Pro Tools is definitely regarded as one of the most coveted tools for audio post-production processes. Regardless of whether you work for a studio or you’re an audio enthusiast, you’ve certainly come across this software. But, do you know how to use it to its fullest extent? Here are 5 go-to tips for a more professional mix.
Mixing audio for films, television and ads is a rather misconceived process, even for audio professionals with a high-level or experience and understanding. There are many ways of approaching a mix to optimize the workflow and save time, get better results, or even leave your personal mark on an audiovisual project.
1. Use track groups to attain a reverb mix for all dialogues and effects tracks
Mixing reverbs is often highly time-consuming if done one track at a time, especially when everything a scene needs is a minor tweak or a bit of reverb for all dialogues and effects. Thus, more specific alterations and changes can be carried out track by track depending on what the scene and the project needs.
2. Use pink noise to fill out the low end in all background sound effects
Many audio professionals seem to agree that lots of background sound effects don’t possess a cinematic low end, which is essential to provide a specific scene with the life it needs. By adding pink noise you will be able to use all background effects that possess the desired high and mid frequency content, but might be not as good in terms of low frequencies.
By opening up an Audiosuite signal generator in Pro Tools, you can select the Pink Noise waveform. Afterward, make a selection of the same length as the scene you’re working on, on a stereo audio track. Make sure you click on ‘render’ to create the desired pink noise audio file, and apply clip effects with a low pass filter and a heavy boos of equalization.
3. Create distance between elements in the mix
The vast majority of dialogues and sound effects sometimes feel too close to each other in the mix. Of course, by adding reverb you can aid this situation a bit; however, often such distance remains whilst the size of the space is therefore augmented. By following this method you can change things for the good: add an EQ-1 band to an insert on the track you’re going to be working with, or, otherwise, use clip effects. Afterward, make sure you set a high shelf and drop it down with automation every time a particular track requires more distance. Finally, use reverb freely.
4. Adopt a multi-step process to lower noise in dialogue tracks without affecting the original recording
Noise reduction will always be a pivotal part during every audio post-production process. In fact, it still remains a contentious theme in the whole industry. The vast majority of audio and sound professionals don’t really know the extent to which it affects the dialogue portion of the signal, but that is often because it has been used and, perhaps, misunderstood, heavily.
Thankfully, by adopting a multi-step process you can end up having with well-restored dialogue tracks and a much higher signal to noise ratio without the common unpleasant consequences of doing it the other way around.
Start by inserting a high pass filter with a soft slope in order to reduce low-frequency noises. Then, place a gate/expander on the desired dialogue track whilst ensuring a rather low ratio and low threshold slightly below the dialogue level. This should drop the noise down between dialogue lines a little bit. Apply a very subtle live noise reduction, and layer in a mono room tone into the scene.
5. Blend foley and ADR into the mix
As mentioned in other articles, Foley and ADR are known for being difficult to blend well into a scene. A much better quality recording set, using similar microphones, and the actual ADR/Foley job can definitely provide this whole situation with the aid it needs to achieve much better quality.
Thankfully, there are other steps you, as an audio professional or enthusiast, can take in order to step the transitions up to a notch between looped lines and original lines, or foley with existing dialogue tracks.
If the scene was shot in a reverberant space, it is very possible that you will need to apply a mono impulse response reverb on every ADR and foley tracks. Try to find impulses that resonate with your locations as close as possible.
If both ADR and Foley still feel a bit detached in the general mix, experiment with the Pro Tools Lo-Fi to soften it a bit more. The idea is to achieve a natural movement and flow in all tracks. Make sure you take care of any ADR or foley peaks before softening it a bit more with the plugins.
*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com