RESEARCH – Dub Mixing to R128

(Outcomes – IN2 + GR3)

Part of a dub mixer’s job is to deliver mixes of programs to particular technical specifications. In the case of programs for broadcast, the current European standard is EBU R128, a set of rules regarding loudness normalisation and permitted strength of audio signals. As part of another module this semester we interviewed staff at Soho Square Studios, one of whom explained to us that knowledge of working to this standard is very much sought after in the post-production industry.

The dub mix I carried out for our project last term conformed to the BBC’s guidelines for production. This term, I’ve suggested to our directors that all our output should conform to the newer R128 broadcast standards – they have no particular requirements, so this is as good a choice as any.

The essential difference with R128 mixing is that it requires reference to the overall loudness of the piece over it’s entire length as an average, where BBC guidelines I have employed previously simply control the audio peak levels within the program regardless of it’s average loudness. The changes were wrought mainly to deal with advertisers using the perception of loudness (through compression, and rather than the mathematical loudness inherent in the audio) to create irritating volume changes relative to a given program. Practically, it enables higher highs and lower lows across the course of the program, but controls the volume across the course of the bulk of the output.

EBU R128 changes the unit of measurement of mixing from decibel or PPM to loudness unit, and requires that the mixer bring the average loudness of the piece in between 22 and 24LU by it’s completion. It also measures peaks within the audio waveform much as with the BBC method, and requires that none of these surpass 1.0 on the true peak scale. There is also a loudness range requirement which must not exceed 95%. [IN2]

I purchased a metering plugin which is R128 compliant, and ran the mix I created last term through it for reference –


As we can see, this piece would not comply with R128 as it too quiet on average by 4.4LU even though peaks etc are within range.

Having completed the mix of Descent to the previous BBC guidelines, results were –


This was both too quiet on average (27.1), and contained a couple of sharp peaks (0.3) which are too aggressive for broadcast. I remixed the latter and ran another mix –



As you can see, this mix is *only just* within the compliance threshold for average loudness, though the peaks are now well within the line. I deemed this sufficient as I was extremely pressed for time by this point.

Working to R128 is industry standard for broadcast in the UK and as such is an extremely useful to have learned – it was referred to during an interview with a professional audio engineer for another module as one of the most important things to know about – and it’s interesting from the perspective of the mix process, since it enables a less slavish monitoring of PPM metering and a freedom to push big sounds more aggressively for impact. Descent was not really the film on which to demonstrate this last technique since it is one which uses realism and more subtle light and shade, but I think the process will inform future sci-fi work I undertake, if nothing else. [GR3]

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Key Points –

Research and the practice of dub mixing to R128 ResearchApplication of skills and conduct in production.

  • [IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)

Reflection on usefulness of research and practise – Individual reflection

  • [GR3] To provide a professional standard of service in respect to location sound recording and post-sound design / mixing.

RESEARCH – ‘Helper Track’ and complex delivery requirements.

‘…then there’s all these weird things you deliver as well, there’s a thing called a helper track…if you ever encounter in your professional careers because it took me ages to find this out, is, it’s the sound that you might or might not replace in a foreign version, so if there is a radio playing in the background and it’s got a English song on it, it’s the vocal split from that and if there’s a TV on in the background, it’s the voice track from that…‘ – Studio Manager at a top UK audio production house.

An important part of the dub mixer’s role is to manage the various deliverable’s of a film’s mix and, in the spirit of the advice above which I received from an interview conducted for another module, I’ve carried out some research into some of the more unusual requirements that may catch a newly fledged dub mixer out.

These will not only include various seperated mixes of sound effects, music, dialogue and rendered FX tracks, but also more specific versions which may be required for foreign language cuts of the film. Conversion to another language is often considered to be relevant only to the dialogue mix, but can often have ramifications for other aspects of the picture’s sound palette as illustrated above. It is also worth stepping away from the feature-film sector for a moment when considering these factors, as things like laugh tracks in studio-based TV work may well be captured to some extent with the dialogue recording and will need to be replaced or augmented if the original dialogue is removed.

An example of a related requirement of delivery for the dub mixer in the context of TV would be the bleeping or replacement of words deemed offensive from the original dialogue. Requirements here are absolutely client specific and will vary considerably based on intended audience, and the best way to minimise issue here is for:

…the discussions and understanding of the audio elements (to) be started early to be sure to fulfill the requirements prior to delivery. It is always best to get things right from the start.( [IN2]

Audio delivery requirements in general haven’t been particularly relevant to working on student films throughout this year, and in the case of the film I’m supervising for this project there’s no requirement for a ‘helper’ track as the film was kept relatively simplistic and naturalistic (though the disembodied voice over from one scene would need to be provided in another language if a foreign language version were ever motted), and I’ve had to prompt the director to specify any file delivery requirements at all. However, extrapolating our two sci-fi leaning projects this term outside of academia I could foresee the need to provide helper tracks with these mixes, since both films contain sequences featuring dialogue-heavy TV shows, disembodied advertisements and TV montage sequences. [PER1]

