Q: Could you briefly give an overview of what tasks you perform as a Mixing Engineer?
A: The music recording/mixing engineer for a score is responsible for the technical and aesthetic details of the sound of the music, from initial recording of musicians to the final mix.
Before recording, the engineer will prepare computer files for every piece of music, including all blank tracks necessary, routing and setup for headphone mix and reverb, click track, video file synchronization, etc. The music engineer would also be responsible for session planning and setup details, and communicating them with a staff of a commercial studio or scoring stage if one is used. It’s critical to be completely set up and ready in advance of musician recording, for the best management of costs – - no one wants to pay for sitting around while the engineer gets his act together!
While recording, the engineer is responsible for choosing and managing microphones and microphone placement, preamps and other outboard gear, mixing console (“real” or within software) details such as levels, control room and headphone mixes, and (unless an assistant is provided) computer operation and file management. The engineer will keep the session moving forward, and help the composer manage the best possible recorded performances within the allotted time and budget.
The final music mix includes editing and cleanup, routing all channels including “stems” mixing if applicable, EQ reverb panning and levels in order to make a finished polished music track that can be used in the final sound dubbing.
Q: Why do you believe it is essential to hire a Mixing and Mastering Engineer?
A: Consider the director of a film – - even though he or she may have some knowledge of camera operation, it would be foolish for the director to do the cinematographer’s job. So it is as well for the composer. A composer must be expert with melody, harmony, everything about musical instruments and their usage, and most importantly the creative decisions that make the score enhance the dramatic storytelling of the film.
An engineer spends his life and career thinking about music in a different way: about the sound quality and balances of a polished finished mix. Besides all the technical details and responsibilities, the most important skill of an experienced mixer is that of listening and knowing what a good score sounds like, and how the sound of the score can best contribute to the overall quality of the experience.