Re-Recording Mixers, formerly known as Dubbing Mixers, work with all the sound elements (Dialogue, Automated Dialogue Replacement, Foley, Sound Effects, Atmospheres, and Music), and mix them together to create the final soundtrack. They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically.
Setting the relative volume levels and positioning these sounds is an art form in its own right, requiring the skill and aesthetic judgement provided by experienced Re-recording Mixers. Because of changes in technology, many jobs in sound post production are less easily defined, e.g., on some small to medium budget films, Re-Recording Mixers may also work as Sound Designers.
Although they are usually employed by Audio Post Production Houses, Re-recording Mixers may also work on a freelance basis. They work extremely long hours under considerable pressure, and usually work on both film and television drama productions.
What is the job?
Re-Recording Mixers’ first task on films is usually mixing the soundtrack for audience previews. Typically, this involves an intense period of time (up to three days) spent in the dubbing studio, where the they work at large mixing consoles, mixing and smoothing out (cross fading) the sound, often adding a temporary music soundtrack prepared by the Music Editor. Re-Recording Mixers must work quickly, to extremely high standards.
After audience previews, the Producer(s) and financiers usually require films to be re-cut and further mixes to be undertaken by Re-Recording Mixers. When picture lock has been achieved (the Director and/or Executive Producer have given final approval of the picture edit), Re-Recording Mixers pre-mix the sound, reducing the number of tracks, so that the Final Mix can be accomplished with fewer technical complications.
In the Final Mix, the sound track is further refined in consultation with the Director, and mixed to a 5.1 Surround Sound industry standard. This process can take between 2 and 12 weeks depending on each film’s scale and budget. Re-recording Mixers finish work on films on the last day of the Final Mix.
Typical career routes
No matter how highly qualified they are, the majority of Re-Recording Mixers start their careers at junior levels (usually as Runners) working for one of the Audio Post Production Houses. Experienced Re-Recording Mixers look out for those who show talent and a co-operative attitude and bring them into the mixing studio to train as Assistant Re-Recording Mixers, providing general studio support, recording Foleys etc. After several years, Post Production Houses usually promote the most competent Assistants to become Re-Recording Mixers.
Essential knowledge and skills
Re-Recording Mixers must have an excellent knowledge of acoustics, sound recording and post production processes (analogue and digital) and all the relevant technical knowledge of sound mixing for feature films.
Key Skills include:
Ability to manipulate and work sound for the moving image
Excellent aural skills
Ability to work efficiently under pressure
Excellent communication skills
Good organisational skills
Ability to work to strict deadlines
Knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
Training and qualifications
Re-Recording Mixers are usually graduates of Music, Sound Technology, or increasingly, Computer Sound Design courses. Because this is a highly competitive area, many also go on to specialise in Film and Television Sound at post-graduate level. Sound is one of the best served areas for film and television training in the UK with provision ranging from specialised short courses, to qualifications at HND, BA and post graduate levels.
Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset’s and the UK Film Council’s Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film. For more information, please log onto the Creative Skillset website.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. For information about training, links to the Creative Skillset network of training partners, and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database, visit the website www.creativeskillset.org. Creative Skillset Careers is the UK’s only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit the website www.skillset.org/careers
The National Film and Television School NFTS
An invaluable resource for sound and film Film Sound
Sonic Arts Network sonic arts network
For innovations in sound recording technology zaxcom
The Institute of Broadcast Sound Institute of Broadcast Sound
The Association of Motion Picture Sound Association of Motion Picture Sound (AMPS)
The Association of Professional Recording Studios Association of Professional Recording Services (APRS)
The Audio Engineering Society, an US-based website with a thriving UK section Audio Engineering Society
Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects Cinema. Edited by David Sonnenschein (Michael Wiese Productions)
Film Sound by Elizabeth Weis and John Belton (Columbia University Press)
Audio-Vision : Sound on Screen by Michael Chion (Columbia University Press)
Sound on Sound magazine Sound on Sound
Music Tech magazine Music Tech Magazine
Audio Media magazine Audio Media Magazine