Tim Prebble has published a must-read article about the relationship between sound designers and re-recording mixers, the importance of their roles, the creative challenges of each, etc. Very interesting and inspiring.
Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion this isn’t some weird game show based on the relative merits of these roles in the creation of a film soundtrack, quite the opposite. Brent from ProTools Professional blog emailed me a few philosophical questions about these two roles and how the relationship is influenced by technological and creative advances…
“I was wondering how you see the relationship between the sound designer and the re-recording mixer?”
In my humble opinion the relationship between sound designer and re-recording mixers is crucial and while both roles have the same motivation (i.e. to do what best serves & fully realises the film) the process and approach is very different. This may be stating the obvious, but its relevant to the discussion of the blurring of the lines between these roles. As sound designer I care intimately about how and why every element of the possible content exists, and its intended purpose. Rerecording mixers care about these aspects as well but their focus is more about context. I may have literally crawled through broken glass to capture a sound and sometimes my view of the merits of that sound may be swayed by the efforts involved in recording & evolving it, but the rerecording mixers have objectivity that I could never have. While I will have spent a minimum of two months working with the director, picture editor and sound editorial team creating the content and discussing the motives and intentions for each element of the soundtrack, the rerecording mixers are working in the immediate real world. Let me explain this with a little psychology…..
As humans we inevitably compare our actions against those of others (friends, family, total strangers) – when we see what we deem bad behaviour it is based on a judgement of that action compared with our own. But here is the point: that judgement is often a comparison between our own intent versus others actions – and the difference may well be HUGE. Intentions do not exist, they are only potential actions, and when the time comes our own reality may turn out differently than intended. Only then can we truly compare actions with actions. So while we record, edit & prepare all the material, we are focusing on intent ie on the intended context of the final mix (which as a concept is mercurial and different for every person involved) whereas the rerecording mixers are working in the actual real context, with everyone (& their associated opinions) in the room.
I totally appreciate & always aim to implement (depending on time & budget of course) the idea of theongoing temp mix, as this lets us regularly visit a form of final context. But as a sound editor there are also many, many times I must put aside the final context and focus solely on some tiny detail of the content, to insure it is as good as it can & needs to be. The time spent mixing is the most expensive part of the soundtrack process (other than recording orchestras or doing ADR with stars) so during the sound edit period is also the most expedient time to experiment.
But maybe I am focusing too much on process and the seperate roles rather than the relationship involved. What is the basis of that relationship? Primarily it is one of trust. We are all being trusted by the film makers to fully realise their project, the sound designer trusts the rerecording mixers to shape and focus their work into a highly evolved and dramatic form, and the mixers trust the sound designer that the necessary research, consultation, collaboration and preparation has been done to the highest level possible with the available budget & schedule. The relationship is also about respect. Both of these aspects can only really be gained the hard way, through experience.