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emotionally effective even when they are reduced to near inaudibility. (See, for example, the sidebars on Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia.) And the most eloquent " sound" of all may be silence. In our age of dense soundtracks, the sudden absence of noise can have a stunning impact.
A mix on an average A-picture combines at least forty to sixty tracks, and perhaps hundreds. Therefore for manageability of dense soundtracks there may be any number of premixes, wherein groups of tracks are combined and equalized in relation to each other. For example, twenty- four tracks of foleys may be boiled down to one or two six-track elements. A typical final mix might begin with seven six-tracks: two six-tracks each for effects and foley, and one each for backgrounds, dialog, and ADR. Dialog is usually mixed first. In Murch's words, "Dialog becomes the backbone of the sound and everything else is fit into place around that."
Given that a mix costs from $400 to $800 or more an hour, sound editors do as much in advance as possible so that the mixer can worry about the bigger balance rather than hundreds of small adjustments. With track separation, the remixed tracks need not be permanently wed to one another. If at the final mix of a car crash, the director chooses to emphasize one sound of shattering glass, that specific element can still be manipulated if necessary. Often the director or editor is given a choice among several types of sound for a given effect.
Technology has inevitably affected the esthetics of the mix. A few decades ago, merely pausing to make a correction would create an audible click, so an entire reel had to be mixed in one pass or started over. Then, with the advent of "rock 'n' roll" systems, mixers were able to move back and forth inch by inch. Once consoles became computerized to "remember" all the mixer's adjustments, says Murch, he was able to think in larger units. "You take a sweep through the reel, knowing that there are certain things you're doing that are not perfect. You get the sense of the flow of a ten minute or longer section of film, rather than doing it bit by bit. So you go through in ten minute segments until you've got the basic groundwork for what you want, knowing that there are things wrong in there that you can fix later. It's like a live performance: sometimes there's something that happens spontaneously that way, that you can never get when you're trying to do it inch by inch. Thus automated mixing allows you to work in large sections but it also encourages you to be very finicky about small things and it doesn't penalize you for that."
The end product of the final mix is not just one printmaster from which domestic exhibition prints are struck; effects, dialog, and music are kept discrete to allow for release in different formats ranging from monaural optical 16mm tracks, to multi-channel
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