Scott covers the idea of mixing stems, or splits in addition to the full mix, and how to set up a session to accommodate delivering stems in multiple formats.
- [Instructor] In addition to your final mix, there's more to think about and plan for than just outputting the flattened stereo or surround mix. Stems are what we call the categorized, broken-out elements of your soundtrack and they can be broken out into three basic categories, dialogue, effects, and music. Notice I've put the common short form initials we like to call them in post-production lingo, DX, FX, and MX. These three categories cover the basics of any production.
A dialogue stem would contain any and all subjects or actors speaking and sound from the location or set. FX would contain sound effects, like added footsteps, explosions, and background sound. Music contains the score and any other music cues. Here is a Pro Tools session where auxiliary tracks have been set up to accommodate for these three stems, as well as the full mix. So we've got our DX stem, our FX stem, our MX stem for music, effects, and dialogue, and then we have our full mix output.
For a basic production by outputting these three stems, in addition to the full mix, the audio can be more flexible at a later time to accommodate future revisions. Re-edits are possible, as well as foreign language versions where the native language is removed and overdubbed in another language. Also music can be replaced if there are licensing or rights issues. With stems, this all becomes possible without going back to the original Pro Tools session or DAW. In short, the project becomes more future-proof than it would as just a flattened mix.
As you can imagine, some projects require many more different stem categories, more complex stems. Additional stems might be created for, say, voiceover narration, separating it from production dialogue. Also, you might have a separate stem for what we call nat sound, natural production sound without dialogue. Some stems might need to incorporate more than one stem into what we call an M&E, or music and effects combined stem.
You might also need to preserve music separately as what we call undipped, without volume changes. Now all of these stems can be planned for by knowing what the delivery requirements are up front for your project and then you can customize a template to accommodate these stem outputs. Let's take a look at a Pro Tools template that accounts for these additional more complex outputs. Here we have a Pro Tools session that accounts for many more stems to be output.
We have our full mix stem, our dialogue stem, our effects stem, our music stem, our nat sound stem, our narration stem, and our music undipped stem. As you can see, preparing for efficient stem deliveries can be time-consuming and complex. That's why, in the next few weeks, we'll be diving deep into building your own custom templates that you'll be able to effortlessly draw from. So you won't have to create these type of stem outputs from scratch every time you work on your projects.