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M&E Creation and Delivery Guidelines for Nonfiction

Netflix is available in over 190 countries, and a rapidly growing number of our subscribers will consume our titles in a language other than the original. It is therefore imperative to the creative intent of the film or series that the Music and Effects Package reflects the original version mix. The aim is to ensure that the Lip Sync dub Viewer has a similarly immersive experience in the foreign language with the soundscape and SFX as the original Language Viewer. For Nonfiction M&E we talk about an Augmented M&E which should cover the following as a minimum:

  • Background  > sounds are not a story point, not covered
  • Midground  > only sounds that are linked to a story point are covered
  • Front ground > all sounds are covered

Depending on the project’s complexity, a foley pass may or may not be required. Creating M&E for Nonfiction is new ground for many sound experts, so please take into consideration that there are nuances and edge cases involved beyond what we recommend in this memo. The range of types of content in Nonfiction will require different levels of work and engagement, please check with your Netflix Post Manager for depth of fill required.

If required, please deliver a fully-filled Music & Effects Package as long-play, discrete channels according to the Netflix Nearfield true-peak requirements (Sound Mix Specifications and Best Practices) with the program content of each file conformed and in sync with that of the final media delivered to Netflix. M&E levels should generally match the original mix. Do not modify Music levels at all, and do not modify FX levels beyond what is required for a properly filled M&E. Optional channel assignment should match that of the top-level mix. 

For selected titles, Netflix will provide specific notes for the mixing of the M&E elements. Unless those notes specify otherwise, please apply the following general guidelines to the Nonfiction M&E mix and contact Netflix Post or International Dubbing with questions.

 

Preparing M&E assets for Nonfiction content

The audio deliverables should sync to the final IMF picture. Head leader and pops may be present on these assets. A step by step guide to create Scripted M&E assets can be found in the M&E Creation Guideline article, as many of the same best practices directly apply to Nonfiction content. 

 

With Foley and Without Foley recommendations

Foley can make or break a fully filled M&E. Some post production studios have robust foley libraries, but sometimes pre-recorded foley effects may not suffice. Pending the audio post houses capabilities will determine if a foley pass is possible. If the audio post house does not have a foley stage, we recommend production sound to record distinct on-set sounds (ie blender, welder). In Nonfiction content, Foley is usually not budgeted, if you think it is required please discuss with your Nonfiction Post Manager.

 

If foley is undertaken, here are our recommendations. 

  • A cloth pass will provide substantial fill. In reality television or documentaries, lav mics are always picking up extra noise, so a robust cloth pass will provide some of what will be most missed when removing production dialogue.
  • A props pass focused on replacing plot pertinent removed production effects is also recommended. If a lav or boom mic is open and someone interacts with an object that provides some context or is visually relevant, we recommend filling with props foley or if you can locate via a foley library. 
  • If footsteps are not heard in the nonfiction content, we recommend not to perform a footsteps pass. If footsteps are heard and are plot-pertinent, if adding a footsteps pass to the process will add proper textures and context, then we could possibly create - this is mostly a show by show basis. The only edge case would be if the show has re-enactments with scripted or content where the footsteps are plot pertinent or provide context. 
  • It is at the discretion of the sound supervisor, producer, or post supervisor to cue foley or not. In the time it takes to cue the limited props foley for a show, your foley artists and recordists may already be well into the program. We recommend not cueing foley and stepping through the content. 
  • If the project does not have a foley budget, we recommend a simple delivery of a married music stem and sound effects stem, along with a separate dialogue stem. The International Dubbing team will utilize these elements to produce a faux M&E track for foreign dub tracks.

 

Dialogue Stem and Production FX recommendations

The Split DME (Dialogue, Music, Effects) stems from the mix stage are the base foundations for M&E creation. Specifically in the Dialogue stem, the M&E creation audio engineer can often steal production sound effects from the Dialogue stem to enhance the M&E. We recommend that a ‘production fx’ (PFX) editorial pass on the dialogue stem is accounted for during the domestic mix or once the M&E mix begins. This will provide a roadmap for authentic production effects audio pulls to be used in the M&E. This editorial pass will cut down on the amount of foley needed (if budgeted). Obviously, much of the rich PFX will not be able to be extracted from the dialogue stem, and when you encounter this scenario, a foley library or foley request will be needed. 

 

Dipped vs Undipped recommendations

In many cases, dipped and undipped split stems are created per episode or standalone program. This provides a great archive if the need ever arises for international use, new audio formatting, or versioning. For nonfiction, we advise on using the dipped stems and elements for  filled M&E creation. The music and hard effects (backgrounds, library effects, sound design, etc) should not alter for the M&E track. The only variable is the production FX, added foley, and any dialogue efforts or breaths (*see below).

