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Surround mixing has rapidly gone from being a big budget-only practice to something, in my opinion, even the smallest project should be a tempting. In this video we'll go over the specifics of the hardware, monitor arrangement, and I/O setup for a 5.1 surround signal flow. The first consideration for any surround mixing setup is the hardware. You have to have the available outputs on your hardware interface, which would be six for a 5.1 mix. You also have to have five full range speaker monitors and one LFE or Low Frequency speaker or subwoofer.
Here's the proper way to configure those speaker monitors. You should have a center speaker at 0 degrees from the mixing position, right in front, and the right speaker should be 30 degrees off axis from that. And going around, the right surround speakers should be 110 degrees from zero position. These speakers should be ideally placed around the periphery of a circle, so that each speaker is indetented in a little bit, angled towards the next position. And then finally we have our LFE speaker, which we just place somewhere in the room.
It's not as directional as the other speakers. We just need to find a good spot for the LFE speaker in the room where it doesn't incur any standing waves or low-frequency problems. How these speakers connect to which outputs of your hardware can also be tricky. By default, Pro Tools configures its surround tracks and meters in this order. Channel 1 Left, Channel 2 Center, Channel 3 Right, Channel 4 Left surround, Channel 5 Right surround, and Channel 6 LFE. Now this would be great if all people using surround stuck to this convention.
But unfortunately, the SMPTE standard and the ITU recommendation specifies that the track order and layout should actually go like this. Channel 1 Left, Channel 2 Right, Channel 3 Center, Channel 4 LFE, Channel 5 Left surround, and Channel 6 Right surround. In reality it also turns out that this way works best for most studios since Channel 1 and 2 are normally your left and right speakers when you aren't working in surround. And that's how they are here. Channel 1 is Left, Channel 2 is Right. Let's go into Pro Tools and take a look at this.
First thing we're going to want to do when we setup for surround is go into our I/O setup. That way we can configure which speakers are going to which outputs on our hardware and all of our internal busing as well. So let's go up to Setup > I/O. Here down at the bottom we have the 5.1 Path Order. This is what I was just referring to, and the default for Pro Tools is to have Left Center Right, so Channel 2 is Center, Channel 3 is Right, and so on. And the SMPTE/ITU recommendation has Left and Right as 1, 2, and Center as 3, and so on.
We're going to actually stick to the SMPTE recommendation for the remainder of this course, so that way we can hear our left and right speakers. Since we're listening in stereo, they'll actually be the appropriate outputs, Left and Right. So we're going to leave that there. And we're going to go over to our Output tab. We configured right now in this I/O setup for our stereo output, 1 and 2 go to Left and Right. We need to make a surround output so that we can get the sound to out to our surround speakers. So the first thing we're going to do is create a new path and this one is going to be 1 new 5.1 Output, and we hit Create.
It shows up down at the bottom here. And it's going to be using again the first available six outputs. So we're actually going to have to take off or disable the first six outputs that we are normally using and when we go into this field, we get a pencil. And now that we have the pencil, if I click once, it's going to lay out our speakers in the order that we specified in a 5.1 path order. So we have Channel 1 Left, Channel 2 Right, Channel 3 is our Center speaker, Channel 4 is our LFE, Channel 5 is our Left surround, and Channel 6 is our Right surround.
Again, we have to disable the first regular six stereo outputs to make way for this 5.1 output. Next we want to configure our buses to accommodate some of the surround routing. Because we're going to have a dialogue bus, an FX bus, and a music bus, and we want all three of those take advantage of our surround signal routing, we're going to make three surround buses. So let's make new path, let's say 3, and let's say three 5.1 buses. So it'll create those.
they're going to be all over down at the bottom here. And there is our three 5.1 buses. So let's go ahead and name the first one by double-clicking there, DX BUS. That's our dialogue surround bus. And let's go ahead and name the second one, FX BUS, our effects bus. Third one, MX BUS. That's our music bus. And you can see the format for all three of those is 5.1. We're going to actually not always want our dialogue to be going out in all six of our surround channels.
In fact, most of our dialogues are only going to go through the Center channel. So in that case, we need to make some sub paths. So we're going to select the dialogue bus, and we're going to say New Subpath, we're actually going to go ahead and make seven subpaths, and you'll see why in a second. So let's click this a few more times. It's two, three, four, five, six, seven. So now we can assign these seven subpaths to the various combinations of our outputs. So for the first one, we're going to make this a Left Center Right so it'll take advantage of LCR.
