between them, each with four prime lenses on a turret - no zoom in them days! Each camera cost about the same as a really nice house! The cameras had to be shuttled from studio to studio. Towards the end of B&W they were constantly breaking down and some shows had to be done using just two cameras!

The outdoor lot for Coronation Street was built at two-thirds size, so actors always had to stand away from the houses, otherwise, they would have appeared as giants! Granada's one and only OB truck did the CS exteriors at the two-thirds lot.

The 'street' in CS was also much smaller, so any cars driving past could only do so one at a time!

Aside from the tiny upstairs newsroom, there were just two studios, cunningly labelled Studio One and Studio Two. Studio Two was large, about 500 sqm and did University Challenge, Nice Time and other audience shows. Studio One was just there for CS and was about 150 sqm, tiny by today's standards!

Each set in S1 was tiny. The pub was just two tables, some chairs and about three meters of the bar and that was it. Next to that was a living room and a wobbly staircase. The top of the stairs lead nowhere and the door at the top was not practical, so actors could only be shown coming down or going up, but never opening that door!

There were other interiors around the studio, at least six and they were dressed differently to become different rooms. There was a collection of stairs and other props like doors and fireplaces and plastic flowers in the outside hallway that were wheeled in and out to change one interior into another.

The canteen was one of the worst I have experienced anywhere - but we did have Bacon's 'Pope' in reception for a while! It was large and really stunning.
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