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Calibrating for 5.1 surround mixing and bass management

From: Audio for Film and Video with Pro Tools

Video: Calibrating for 5.1 surround mixing and bass management

In this movie we'll address calibrating your 5.1 monitor system and how to effectively base manage so you're hearing what your audience will hear. We will be using the Wave 360 plug-in suite, an industry-standard tool for software-based management. The concept of calibrating the 5 surround monitors is very similar to the stereo calibrations concept we learned in the stereo levels calibration video. You still need an SPL meter set to c weighting slow response and you will play pink noise out of each speaker to measure it. So here we'd set our Tones track to output first on the Output.L, the first channel, and we play the pink noise.

Calibrating for 5.1 surround mixing and bass management

In this movie we'll address calibrating your 5.1 monitor system and how to effectively base manage so you're hearing what your audience will hear. We will be using the Wave 360 plug-in suite, an industry-standard tool for software-based management. The concept of calibrating the 5 surround monitors is very similar to the stereo calibrations concept we learned in the stereo levels calibration video. You still need an SPL meter set to c weighting slow response and you will play pink noise out of each speaker to measure it. So here we'd set our Tones track to output first on the Output.L, the first channel, and we play the pink noise.

(Buzzing, white noise) And we'd use our SPL meter to calibrate the output of that speaker. Remember, you want to calibrate at 85 dBSPL for large film style mix in a large room, 82 for a small mixing room for a film mix, and 78 or 79 for small mixing rooms when you're mixing for DVD, internet or broadcast. So you're going to go through each speaker. First you do Output Left, then Output Center. Then you're going to do Right, Left Surround, and Right Surround and you will do each one and you will calibrate them to the same reading on the SPL meter.

All speakers should register an equal level on SPL meter except in the case of if you are doing a straight to film mix on a large mix stage. In that case, you want the two surround speakers to be calibrated 3 decibels lower than the other speakers. Otherwise, all monitors should be calibrated equally. When you're calibrating the two surround speaker monitors, the left surround and the right surround, make sure you turn 90 degrees of the speaker you're calibrating so you don't block the sounds with your body. Also, you're going to want to aim the meter at the wall closest to the speaker you're calibrating. Now, what about that .1 of our 5.1 speaker channels? This is where it gets a little confusing.

First, let's make sure we understand the discrepancy between the LFE or Low-Frequency Effect channel and the concept of a subwoofer. Although both concepts use the same big deep sounding speaker, they're actually different concepts altogether. The LFE in surround mixing is a separate and discrete channel containing only low-frequency sounds directly routed to that .1 channel. In this session, for example, we have one of our effects tracks, FX.LFE, routed directly to that LFE channel and it's feeding only that speaker and it would contain only low-frequency content.

In large movie theaters all of the normal speaker monitors, the 5 and the 5.1, can handle a full range of sound from the lowest to the highest in frequency. So the job of the LFE channel is to send low-frequency sounds to that additional low-frequency speaker when thunderous rumble type effects are needed. It's an additional low-frequency effect channel. The concept of the subwoofer came into play when people wanted home surround systems. The 5 regular satellite speakers of our consumer systems don't go down frequency-wise as low as theater speakers.

So to counteract this, consumer systems automatically cross over and send any frequency below 80 hertz from the whole mix to the subwoofer. So in consumer systems not only does the subwoofer contain LFE channel sound from our .1 channel, but also any sound from the whole mix under 80 hertz is being sent there as well. If we monitor in our mix room with full range speakers, we don't know what effect this can have. So we have to use something called base management when we monitor our surround mixes.

This will emulate a home system so we know we're getting if we mix for that type of venue. The Waves 360 Surround Manager makes this setup and monitoring easy through a software plug-in. Here is how to set up and use it. So here in our master track I am going to instantiate the Waves 360 plug-in on the last insert. So this is the very last thing that is being heard from our project. So I am going to put-in the M360 Manager and here it is. So it has a lot of different settings and we want to first take care of making sure that the base management is actually happening.

Now, notice it defaults to 80 hertz, which is where we want it, and we just want to make sure that it's turned on for all 6 of our channels. So to do that, there is this All button here. Click that and we can see everything lights up. So we've got the crossover system happening. The next thing we want to do is actually calibrate the base management for each channel. So we are going to start by setting our tones track to output through the center channel only, so Output.C. Then we're going to mute all of our channels except for the center channel on the Wave 360.

Then we are going to solo the subwoofer. So that way we are getting just the sub-reading as it's being pumped through the center channel. Remember, the base management takes each channel's information, crosses it over, and sends it to the sub. At this point, we are going to play the pink noise and we are going to turn up the sub until our SPL meter reads 6 decibels lower than our calibration. So if we calibrated our room to 79 for example, then we want the subwoofer reading on our meter to read 73.

So I am going to play pink noise and I am going to turn up the Send to Sub until I'm getting a reading of 73 on my SPL meter. It's going to differ for every system, but it's usually around -6 when we hear that. Then we're going to repeat this step for every channel. So we are going to go ahead and mute the center channel, unmute the left channel, send our tones output to the left channel.

Again, keeping the sub soloed and we are going to go ahead and play this and we are going to bring this up until it reaches 73 on our SPL meter. They're going to be pretty close, all of these, as we go, but we do want to do each channel one at a time. So now we've gone through and we've set all 5 of our satellite speakers to send to the sub and we've calibrated. In this case, all of them ended up about -6 in terms of reading 73 on our meter since our main calibration was set to 79 and now our subwoofer has been calibrated.

