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Netflix Mixing Style Guide For Dubbed Content

The challenge of mixing dubbed content is achieving the realism of the Original Version. Mixing should be transparent to the story being told. Dialogue audio quality should not be noticed, but rather absorbed without question, allowing the story to draw the viewer in. Many steps contribute to an artful dub and mixing is the final pass, framing up translation, adaptation, performances, and recordings to make the most realistic presentation possible. This article aims to be a guide on how to achieve this aim.

  • Mix dialogue realistically and dynamically according to locations. Carefully match levels and EQ between characters in conversation.

  • Mix dialogue to incorporate movement and subtle variations, as if it were recorded on-set, rather than simply laying words on top of the M&E. Observe perspectives as characters move and point of views change. Use the OV as a guide for these cues.

  • Mix at levels similar to the OV, while leaving the M&E unaltered.

  • The mixed dialogue should artfully be embedded within the M&E in a natural sounding balance. Avoid a voice-over sounding response, unless voice-over is intentionally narrative. If a voice-over sound is intentional, treat your source appropriately to match the OV.

  • Reverb emulations and ambiances should be crafted to create realistic perspectives and should match the OV production dialogue treatments when appropriate. It's recommended to use more than one reverb simultaneously to create natural random room sounds for dialogue. Additionally, use existing sounds in the M&E to determine a good match. The sound of production effects and Foley can give clues on how to treat the dialogue along with examining the OV dialogue stem.

  • Keep reverbs balanced and realistic. Apply reverbs appropriately and match the OV treatments. If the OV is notably missing a reverb in a large space, for example, use your best judgment to achieve realism.

  • For locations within a series or feature keep track of treatments used in previous scenes. Develop a library of treatments used for each location and recall the settings if the story takes you back to the same locations.

  • For filtered effects such as phones, TVs, radios etc. (futzes), be aware of differences between characters and locations (for instance, different kinds of helmets in a sci-fi movie or different car speakerphones).

  • Special dialogue effects and futzes should closely match the OV. Observe effects that can evolve over time as a character changes.

  • Be aware that productions can have technical challenges that affect the sound of their on-set dialogue; there is no need to blindly match or emulate the poor quality of a challenged recording. It's really preferred, in these cases to mix dialogue with better fidelity than the OV. Technical challenges are not considered a creative choice to match.

  • EQ treatments that are applied should provide a quality production dialogue emulation. Resonances can be compensated or reduced. EQ and compression processing should match the quality of OV production dialogue (or better). The frequency response of dubbed dialogue should approximate the OV.

  • Tighten up the lip-sync of recorded dialogue when possible. Avoid time-stretching that can cause artifacts.

  • Be mindful of the start and ends of recordings and clips. Some languages may have a softer beginning or end of words. Depending on the zoom settings in your DAW, these nuances may not be visible.

  • When adjusting sync, ensure your monitoring environment has been calibrated for the timing of audio/video. Frame rates and codecs can cause variations in playback timing as well, so before judging the sync of recorded dialogue, ensure your setup is performing accurately.

  • Efforts and breaths and screams should match the OV. Avoid over emphasized efforts.

  • If Optional tracks are provided with the M&E, use what is appropriate. Ensure the instances of production breaths and efforts are feathered in with care to match the dubbed dialogue’s tonality.

  • After balancing out your dialogue, do an overall mastering pass to make sure your track has a final shine. Keep the focus of the dialogue throughout, making it sound finished (similar to a final buffing of a fine piece of furniture).

  • When mixing many languages of the same show, compare overall tonality and master the sound appropriately. Always use the same reverbs and effects on all languages across a centralized mixing workflow.

  • When mixing multiple language versions try to level out and EQ the sources to end up in a sound similar to the OV and to each language comparatively. The input to various processing will behave differently when one language is recorded louder than the other. Make each language sound similar. Map out treatments to recall later on various language passes.

  • Centralized mixing takes a coordinated effort, especially when multiple mixers are working on the same episode or project. Set up a pipeline to templatize or communicate settings for futzes and reverb treatments. We hear a lot of tracks that vary from language to language, yet it really is possible to avoid individual mixers doing their own thing.

  • Be aware of Netflix practices and standards for audio deliverables.

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