Job profile re-recording mixer

(brit. engl.: dubbing mixer, ger.: Mischtonmeister*in)

Re-recording mixers finalize the sound track in image related media. The artistic as well as technical quality of the audio track is their responsibility. In consideration of dramaturgical and technical aspects, they combine the various sound elements (dialogue, sound effects, ambience and music) created by sound editors, to an integrated sound that transports the intention and narrative of the film within the listening environment (cinema, living room) in an ideal way.

Tasks and activities

In the mixing process, the sound ideas and elements, that arose during image and sound editing, are translated into the reproduction specifics of the final medium (cinema, television, games etc.). Additionally, the re-recording mixer assumes the role of a moderator between the producer, the director, the film editor and the composer and sound editor(s) who are involved in the mix.

The re-recording mixer’s aim is to balance and design an overall sound that supports the desired dramaturgy of the film. The ideal is an interaction of image and sound that portrays more than the sum of its parts. Dialogue as key element of the story and its audibility are key factors in this process.

 

On a technical level, the job consists in controlling the volume of the sound elements prepared in sound edit, filtering and equalisation, dynamic processing (compression et al.), denoising, positioning in the room via panorama controls and reverb an processing with additional effects. Complex projects with many audio tracks require premixes. Only this detailed approach enables a dramaturgical, large-scale access to the condensed sound elements in the final mix.

Furthermore, the re-recording mixer has to ensure that technical standards are complied with. These are specified depending on the intended purpose of the final product. For television productions, for example, different broadcasting stations have different technical specifications and these again differ from the ones for a cinema production, so that different mixes are necessary. Due to budget restrictions, compromises are common: television mixes are often derived from cinematic mixes that are made first.

Historic development and today’s situation

Before digital sound editing was introduced, the re-recording mixer was the central figure of the audio department. On a mixing stage, all sound elements could be heard simultaniously for the first time.

With advanced technical possibilities in sound editing, responsibilities in sound post production have shifted. Nowadays, modern digital audio work stations (DAWs) enable the processing of sound elements already during sound editing, to a level that previouly was reserved to the film mix. Because of this, the boundaries between the different fields of activity of re-recording mixers and sound editors have become blurred.
In any case, it is important that the re-recording mixer is involved for consultation reasons, if possible, before filming  starts but at the latest, after the image editing. This applies to the assessment of the usability and quality of the production sound and to the elaboration of a sound dramaturgy.

Requirements

  • Impeccable hearing abilities
  • Knowledge of film and sound dramaturgy
  • Musicality
  • Technical understanding
  • Flexibility and sensitivity
  • Creativity and imagination
  • Resilience
  • Ability to communicate and to work in a team
  • Organisational skills

Training options

A poll conducted by the bvft in 2008, has shown that almost half of the re-recording mixers working in Germany had a diploma in sound mixing or a diploma in sound engineering (comparable to Master); further 10% have completed a career with a similar focus, such as music. More than a third of those asked have completed an apprenticeship as an audiovisual media designer, sound technician or are graduates of a private educational institution. Only 5% of the participants found their way into the job as lateral entrants without officially recognised training in the areas of sound engineering or communications engineering.

So far there is no apprenticeship or training titled “Re-recording mixer“ in Germany, however, Filmuniversität Babelsberg offers a Bachelor’s/Master’s programme with the possibility of specialising in film re-recording.