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Your surround mixes might sound great in your 5.1 equipped studio, but with all the flexibility of Pro Tools, you might need to work on them when a six channel speaker setup just isn't possible. Downmixing is the concept of folding down your 5.1 mixes into less channels. In this movie we'll explore how to take a 6-channel surround mix and downmix it to monitor and stereo using the Neyrinck surround tool that come with a complete production toolkit. The mix of this project has a few surround mix moves going on in it. If you wanted to listen in two channel stereo like we are now, we would miss some of the surround mix moves that are happening.
For example, in this crash scene we've got one of the crash sounds we've enhanced with surround reverb. Right now we are just listening to stereo and if I play it back, we miss it. Let me solo the track and let's hear it. (Crash!) So all we hear is just the left/right component, but I'm not hearing any reverb and surround. Of course~ Because we don't have surround speakers set up and we're just listening to it and left/right stereo, but with downmixing we can fold our 5.1 mix into the stereo mix.
So we can hear everything even over just our left and right speakers or headphones. So here's how you downmix. On the master fader we're going to insert a plug-in. It's under of the Sound field tab and it's called the Sound Code Stereo and this pops open the tool. It's a pretty simple tool here. Again, it's doing the downmix algorithm inside. Basically, you have some controls over your Left, Right, your Center, your Left Surround, and Right Surround, and your LFE. There are a couple of defaults in here that you can bring up.
The Dolby Digital Default, and that's just going to encode like Dolby Digital would as if it was downmixing to surround. But again this is not encoding. This is just making it so that we can monitor through our stereo headphones. So you can set these however it seems appropriate for your setup. You wanted to hear the LFE you can bring that in. You could make the Center and Left Surround channels even. We will leave it as this for now and let's take a listen. So now if I play this back, we should be able to hear that reverb that we weren't hearing before, because it's in the surround speakers.
So that's being downmixed. So in that track we hear just that effect and here we go. (Crash!) So you heard the reverb and that was only in the surround channels, but because we're downmixing the downmixer did its job and we're hearing it. There is also a number of ways to deliver a multi-channel mix like a 5.1 mix as a stereo pair, for broadcast or DVD creation. This is called encoding the mix from 5.1 to stereo. Then the mix can be decoded on a broadcast end.
This Neyrinck tool doesn't do encoding and decoding, but they do make one that does. It's called the Stereo Tool LtRt and here's the slide of it. And it looks very similar, but this tool actually does the encoding as a real time or AudioSuite plug-in. We can encode a 5.1 mix using Dolby 2 technology. Dolby 2 is a way of encoding a 6- channel surround mix into stereo. So it can be later re-up converted back to six channels on the broadcast end. Also, on the ultra high-end some broadcasters and theatrical film houses require audio to be encoded as Dolby E. Neyrinck also sells and rents this service is as a plug-in for Pro Tools.
So down mixing is another one of those technical considerations that exists kind of outside your creative choices for a mix. But that said, any good engineer mixing in surround has to be aware of these concepts and delivery specifications. Otherwise, all those creative efforts that you worked on to make your slamming surround mix happen won't be heard by the masses.
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