So we are going to unmute the Sub and we are going to unmute the rest of these tracks and now we need to calibrate the LFE. We are going to solo the LFE channel in this case and we are going to adjust it up starting at a starting place of +10. So see where it says LFE Adjust down here, we have a couple of options. If I keep clicking on it, I get -10, I get +10, or Off. We are actually going to go above +10 dB setting for our LFE and the reason for this is because since it contains less frequency content than regular speakers, it's normal to calibrate your LFE 10 decibels higher on your SPL meter than the satellite speaker.

So when we set this to +10 and we sent tone for example out just our LFE speaker, it should read somewhere between 89 and 92. In this case, we calibrate it at 79, so it should read about 89 on our SPL meter through our subwoofer. Then you can have some fine adjustment here. If it's a little short or a little loud, you can bring it down a little bit with this fine adjustment on LFE Gain. But this is a pretty normal setting to have. It'd just be 10 decibels louder than your other speakers.

Again, that's because it has less frequency content. So at this point once we've gone through and calibrated our Send to Sub and we've put our crossover in there and then we've adjusted our LFE above, the base manager is properly based managing and as long as the plug-in is set on the last channel of our master fader we are hearing what we would hear on a consumer system. So we are doing the base management as we mix. Now, of course at any time during your mix you can go ahead and bypass this to hear without the base management just the full straight up 5.1 mix.

If you are mixing with DVD or home systems in mind, this gives you a way to hear what your end audience is hearing. Now remember before you do your final print mastering you want to take this plug-in off, because this is only for monitoring purposes. You don't want to process your final mix through this. What else can this 360 manager do? It can do some other cool things to help you monitor and surround. As you probably know some control rooms and the architecture of some rooms make it so that you can't have the perfect setup of all your speakers.

So in the case of like if your center speaker had to be a little closer than you wanted it or a little farther away, you actually can delay in terms of milliseconds so to get the time aligning of your speakers properly. You can compensate for that in the 360 Manager. Like if your left surround and right surround aren't at the optimum angle of +110 and -110 degrees you can actually compensate for that to how they actually are in your room. So this is a very useful tool. If you're serious about calibrating your surround monitors, you're going to want to use this kind of software to get the best calibration.

But most importantly, with this base management this tool allows you to hear the low frequencies as your target audiences will, which is incredibly important as you're mixing.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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Audio for Film and Video with Pro Tools

51 video lessons · 8855 viewers

Scott Hirsch
Author

 
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  1. 6m 13s
    1. Welcome
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      40s
    3. Using this course with Pro Tools 10
      1m 57s
    4. Relinking audio files
      2m 33s
  2. 18m 37s
    1. Understanding the new audio for video features in Pro Tools 9
      5m 17s
    2. Exploring the hardware requirements for Pro Tools 9
      5m 19s
    3. Understanding the audio components of a finished video
      5m 22s
    4. Understanding the audio production workflow
      2m 39s
  3. 25m 10s
    1. Understanding video formats, SMPTE timecode rates, NTSC, and PAL
      6m 21s
    2. Understanding video formats, codecs, and pull-up/pull-down
      5m 16s
    3. Setting up your Pro Tools session for video
      8m 44s
    4. Exporting OMF and AAF files
      4m 49s
  4. 32m 14s
    1. Importing OMF and AAF files
      8m 8s
    2. Importing and the DigiBase browser
      4m 0s
    3. Conforming the OMF import to your template
      6m 51s
    4. Setting up groups and windows
      6m 2s
    5. Spotting film and using markers
      7m 13s
  5. 52m 55s
    1. Organizing the dialog tracks
      5m 0s
    2. Optimizing the dialog in the first pass
      4m 30s
    3. Using room tone
      4m 10s
    4. Creating fades to smooth out audio edits
      5m 4s
    5. Understanding sound effects, ambiences, and backgrounds
      7m 12s
    6. Sweetening and hard effects
      6m 52s
    7. Processing tips for sound effects
      8m 46s
    8. Bringing emotion to the mix with music tracks
      5m 33s
    9. Leveraging clip-based gain in Pro Tools 10
      2m 51s
    10. Exploring AudioSuite enhancements in Pro Tools 10
      2m 57s
  6. 15m 29s
    1. Preparing the session for foley and ADR recording
      9m 19s
    2. Recording ADR and editing with VocALign LE
      6m 10s
  7. 45m 5s
    1. Noise-reducing hums, rumbles, and buzzes
      8m 11s
    2. Eliminating crackles and digital clicks
      5m 30s
    3. Taming plosives and sibilance
      6m 10s
    4. Reducing broadband noise
      9m 26s
    5. Conforming to video changes
      8m 36s
    6. Pitch shifting for effect or utility, TC expansion
      7m 12s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Setting up for stereo mixing
      5m 11s
    2. Calibrating levels using an SPL meter
      7m 2s
    3. Mixing with automation
      11m 4s
    4. Advanced mix automation
      8m 0s
    5. Automating plug-in parameters
      9m 22s
    6. Mixing with reverb
      7m 20s
    7. Ducking techniques
      8m 20s
  9. 42m 4s
    1. Setting up a surround mix template
      11m 14s
    2. Calibrating for 5.1 surround mixing and bass management
      9m 2s
    3. Mixing and spatial techniques for 5.1 surround
      14m 9s
    4. Downmixing, encoding, and using Neyrinck plug-ins
      3m 38s
    5. Automating techniques for 5.1 surround mixes
      4m 1s
  10. 10m 6s
    1. Print mastering and stem mixes
      5m 47s
    2. Mastering delivery levels and dynamics
      4m 19s
  11. 5m 29s
    1. Backing up your final project
      5m 29s
  12. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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