top of page
  • Writer's pictureLiam Clayton

Mixing an Online Documentary for Bloomberg

Mixing online content is always fun and often means working on interesting projects (with quick turnarounds)! This film was a 23 minute mini documentary by Bloomberg Originals which I mixed for Pitch & Sync studios in London. At the time of writing the video has 400000 views on YouTube and over 4000 comments.

The tracklay was done by Ben at Pitch & Sync, which allowed me a full day to concentrate on the final mix. Ben had laid out the audio into his Pro Tools template and added some sound design to areas where it was needed. As I regularly work with Ben and Pitch and Sync studios I’m very familiar with their template and have all of the plugins that they use regularly, so working on the project at my home studio was no problem and it transferred over perfectly. 

To get started I watched the film through, and made notes with Pro Tools markers of any areas that needed particular attention. This style of documentary uses a mixture of archive footage, talking head interviews, and narration, along with some infographics and maps to tell the story. This means there are a lot of different sources and multiple voices throughout the piece, with varying audio quality!

My first job was to go through all of the dialogue in the piece to make sure it was cleanly edited, avoiding any stray breaths, mouth clicks, pops or other unwanted sounds. The biggest challenge for the film was then going to be cleaning up the voices, especially anything that was recorded in difficult conditions or brought in from old archives. There were quite a few moments where interviews had been recorded in noisy and reverberant environments. For these situations I usually compare the results of my noise reduction plugins and see where I’m getting the best result with minimal artifacts (small pieces of noise that are merged with the voice and still audible after processing). My go to plugins for this are Supertone Clear, Waves Clarity Vx Pro and Acccentize Voicegate. At the same time I will also be listening for unwanted reverb and echo on the recordings. To combat this I do the same process for reverb attenuation with similar plugins, as well as Accentize DeRoom Pro and Acon DeVerberate 3. DeVerberate 3 is a recent addition to my plugin library. I’ve found it extremely helpful as both an audiosuite plugin and sometimes as a track insert. Another useful new addition is Accentize DxRevive, which I’ve found very helpful in improving degraded or poor quality archive and digital audio. 

Once this was done I went through the dialogue with EQ and some light compression to make sure everything was sounding clear and hitting the correct level. This particular film was mixed to -23 LUFS for broadcast and -14 LUFS for YouTube. 

After this I went through a similar process with the narration. This voice over was recorded in a less than ideal setting so it benefitted from a little work with EQ, noise reduction and compression to clean it up and bring it to life. It also helped to listen through the narration from start to finish checking from stray breaths, pops and audible edits that needed fixing. 

With the dialogue and narration in a good place I then zero out all of the editors volume levelling across the music tracks and quickly bring them to the same average level using Quiet Art’s Defaulter plugin. It’s always good to have the music levels from the editor at the start of the mix as a template. It lets me see what kind of music-to-dialogue volume ratio they like, as well as where they want to fade or boost the music tracks. Once I’ve got the music to an average level throughout, I can go through and check for edits and crossfades. Here I’m listening for any sections where the tracks overlap and the music is out of time, the beats don’t match, or there is dissonance between different key signatures. 

The next stage is probably my favourite, the music mix. Starting from the top of the film I mix the music under the narration and the dialogue using the fader on my AVID dock. I do this using the Music Bus volume in touch/latch mode so I can control the volume of all the music tracks at once. I usually start this process and try to get through the first few minutes of the film in one pass, until I feel like I’ve got into the groove of how the music feels and what kind of level it needs to be when it’s under the dialogue and narration, compared to how loud it will be in between. Then I can go through and fine tune any parts that need more work until I’m happy with the result. 

After the dialogue, music and narration are in a good place I can then go through the documentary, listening to the SFX and atmos that is already in place, and looking for areas that may require more attention. For this film there were certain sections of archive footage that benefited from a little extra atmos, like crowds, towns and cities, and natural sounds. There were also some graphics, such as maps and graphs, which were highlighted with some gentle sound design to emphasise them. 

The final stage in a job like this is to watch through the film from start to finish, making any notes for any small amends that I want to make. I can then export the full mix and deliver it to the client through Dropbox or WeTransfer. For this film we had one round of amends with the client, which included some short notes for areas where they wanted the music up or down slightly, and some additional sound design which they had decided to remove. Altogether this was a very satisfying project to work on and the client was very happy with the result, publishing the film online shortly after.

3 views0 comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page