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Surround mixing

From: Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

Video: Surround mixing

Surround sound is now supported in Pro Tools LE 8, with the addition of the complete production toolkit. If you are fortunate enough to have the tool kit in the interface that supports at least 6 outs, you can set your system up to mix and surround. So, again the requirements to enable 7.1 surround sound in your I/O setup are the complete production toolkit, but above that you need an interface that supports enough outputs, discrete outputs, to feed the surround sound speaker setup. So, if you have an inbox, there is only two outputs.

Surround mixing

Surround sound is now supported in Pro Tools LE 8, with the addition of the complete production toolkit. If you are fortunate enough to have the tool kit in the interface that supports at least 6 outs, you can set your system up to mix and surround. So, again the requirements to enable 7.1 surround sound in your I/O setup are the complete production toolkit, but above that you need an interface that supports enough outputs, discrete outputs, to feed the surround sound speaker setup. So, if you have an inbox, there is only two outputs.

You are not going to be able to feed 6 speakers. So, you are going to need something like an inbox Pro for 5.1. If you want to do 7 in 1, you are going to need a 002, 003 or something like that. Now, you're also going to need speakers and some sort of volume management system. A surround sound speaker setup presents some additional challenges in that you need to have all of the speakers connected to some sort of monitor control that supports a surround sound environment. Generally, on the front of your 003 or your inbox, you have a monitor control but that's a stereo level control.

You're going to need something that can control the level of 6 speakers together. So, there is a lot of options out there. Just consider that when are you sort of thinking about setting up a surround sound mixing environment. Now, to setup Pro Tools and the mixer to extend the mix and the surround, what you can do is an I/O setup, setup I/O. In the Output tab, I can add a new surround sound path. So, I can define this path as a surround sound output. So, I'll call this surround and I'll assign that to some additional outputs on my interface.

Now, how this is mapped out is going to correspond to how you need to connect your speakers to the back of your interface. So, if 3 is left and 4 is center, you need to make sure that's how you are connecting them. Otherwise, the Surround Panner inside the software is not going to direct the signal to the right speaker. Now, once you have the I/O setup correctly, you can now begin putting components of your mix to the rear speakers by sending them out to the surround outputs.

Now, by selecting the output and choosing your surround bus, you can extend that into the rear speakers. Once you assign the surround output, you are going to get the surround panning matrix that you can pull up, which is going to allow you to place a track in the surround field. Now, you probably want to create a Master Fader to monitor your surround output, so I can choose a new 5.1 Master Fader and that's going to get assigned to my surround sound output.

Now, the reason we create this Master Fader again is to make sure we are not clipping that output but also what we can do is we can place an EQ, where we are able to using a multi-mono EQ filter the LFE or the Low Frequency Effect. By unlinking the multi-mono EQ, I can choose the LFE channel and I can filter the output of my subwoofer channel so that no high frequency is going into that. And generally, a surround sound system is going to do that anyways but sometimes let's say you're playing back DVD audio, sometimes the DVD player will fold the low frequency effect back into just the stereo left and right speakers and so it's a good idea to filter all of that stuff out if the surround sound channel isn't going to use.

Now, some basic surround mixing strategies. If you are mixing surround and music, remember to think about how people listen to music. So, what I would like to do is first mix in stereo, get that sounding right and then possibly extend some of the components into the rears. So, I'm leaving most things static upfront. You know, think about how you watch a band. Do you stand in the middle of the stage with the band around you? Or do you typically stand out in front of the band, looking at the band? And you know, be creative but things panning around in space and whirling around your head, that's great for the movies but generally in a music context, we want to be a bit more subtle with that.

So, think about just sort of extending maybe the tails of your reverbs or the tails of your delay tracks or certain effects tracks into the rear speakers while most things are still upfront. Watch for phase problems with the center channel versus the left and the right. So, normally when we listen to music, we get a phantom center created by the left and right channels when things are panned and coming out equally from the left and right sides. But now when we are dealing with the center channel, we got to be very careful where we are replacing things in our mix.

The Surround Panner in Pro Tools has a center level control that you can use to adjust whether something will be or won't be in the center channel. And don't be afraid to just set certain tracks outputs just for that center channel and not in the left or right hand sides. Now, in terms of getting this mix out of Pro Tools, what you are going to get when you bounce to disk a surround session is discrete audio files. So, you are going to get an audio file for each speaker.

So, a left wave, a center wave, a right wave, left rear, right rear, LFE. Now, you are going to need to take that and put that into some sort of surround encoder and then burn that to some sort of medium that will work for you. There is a lot of software utilities out there on the market, if you just do a Google search for surround encoding, but know that Pro Tools stock, as it sits, will not encode anything into surround. So, if you want to go play it on your home theater system, it generally needs to be encoded into Adobe or a DTS format and then burned correctly to a DVD audio or a DVD video to play it back.

So, obviously this isn't meant to be a comprehensive look at surround mixing. That would take a whole other course but hopefully, I have given those with access to surround setup some inspiration and useful insights on surround mixing inside of Pro Tools.

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This video is part of

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Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

77 video lessons · 9130 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 39s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 24s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 8s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 22s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 48s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 22s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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