Peter Langmead's Blog

Film Director, Screenwriter, Composer, Steadicam operator, Social Documentary Photographer. My latest film is The Borderline, released on December 4, 2019.

How to Use Sound in Davinci Resolve

Stereo

Once you have arranged ACT 1 of four or so sequences, redo your main busses and submixes. You do Final Mixes for each type separately, stereo for TV, surround sound (5.1/7.1) and Mix and Effects (M&E) in stereo and surround sound for foreign language versions. Start with Stereo: my main busses are Mix (stereo), M&E (Music and effects - stereo); my submixes are DIAL (mono), BG FX (2CH) and Music (Stereo). You should not do surround sound busses and submixes in the stereo timeline – think first. Some explanations: Mix is M&E and dialogue, M&E is without dialogue for foreign language versions and the hardest, mono dialogues will be centre speaker.

Fairlight with sound effects Fairlight with sound effects. The red bits are merely missing clips that I have moved to another directory. Notice they are stereo. They are muted because I have already made the bounced tracks. Footsteps can be on or off camera; SFX are camera-seen explicit sound effects while PFX are camera-seen residue sound effects recorded during photography, which are on front left and right speakers; atmos (ambience) is recorded separately from photography, often forgotten and is usually on front and surround left and right speakers.

Dialogue is monoaural, cuts are at the beginning of speech and continues with the ROOM tone until the next speech start, tracked by character, by gender or simply dialogue. Sound effects captured with speech are cut out and placed in Production Effects (PFX). If your set up can manage LCR, left-centre-right, you will find the challenge: PFX also cuts at the start of the sound, just like dialogue, to hide the join. This can be trying!

Background effects is action-related sound effects near to camera, surround atmosphere and diegetic music. Non-diegetic music (score) is always stereo and in front speakers left and right. Unlike Hans Zimmer and his 200 stems, I write the music to picture using Sibelius and there is only one stereo track, and I leave that pink! You have already discovered PFX: I send these to Mix and M&E main busses, and to DIAL submix; because ROOM is mono and associated with mono dialogue, I send it to the DIAL submix, but not to background effects.

Bouncing tracks and submixes are similar. If you use bounced tracks, you will find they have the same masters anyway, so it is a matter of preference. Submixes are live while bounced tracks are a master track of all dialogue, for example.

Sound Review

At this point, I review the sound, playing the whole sequence through, listening carefully on good headphones, which means they do not hurt if you wear them all day, have big diaphragms, have coiled cable. I mute the bounced tracks, unmute everything else, go into >Bus Assign and set the bounced tracks to the main mix (M1). I Audio Pan the 2-track channels in sound effects, atmosphere (ambience) and diegetic music in advance, because changes from normal are exceptions. I set atmosphere tracks as near-surround, on the line forward of the centre line; sound effects I set at the front centre box. If you have not used the ‘Automatic’ latching, you have adjusted the whole pan; if you have, >On Stop >Return will let the pan go back to where you started, >On Stop >Hold will set the pan for the rest of the track. Do not forget to select Pan in the Automatic Bar.

Best regards,

Peter Langmead

P.S. Please have a look at my website here, for all sorts of interesting things about my film productions, operas and books on social photography. Remember, if there is no spit on the lens, you are not close enough - I do not know who said that but it is true. Write to me if you have a question.

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Notes

Langmead & Baker Ltd is a public relations and communications company based in Lusaka, Zambia. Although there is a free version of Davinci Resolve, which will do nearly everything, I use the current version of Davinci Resolve Studio. Although I use the usual suspects, I normally use Blackmagic Cameras and Studio Equipment.

For those of you who noticed that I am a Steadicam operator, I can assure you that the Mini 4k with SSD recorder and, importantly for me, a global shutter, works beautifully.

The Next Movie

The script is prepared for my next movie and pre-production is in progress. This is the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and production is expected to begin at the end of the year It will be shot on Blackmagic cameras and postproduced almost exclusively on Davinci Resolve.