Multiplatform delivery has brought its own set of issues for the mixer. The contract may call for 7.1 or 5.1 delivery, but also require a stereo mix. Then there are the issues around metadata, dialnorm and dynamics. The sound mixer may be creating a surround mix deliverable, but it must also sound good for the stereo listener. The sound suite will be equipped with STB emulation so that the stereo fold-down can be monitored for incompatibility issues. For example, dialogue on the center channel should not be lost in the stereo down mix.
For delivery in the Dolby Digital format to the listener, there are a whole host of metadata parameters to be configured, summarized as down mix, dialnorm and dynamics. Program commissioners should specify a set of metadata values for the deliverable. These parameters include dialnorm, stereo down mix and center down mix.
In the past, each final mix — surround/stereo, full/M&E — was laid back in a real-time pass to an HDCAM SR deck. With file delivery in an MXF format, each mix or stem can be played out in faster than real time with a background render. Even with tape, several versions can be prepared then laid back in a single pass along with the video, saving time and head hours.
Long live the fader
Current laptops and workstations, plus 64-bit operating systems, provide powerful platforms for the latest DAWs. Married to control surfaces, the software and hardware deliver the means to edit and mix audio in more flexible workflows, whether editing a simple documentary or a prime time drama. The control surface remains at the heart of the user interface, with little sign of mouse and touchscreen replacing fader and knobs.
Today’s audio production platforms provide post houses with the tools to support fast-turnaround file-based workflows in face of the increasing demands of formats like surround sound, and the need to control costs.
—David Austerberry is editor of Broadcast Engineering World edition. He would like to acknowledge John Johnson of Scrub, a division of HHB, for assistance in preparing this article.