12. The Sound Mix
I can’t really explain it but the mix is one of my favorite parts of the entire process. Four films in a row, beginning with YOU ARE ALONE, and up to and including WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? just a few weeks ago, I’ve done my mix at DuArt in NYC, with Matt Gundy behind the boards, manning what we jokingly (lovingly?) call the HissMaster3000. I love mixing at DuArt. (So much so that I’m pretty sure my dedication to them was one of the reasons a producer who was trying to raise millions to help me turn my first novel THE SECOND GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD into a feature walked away from the project. He said there were better places to mix. I explained DuArt had been good to me when I had no budget, and that when I finally had some money to spend, they would be getting it. We never spoke again.) It’s an old school film house that has always supported independent filmmakers. I support them back. (Yes, I am as loyal as I am difficult.)
The mix is pretty much the last step for me. Adrian Correia, the only DP I’ll work with, has already done the color correct. Please . . . if your DP worked with you, as opposed to against you (see an earlier post), let him/her color correct your film. Or at least sit in on color correction. He knew how he lit the film, and how it should look. If you don’t, you’re back in douche-ville. I trust Adrian implicitly. And usually let him have his way with the color controls.
Back to the mix. It’s like the final dressing. The audio buzz behind someone’s dialog, or the man handling of the boom poll, the horn beeping, it can all somehow disappear when you’ve got a master controlling the knobs.
Take COLOR ME OBSESSED, we ended up using about 125 interviews. That’s 125 different locations with issues ranging from street noise to air conditioning compressors. Or me going “um-huh” 500 times. (I’ve since learned to control that.) Matt Gundy makes it all disappear. Listen to the film. It has a beautiful even tone. Even when rapidly cutting from one location to the next. And this is without any score to help cover up the issues. Matt had all of 4 days to mix 123 minutes. He made it seem easy. (Though at one point Dave Foley did crash the HM3000. If you go back to the Making of Color Me Obsessed series on this very blog you can read much more about mixing.)
Make sure you put aside some cash for the mix. It will be the difference between your film sounding like some amateur YouTube video and a professional feature film. No joke. The difference will be astounding, and well worth the investment.
For WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? which really only had about 20 minutes of interviews (the music which had been mixed and produced by Brian Paulson was perfect as is), I could have easily pulled some crowd sounds lightly under the talking. Hell, the talking sounded pretty damn good as it was. I’d learned a lot since Color Me Obsessed. But still, I spent a half day at DuArt just so the film could get the Gundy touch, and it was completely worth it.
If you love your film, finish it correctly. Dress it up appropriately. It’ll love you back for it.
Next up: film festivals