That's going to be just in the front of the audience there. The second one, we're going to do just a Stereo so that'll be, if I click in here, it's going not be just Left and Right. The rest of them are going to be Mono. So we're just going to say Mono, Mono, Mono, Mono, and Mono. And that way we can have one of our paths be Left only, one of our paths be Center only, one of our paths be Right, Left surround, and Right surround. We probably won't be sending any dialogue to the LFE, so I'm leaving that out of our sub-paths at this time.
Now here is a really cool trick to name all these paths so they're not just generic names. Once we get these all made, double- click on the dialogue bus as if we're going to rename it but then just hit Return, and there you go. It actually automatically put that name in front of all of our subpaths. So we're going to go on and we're going to create the similar thing for the FX Bus. On the FX Bus we're going to give even more options of subpaths, so let's select the FX Bus, and this time we're going to make nine sub-paths. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.
And we're going to give more options here. We're going to do a one that's 5.0. No LFE. We're going to do a one that's LCR, so it's Left Center Right. We're going to do a one that's Stereo, and then we're going to do a Mono one for all the rest, but we'll include the LFE as well. Okay, double-click here, hit Return. It automatically names them. And the music bus finally. We're going to click that and we're going to make three sub-paths for the music.
Click that three times. We want one of them to be 5.0, and one of them to be Stereo, and we'll make an LCR one as well for the music, just in case we need it. I am going to name them. When we hit OK, we've locked in all of our outputs. Now it's time to route our tracks to all these fancy buses we just made. So we're going to go ahead and make three auxs to return our dialogue bus, our effects bus, and our music bus to, and those are going to be surround.
So those will be 5.1 and we're going to say Aux input and we're going to make 3. Again, we'll name these DX Bus, and Command+Right Arrow, Tab over, FX Bus, and MX Bus. Great! As you can see, each of these buses has five meters, meaning that it's a surround output. We actually want to assign their output to that 5.1 output we created, and they're actually already assigned there by default because that's the only surround output that we have.
So now it's time to route the tracks. So like I said, most of our dialogue is going to be center, so let's go almost all except for the last two. We'll Shift+Select and we're going to hold Option+Shift or Alt+Shift just to assign a group of these at once. And let's assign these to-- If I go to bus menu b, I can see in my dialogue bus I have DX BUS.C, so that's our center mono output. So we've bused those all to the center. If you look on the next window here, you'll notice none of those tracks have a pan fader.
Remember, they're just going through that center bus. But the last two, we're going to make LCR. So let's Shift+Select those, go into the outputs, and let's choose bus > bus menu b > Dialogue Bus.LCR, and so that one does get a fader. If I look in the Mix window, we do have a fader and this will be fading from Left to Center to Right. Now for our FX tracks, we're going to put almost all of our FX tracks to the full 5.1 bus, with the exception of two of the tracks which I'll get to in a second.
So, we're going to hold Option+Shift for these and we're going to put them on bus > bus menu b > FX BUS, just in the 5.1. So for these guys, they're going to get the cool surround pan right in the middle there because they have access to all six of the surround outputs. Now the only other thing I want to do is I want to take two of these mono buses here, Mono 4 and Mono 5, and we're just going to make these go strictly to the LFE. So if we have like rumble or thunder sound, we're going to just going to pump this right into the LFE.
So we're going to go Option+Shift and we'll go to our output here under bus > bus menu b, and this one will just go straight to the LFE. So that'll actually just be a mono, and we should probably name these FX.LFE or thunder or something that we know that designates them as just our LFE-only tracks. Finally, we have our music. We have two music tracks. let's send one to the full 5.1 music bus, and we'll send the next one just to a stereo bus. And this all might change once we get into the mix, but we're just kind of setting our template up so that it's all ready to go in our Mix window and tracks that are assigned to the right place.
So at this stage, what we can do is just to clean up and finish up here we can go back to our I/O setup and we might want to export these settings so that we can get back to them later, so we can call this like My surround setup. Again, this is a process you'll need it to really do once. So once you save this as a setting, you can bring this into any session. So save it something like that. Also we can save this template we made as a template. So we might want to go in here and say Save As Template and we'll put this in our Post Production category and we'll call it My surround template.
So for the first time in Pro Tools 9, all versions of Pro Tools software support surround mixing. So getting familiar and customizing your I/O setup is an important first step into diving into surround mixing.
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