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Sunday, June 3, 2018

#Musicproduction: Randy Thom's Tips About Reverb

#Musicproduction: Randy Thom's Tips About Reverb

Falling lacking the ideal match makes the mixer feel like a failure to some degree, so he/she vows silently to at least ensure it's clear that an effort has been made to achieve that match.

In the almost forty years I've been mixing films I've seen and heard and tried all sorts of approaches to processing sounds. As I've said elsewhere, including my little piece on “Tools,” this has been my impression that the longer one mixes, the less processing one does. When you're young and infatuated with the tech tools, they seem to call out to you and beg you to offer them a shot.

Mixers, especially dialog mixers but not merely dialog mixers, often get themselves into trouble with clients by utilizing two types of processing a bit too much: reverb and noise reduction. I'll save noise reduction for another day. Let's talk about reverb.

Obviously, sound bounces around. In almost every invest the known universe whenever a sound moves through air, or some other medium, additionally it gets reflected by all sorts of objects and surfaces. It's natural. So, when a mixer is wanting to suit an ADR line as seamlessly as possible into a string where noisy, reveberant production dialog precedes and follows that ADR line, the inclination is to incorporate a little reverb to the line which mimics as closely as possible that of the production material. The issue is… it's very difficult to fit the production reverb exactly. Actually, it's impossible. I've never heard it done perfectly (the good news is that perfection isn't necessary). Falling lacking the best match makes the mixer feel just like a failure to some degree, so he or she vows silently to at the very least make certain it's clear an effort has been made to do that match. The result is frequently an excessive amount of reverb, at the very least based on the director or the picture editor, and once either of these has made the comment the other will most likely agree.

The same happens with adding reverb to foley and hard effects, but in general the more “realistic” and less stylized a sound is said to be, the less artificial reverb is going to be tolerated by the conventional director or editor. At one end of the spectrum is just a straightforward dialog line (very little reverb tolerated), and at the other end could be something as an off-screen magical aura sound (quite a little reverb tolerated).

I do believe another natural tendency of ours also drives us to over-reverb: humans are innately fascinated with reverb. It's why so few people can resist blowing our car horns whenever we drive via a tunnel. It's why the voices of the clergy seem much more holy in the echo-y environment of a normal place of worship. Maybe it arises from our distant ancestors (maybe not distant in my case ;-) inhabiting caves. We associate reverberation with seductive mystery, and it makes us mixers feel the ability of a shaman to call forth that mystery, that transcendence. To quote my buddy Gary Summers: “Exactly why is the past always so echo-y?”

Regardless, we are able to rarely resist sprinkling reverb here and there, and it tends to have us into trouble. In all the years I've worked in movies I've rarely heard a customer look for MORE reverb… sometimes an alternative type of reverb… but less reverb. But I've heard many, many, many look for less reverb. There's been a little an artistic trend away from reverb in the last decade or so among many directors. More and more of these appear to believe any overt utilization of it is just a cliché ;-.Maybe the pendulum will swing back, but for the time being my advice is to really get your kicks honking your horn in tunnels rather than dubbing stages.