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Five Across the Front
“The trick in this movie is that there are so many sounds you could be playing at one time, we have to focus on the ones we want to hear to get the emotion of a scene across,” O’Connell says. “On all of our movies now, Greg and I work cut to cut, decide what we want to hear, then go to the next scene. That helps to eliminate the wall of noise factor and bring clarity and definition.”

O’Connell and Russell have been a team for five years now, and The Patriot marks the tenth film they’ve mixed in true 7.1-channel SDDS format. Having grown up with the system on the lot, they’ve developed a few techniques to make full use of screen channels 2 and 4, referred to as left-extra and right-extra or left-center, right-center, while cutting down on the number of predubs. All material was played from and recorded to Sony DADR-5000s, the 16-track digital audio disk recorders.

You can’t mix a big film, on three stages, without unflappable engineering support. The team at Sony: VP of engineering Mark Koffman (center) and his crew, L to R, Paul Wood, Mark Onks, Bill Banyai, Floyd Banuelos and Hanson Hsu.

Russell began premixing in the Burt Lancaster Theatre with backgrounds, usually ending up with four 8-channel predubs per reel—air, birds, bugs and people. These are tasteful BGs, ranging from Southern swamp to cacophonous battlefield, built in layers and designed by Harry Cohen so that the peaks would not be swallowed if level had to be lowered in the mix. When predubbing, Russell determined panning and placement of all the elements.

“We had some real nice backgrounds to work with,” Russell says. “We feel the heat, we feel the dampness of the swamp. So rather than just panning through five across the front, I’ll use the two inner speakers as a separate stereo pair, putting in different material. For example, if I have a lot of background soldiers in the swamp headquarters, I’ll put walla in LCR and soldier movement on channels 2 and 4. The same goes for bugs. I’ll put swamp water on 1-3-5, with specific frogs or birds on 2 and 4. Or when I get into big battles and volleys of gunfire, the principals can stay in 1-3-5 while the volleys go into 2 and 4. You can get much more definition that way.”

“We have to keep it moving and breathing all the time,” adds O’Connell. “When I was doing those crowd screams on the battlefield yesterday, even though they were playing straight, I was still leaning it a little left, a little right, so that the audience moves—basically, we’re doing pans with fader moves. Hear it, move it, and hear it again. You don’t have to be loud to do that.”

Page 4: The Battlefield

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