We had noticed Mark making some great contributions to Gearslutz over the years and decided to ask him to do an interview for us. Originally from the US but grew up in the Netherlands, Mark is currently working as a re-recording mixer in Los Angeles where he does a ton of TV series and films. He has worked on series like Raising Hope and Queer as Folk and is currently working on a film called Complicity. Here’s is a link to Mark’s IMDB profile for more credits.
He was already doing very well as a music producer and engineer before working in TV, so, we had to ask: Why did you move from music production to audio post? “It wasn’t a planned move. More a gradual transition. It was the only work I could find when I first moved to Vancouver from San Francisco. Even though it meant starting at the bottom again. After just getting a platinum record for recording “What’s Up” by the 4 Non-Blondes. Eventually, I realized I liked it more than working with mostly crappy bands who had no money. Now I only do music stuff I want to do.”
As someone who has worked on both sides of the line – do you have any advice for people in either of those areas..?
“Be on time. Always do the best you can in the time you have. Treat every project the same, regardless of budget.”
What was your first gig as re-recording mixer like? A nightmare. I was put on to mix a show, because the previous mixer couldn’t stand the post-supervisor. I had no idea what I was doing. And add to that, it was my first time mixing in pro-tools. Back then mixing in pro-tools was really horrible. The main thing was that the client was happy, and I ended up mixing all their shows, as well as asked to mix with other clients
For the benefit of those that don’t know – What’s the difference between sound designer and re-recording mixer?
Huge difference. The sound designer creates and edits all the sounds and backgrounds that will be mixed at proper level by the re-recording mixer. I think a lot of people underestimate how important it is to choose the right sounds for a scene. Especially things like backgrounds can be underrated. It is very important to pick the right backgrounds to make a scene play right.
Why isn’t music pre-dubbed generally? How does the introduction of music at final mix change the way the dub goes? What’s the best way to avoid surprises? Well, the music, in my opinion, is there to support everything else in the mix. So, the way I’ve been working with my mix partner, is we mix at the same time, but completely separate. I go through all the dialog, clean it up, level it, mix in ADR where needed, while he goes through his SFX and does the same.
Then, we link up, and that’s when I add the group and music. This allows me to weave the music around the dialog and SFX. I do a lot of fader riding on both the DX and the music. I never just let the music “sit” at a even level for a scene.
A lot of TV audio dosn’t have the budget to hire separate people for different roles – often the composer ends up doing sound design. Have you any advice for composers who take on some of these roles? I haven’t run into that myself. I have certainly seen Craigslist and Mandy ads, that state they are looking for a composer/sound designer. I personally think its a bad decision. As most composers are going to want to favour their score, and will cut SFX to stay out of the way, even if its not the right choice. I’m a firm believer that “Jack of all trades, master of none” can be used in those cases. If I really I wanted to, I could cut all the dialog, SFX, Backgrounds, record the foley, and even write a crappy “score”. However my absolute strength is being a dialog/music mixer. I would prefer to use people who are great in their own field. That’s how you end up with a great sounding film or TV show.
For whom do you mix a film: for people who hear it in state-of-the-art theaters, for people in small rooms at cineplexes, or for people who’ll catch it on video? Well, I really mix the same for all, no matter what the final audience will be. It’s just a matter of adjusting monitoring level on the dubstage.
My focus is always first and foremost, dialog. It should be clean, clear and intelligible at all times. Everything else is secondary. after that it comes down to budget. If I have 4 days to mix a movie, there’s going to be less time to be super picky, versus a mix that has 10 days, 20 days etc.
We hope that this will give those that don’t know, an insight into the mind of a re-recording mixer, and an overview of what is involved in that job. Thanks Mark.