 

Optional Stem recommendations

In Nonfiction content, much of the story is driven by multiple characters, often with dramatic reactions, hence a need to capture or isolate plot pertinent indiscernible dialogue events. When applicable, please capture spoken sounds such as crowd, foreign dialogue, archival audio, human efforts, and spoken reactions in a separate optional stem (*see below). 

 

Naming Convention

All pertinent information regarding the M&E asset should be included in the file name. Please follow the instructions in this Naming Convention article to properly name the files before uploading to Content Hub.

 

M&E QC Requirements

To ensure viewers experience an accurate presentation of the creative intent, the following assets are required for M&E QC: 

  1. Reference Video (ProRes, DNxHD etc.) - The same picture used during Mix. (MnE Request).
  2. M&E Track (5.1 wav) - MnE Request.
  3. Optional Tracks (5.1 wav)  - MnE Request (*see below).
  4. Dialogue Guide (Stereo) - MnE Request (*see below).
  5. Print Master (5.1 wav) - This is uploaded to the Printmaster Request in Content Hub (per episode number).

*What is a Dialogue Guide? A Dialogue Guide is a stereo audio track assembled by the picture editor using the Production sound. It contains all picture dialogue contained in the Locked Picture. 

DIALOGUE GUIDE TUTORIAL

 

*What is an Optional Track? 

An Optional Track is a separate audio track containing valuable but language-specific material. For example:

  • Language-specific walla, crowd chants, cheers.
  • Dialogue from TV shows playing on-screen or from real-life/historical people.
  • Language(s) being spoken that is foreign to that of the original language of production.
  • Vocals from a character singing on-screen (It may be dubbed IF the songs lyrics are story pertinent).

You may provide any number of optional tracks in any channel configuration from Mono to 7.1.2. Below are some examples of how to organize them. When in doubt, add it to the optional tracks. (*For nonfiction content, pulling optionals can sometimes be overly tedious and impossible due to overlapping, married, or other inability to split out. If you are experiencing such cases, please inform your Netflix representative).

  1. Optional A - By CHARACTER: (etc etc)
  2. Optional B - By LANGUAGE: (etc etc)
  3. Optional C - Group ADR and Walla (by Language if necessary) 

 

 

Music and Effects Mix

Optional Tracks

DX Guide/Remove

Crowd

  • Walla and non language-specific crowd noises, reactions, cheers, etc.
  • Generic crowd walla bed that matches the intent of the crowd reaction in original mix (if production bed contains crowd noises with discernible language that must be removed)
  • Group dialogue that is not discernible in mix but is made up of distinct individual dialogue (possibly on group-specific stem)
  • Live (and/or database) audience laughter/reactions (should be placed on reax-specific track)
  • Crowd chants of a person’s name
  • Specific, distinct lines of dialogue within walla bed or crowd stems
  • Discernible language within audience reactions

Music

  • Background music exactly as it is represented in the original language mix
  • Instrumental tracks for on-screen musical performances original to or produced for show.
  • Vocals from performances original to or produced for show.
  • Instrumental/vocal mix if isolated vocals from on-screen performance are not available
  • Discernible dialogue overlapping with musical performance

Foreign/ Fictional Dialogue

 

  • All dialogue that is in a language (recognized or original to content) different from the original version language. Separate overlapping speakers if possible.
  • Short words/phrases interrupting lines of original language dialogue

Existing IP/ Archival Audio

  • Music and effects from audio source
  • Dialogue of audio from outside sources (archival, outside film/ television IP, etc.)
  • Full audio mix of outside sources if tied together
  • Dialogue of anything scripted and recorded specifically for mix

Babies

  • Babies/ young children crying, screaming, etc. in non-discernible language
  • Non-language “mouth sounds”: groaning, coughing, grunting, heavy breathing, etc. occurring separate separate from dialogue
  • Non-language “mouth sounds”: groaning, coughing, grunting, heavy breathing, etc. if it occurs close to dialogue
  • Babies/young children speaking in a discernible language

 

 

Optional Track Recommendations:  

Unless otherwise specified by Netflix, please use best judgment in placing this material on Optional tracks.

 

  • Body of M&E

Optional Tracks

DX Guide/Remove

Yelling

  • Non-dialogue yelling, screaming, crying, etc. from characters who never speak discernible language in program
  • Non-dialogue yelling, screaming, crying, etc. from speaking characters
  • Yelling, screaming, crying, etc. that contains dialogue

Breaths/efforts

  • Breaths/efforts from characters who never speak discernible language in program
  • Breaths/efforts from speaking characters not occurring next to dialogue
  • Breaths/efforts from speaking characters occurring within lines of dialogue

 

For Delivery Guide, Quality Control, Redeliveries, and Workspaces, please see the  
Partner Help Center here.

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