Mixing in 5.1 Surround Sound

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AlanLastufka

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I've been buying and listening to a lot of albums in surround sound recently, and only joined the forum here last week. But I've been inspired to try remixing one of my own songs in surround after reading all of the great discussions here. So I spent the last week mixing my single "Faultlines" in to 5.1 Surround Sound from the original multitracks.

In this video I give a brief overview of the history of surround sound, including Quadraphonic, 5.1, and Dolby Atmos, and then break down how to mix an entire song in surround.

THEN I give away a free download (multichannel FLAC file) of the finished, mastered, 5.1 surround sound mix so everyone (who's set up for it) can hear it!
 

sjcorne

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I really enjoyed this, thanks for posting! The finished mix sounds great on my system--I think we can safely say you 'get' surround music in a way that a lot of engineers/producers don't seem to. I guess my only critique would be that you allowed sounds primarily located in the other speakers to blend into the center channel, rather than utilizing it solely for vocals (as Steven Wilson does with his 5.1 mixes). One big advantage to the 'vocals-only' approach is that it allows the end user to adjust the level of the lead vocal if they wish to.

It's also really cool that you were able to collaborate with Stephen Marsh--some of the Audio Fidelity quad SACD titles that he worked are pretty revered around here. Are you planning to issue more of your own material in 5.1?
 
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IMachine

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I had been interested how you use reverb in a surround mix. „How to mix an entire song“ is not really the theme of your video. ;)
 

AlanLastufka

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I really enjoyed this, thanks for posting! The finished mix sounds great on my system--I think we can safely say you 'get' surround music in a way that a lot of engineers/producers don't seem to. I guess my only critique would be that you allowed sounds primarily located in the other speakers to blend into the center channel, rather than utilizing it solely for vocals (as Steven Wilson does with his 5.1 mixes). One big advantage to the 'vocals-only' approach is that it allows the end user to adjust the level of the lead vocal if they wish to.

It's also really cool that you were able to collaborate with Stephen Marsh--some of the Audio Fidelity quad SACD titles that he worked are pretty revered around here. Are you planning to issue more of your own material in 5.1?
Thanks so much! I've spent a lot of time reading the Poll threads here while listening to the albums in question, so I can read (and hear) what people like and what they don't like in certain mixes. That helped inform some of my decisions, along with my own subjective taste in what I thought sounded good.

I've worked with Marsh for years now, he's mastered everything my band (The Caulden Road) has released since 2015. And yes, I plan to remix all of my band's material to 5.1 for a blu-ray "box set" (probably just a two disc collection as we only have two dozen songs or so) over the next few months. Our current blu-ray audio release, Reflexion, is an EP with hi-res stereo only.
 

AlanLastufka

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I had been interested how you use reverb in a surround mix. „How to mix an entire song“ is not really the theme of your video. ;)
It definitely wasn't meant to be a tutorial, but I felt like I broke down the important sections, especially for the average viewer of my channel (almost none of which are set up for surround sound, which is evident in the zero comments the video has lol).

As for the reverb, I set up one FX send for the room reverb (which was panned to the center of the room, equally in all five speakers) and sent a few tracks (snare and lead vocal mostly) to it, just to give a little bit of extra air to those. These multitracks were already mixed and printed with the FX from the stereo mix, so outside of panning, I didn't need to add any effects really. There's not a single thing on the master bus, zero compression or EQ anywhere in this mix (because, again, all those things were already done for the stereo mix).
 

AYanguas

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I see, Alan, that you talk about the recent debate on QQ about the use or not use of the LFE channel for music.

I know that there is a trend to do so because many users expect to see something in the LFE in a 5.1 track. Despite it would be enough with 5.0 for music, when you play it in a bass managed system with subwoofer. You would not loss any low frequency that would go from the 5 satellites to to the subwoofer.

Even of you use the LFE channel for some content like the bass or kick drum, the aspect that has been debated here and there is about the bass cancellation that can occur when the LFE signal is filtered (under 120 Hz for instance) and consequently you get some delay in that signal, that can cancel some low frequencies when there is same or similar content in the other channels.

The solution would be (if not removing completely the LFE channel) to phase align the LFE content, after having filtered and delayed signal, with the rest of channels.

Just wanted to tell you about it, with curiosity on how you, or your mastering partners, deal with this LFE issue.


About your Faultiness 5.1, I have to say that I like more your main vocal mix with some spread extension, instead of to be mainly in the Central channel (a la Steven Wilson). Its true that you cannot increase directly the vocals volume, like we do with the Central Dialog speaker in films, but this way the main vocals are more warm and with greater presence sound stage, that I like more.

Thank you for sharing your work with us.
 

AlanLastufka

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I see, Alan, that you talk about the recent debate on QQ about the use or not use of the LFE channel for music.

I know that there is a trend to do so because many users expect to see something in the LFE in a 5.1 track. Despite it would be enough with 5.0 for music, when you play it in a bass managed system with subwoofer. You would not loss any low frequency that would go from the 5 satellites to to the subwoofer.

Even of you use the LFE channel for some content like the bass or kick drum, the aspect that has been debated here and there is about the bass cancellation that can occur when the LFE signal is filtered (under 120 Hz for instance) and consequently you get some delay in that signal, that can cancel some low frequencies when there is same or similar content in the other channels.

The solution would be (if not removing completely the LFE channel) to phase align the LFE content, after having filtered and delayed signal, with the rest of channels.

Just wanted to tell you about it, with curiosity on how you, or your mastering partners, deal with this LFE issue.


About your Faultiness 5.1, I have to say that I like more your main vocal mix with some spread extension, instead of to be mainly in the Central channel (a la Steven Wilson). Its true that you cannot increase directly the vocals volume, like we do with the Central Dialog speaker in films, but this way the main vocals are more warm and with greater presence sound stage, that I like more.

Thank you for sharing your work with us.
Thanks!

Re: the LFE issue, I am aware of it (from reading the "fix the mix" section of this forum). It didn't bother my mastering engineer (he didn't notice a lack of bass), so we left it as is. I did filter the LFE channel and that did introduce a very slight delay. But I will make sure the LFE is properly aligned before mastering my band's full catalog in remixed 5.1 surround for a physical blu-ray release (those 5.1 remixes are a goal I'd like to work towards by the end of this year).

"Faultlines" was more of a proof-of-concept. "Can I even do this and will it sound okay?" And given the comments I've received here and on reddit and on the Hoffman forum, it appears this experiment was a success! So I will now go back and work on my band's discography.

And yes, I agree with you, I prefer having a bit of lead vocal in the mains too, not just in the center channel. Happy to hear someone noticed (and enjoyed it). :)
 
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