At the time of writing this blog, Max and I have now spent four sessions in the Avid S6 studio working on the mix for Warframe, as well as one session in the C24 studio to check the mix against the quality of a different room. The first of these sessions was an eight-hour session on Wednesday 15th. In this first session we imported my sound effects, Max’s sound effects, and Max’s music stems into the same session, then set an initial level for all of our tracks.
We then played through the video several times with our audio alongside it to check any initial issues with clashing frequencies and to get a good idea of what we wanted to do with the surround panners. By the end of the session, we had corrected most frequency clashes with high-pass filters and minor notch filter adjustment. We had also started to pick some reverbs to put on some of the dryer tracks of music, the ground pound, the gunfire, and several other sound effects to make them sound more natural in the environment of the video, or to give them dramatic effect.
I also took down notes the whole session for things that I could improve in my sound design ready for the session, which included bringing up the cymbal scratch layer in the crate slide, using a doppler effect on the missile flight, remaking the missile impact, making some Moa footsteps for the vortex moment, and removing the reverb that I had baked into the sound of the Moa’s first step on top of the crate. Max also wanted to try and improve the Moa vocalisation between sessions as well as the dialogue we had recorded of Nick, as it didn’t sound very threatening.
Over our next two four-hour sessions on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd, we spent a lot of time readjusting levels with the intent of setting the sound effects levels first. This was because some of our effects were not cutting through the music in the mix at moments where it would be appropriate. We also spent this time automating panning and sending some of our tracks to the LFE.
A lot of these things were done on the Wednesday session, and it was a good thing, because a larger portion of our Thursday session was spent getting some great feedback from our lecturers Stephane and Guy, as well as from Nick (who gave us an amazing amount of feedback and tips considering he has no professional obligation to help either of us, as he hasn’t taught Max or I at SAE previously). Some of the feedback included giving the gunfire a laser layer (as they don’t look like traditional weapons), making the sound of the units falling heavier, and adding more body movement sounds such as whirring and clanging from the Moa and rustling and rubbing from Vauban. I intend to work on these areas for the final mix, however at this time the feedback has not been implemented. We also got feedback from a fellow student Ben Napier who suggested that we could add some background ambience to the section after the Corpus fall from the Bastille, as it seemed empty.
The following session was on Friday in the C24 studio as part of one of our classes. There were significant setbacks in the studio to begin the session, as Pro Tools HD had not been installed on the computer in that studio, meaning we had to get a laptop from the technical department instead. Not having Pro Tools HD was particularly problematic as it meant we had a restriction on the number of tracks in our session, which our session exceeded, and after the workaround with the laptop from the tech department, we couldn’t use the C24 control surface and had to mix by mouse and keyboard instead. There was also an issue where we suspected the speakers had not been calibrated, as the left and center speakers were about 9 dbSPL quieter than the right, right surround and left surround speakers, which we tried to correct this by adjusting the volume on the speakers themselves, however the limit of volume adjustment on the speakers was not enough to correct the problem. After consultation with Stephane, it turned out that there was a program on the computer called RME Totalmix that was controlling the output of the speakers, and after some adjustments, we were finally ready to continue our mix.
Our session in the C24 revealed an alarming difference in the resonance of the rooms. The S6 studio was a lot more heavily acoustically treated than the C24, and as a result our LFE level and reverbs in the C24 were WAY too full-on. We had to turn down the LFE amount by 6-9 dbFS in order for it to sound appropriate in the C24 studio, which is where we will be presenting the final surround mix at the end of the trimester. We also used this session to try and make the music a little more dynamic by automating the percussion to be lower at the start of the video, and gradually get more intense towards the end. We also automated a couple of the synth layers that Max had created to pulse during the section where the Moa fires the missiles to emphasise the action in that section.
Our last session to date was back in the S6 studio, where we reevaluated our changes to the mix that we had made in the C24 studio and decided to print the reverbs. This decision was made to prevent any setbacks of mixing in a studio that did not have the plugins of the S6 studio, such as the C24. We also saved our reverb settings to apply to stereo tracks, as our reverbs were previously only on a 5.1 auxiliary track. To finish off this session we sent all of our tracks to a stereo bus which was then output onto an audio track so that we had a more accessible version of the mix to send to various people for further feedback (which is shown at the top of this post). We also adjusted levels of the surround mix to comply with the OP59 standard of -24 LUFS.
While we are happy with our progress so far, there are still little details that could be added to make it a more refined project, which will hopefully be implemented in the final mix. I’m particularly happy with the sound of the vortex, Max’s impact sound for the Moa jumping off the crate, and my missile flight sound. They all do a really good job of serving the picture, which is what sound design should do. The most underwhelming parts of the mix so far are the Corpus falling from the Bastille which need more weight behind them, and the lack of explosion sound from the missile impacts, which I may have to resort to a royalty-free source to acquire as I have tried to record and mix a variety of original sounds in that are ultimately not satisfactory (including the party poppers I used in Starship Troopers and me kicking some pebbles for a shrapnel texture).
Stay tuned for further updates on this project and more!