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  • Writer's pictureLiam Clayton

Mixing Take Me To The Opera for the BBC

One of my recent regular projects has been the dubbing mix for episodes of Take Me To The Opera for Redlight Studios. Take Me To The Opera is a BBC documentary series exploring the world of opera with host Zeinab Badawi. In this recent episode of series two, she spent time in Paris meeting conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

For a job like this I am provided with the full OMF file including all the audio for the project from the editor, as well as the up to date video files. TMTTO usually has 2 versions, one with a break and one without. There are also vignettes to mix - short cut downs of the main film to use as adverts.

For sound-to-picture jobs like this I use a ready made Pro Tools template, into which I import the OMF, before laying each individual clip onto the correct track. The tracklay is important as it helps make sense of the full session and speed up the mixing process later on.

If everything is correct and nothing is missing after the tracklay I’ll begin the dialogue edit. Although TMTTO does have a recorded voice over from Zeinab, a lot of the programme is centred around interviews and pieces to camera, so achieving a clean and clear dialogue edit is particularly important. I will also carefully edit and mix the voiceover for a crisp, professional sound which will sit well in the full mix with the music tracks.

A regular issue on TMTTO is the sound of Zeinab’s heels during her dialogue while she’s walking around the stages and auditoriums, as they often have reverberant wooden floors. This can be a difficult sound to attenuate or hide as it covers a lot of the frequency range but I’ve had some luck using Izotope RX and Wave’s Clarity Vx Pro to reduce it. Often it helps to cut around the sound of the heels and replace the audio with some atmos fill from another section of the clip.

Although the episodes don’t often contain much SFX, there is usually some sync sound to work with and one of the main challenges when working on TMTTO is mixing the live music sections, which can include solo singers, singing lessons and full concerts with an audience. Balancing these sections against the non-diegetic music is important and I usually work on them at the same time. For non-diegetic music, such as the intro theme and any background tracks that are included in the programme, I mix them to the required spec (-23 LUFS) and check any edits that have been made. The sections with sync music are slightly more complicated and require more attention as they need to sit well with the rest of the dialogue mix. For this reason I keep the mix of these music sections as natural as possible.

Once each section has been worked through (tracklay, dialogue edit, sync, music, VO, SFX), I begin the final mix to the specification (EBU R 128), dipping the music bus VCA under the dialogue. I usually do this with the VO muted, to create a mix that could work without voice over, and follow with a pass on a separate bus, dipping the music for the voice over this time. As with any mix there are often other sections that may need attention here, for example where a section of sync music needs dipping under another section of dialogue.

After a final watch through and specification level check the mix is ready to be submitted for review. I then move on to the other versions of the show, using my main mix as a basis and then cutting in any edits such as the ad break or other additional sections.

Take Me To The Opera Series 3 Episode 1 is available on BBC iPlayer now

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