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Key points

More detailed information on potential delivery requirements for the dub-mixer’s work – Research
[IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)

How does this apply to the films we’re making – Reflection
[PER1]  To develop a better understanding of the pros and cons of business structures, processes and agreements which might enable film audio producers to collaborate on multiple projects

RESEARCH – Dubbing Mixer

(Outcomes – IN1,2,3 + PER3 + GR5]

“…dubbing is the Cinderella art of film-making, it’s all but invisible to the general public yet the final responsibility for the sound of Prince Charming’s approaching footstep rest firmly with Cinders rather than with the Ugly Sisters of picture or sound editing. – (

Even though my group are collectively handling a number of films and may not strictly enact a given role on all of them, group members have each chosen an industry specialism to enable our research. In my case, this is the role of the Rerecording or Dub Mixer.

The term ‘dub mixer’ originally evolves from the early days of celluloid and audio tape editing, abbreviated either from the process of ‘doubling’ reels of audio to sync them with film images or from the process of rerecording actors voice in sync with their dialogue on screen (I recall Betamax home video recorders with an ‘Audio Dub’ button that enabled the user to replace the soundtrack of a given tape), the latter of which was once referred to as ‘dubbing’ but has now been redefined as Additional Dialogue Replacement or ADR. The same term became ubiquitious for any tape to tape rerecording process as time passed prior to the advent of digital, but has tended to be referred to as a Rerecording Mixer in more recent times.

“They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically. – (

The dub mixer’s process requires the bringing together of all the audio ‘elements’ (dialogue, automated dialogue replacement, foley, sound effects, atmospheres, and music) of a given film, and the creation from these of a final audio soundtrack, as well as any other mixes required by the client for other purposes such as the music and effects components often required to enable distribution to other territories. This means a dub mixer is responsible for creating the best representation of the film’s audio aesthetic whilst maintaining both the most potent dramatic impact and the correct technical specifications for it’s intended distribution and / or audience. [IN2]

Dub mixing is fundamentally a final stage process which means it is often one performed under the tightest pressure both in terms of time and, potentially, financially. Graham Hartstone, who has an impressive 60+ year career and mixed many of my favourite sci-fi films from the 80’s and 90’s, points out that “...They’ll spend as much time and money as they’ve got rewriting and reshooting, but when it comes to dubbing they expect the mix to happen right the first time.“. If there is one thing I will be carrying away from my interactions with industry professionals during my time at university, it’s that this is a truism in the film-audio industry generally.

As with many audio industry jobs in the digital era there is more definition to a given role when focusing on instances of it that occur further up the food-chain. Re-recording mixing can still be considered a profession in it’s own right in big budget Hollywood, but in the case of small and medium budget films the dub mixer will also be a sound designer, foley artist and / or a location recordist. This is the case as the role applies to Descent – the film I’m supervising on behalf of our faux-company – in which I will inevitably have had a hand in much of the pre, production and post audio work. I expect the pre-production aspect is the most useful for the handling of that film’s final mix, since I’ve also carried out the liason with the director and been instrumental in translating their ideas into a sound design script for the film and so have as good a knowledge as anybody of their desired outcomes, as well as having directed at least some of the aesthetic choices for the audio of the film by advising them. [IN1]

Furthermore, final mixing at the high-end of the business is a process which is often sat in on by the movers and shakers of the film production team, usually the director/s and producers. I’m not a great believer in this when working solely with music, as I prefer to follow Mixerman’s Zen And The Art of Mixing technique of completing a ‘first pass’ mix and then allowing the band to have a listen and feedback on the decisions being made. Adapting this preference to the much more complex world of film audio, I completed the first pass mix of Descent and then allowed the director in to give their feedback. [GR5]

Creatively, the dub mix of Descent owes a deal to the film Hannibal from 2001, which was mixed by Doug Hemphill who was also responsible for Blade Runner (aspects of which I have discussed elsewhere). Hemphill has a huge list of other major credits with a slight lean towards sci-fi and fantasy titles, and for Hannibal he found himself dealing with a mix of 160 channels with a 96 fader Neve console, of which over 60 were dialogue. At the time, this technology created a flexibility which –

“…allowed him to create internal sounds within the characters’ minds…where he would completely strip the high-end from the sound. This process allowed Hemphill to create a muted sound, allowing for effects that suddenly and dramatically disappear into the background before coming back into full sound.” (

Descent has used similar techniques to Hannibal in it’s sound design and construction, as I have discussed here. [IN1, 3 + PER3]


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Overview of Dub Mixer / Rerecording Mixer role – Research.

  • [IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)

How this applies to OG Audio + Descent – Individual reflection on learning and team role.

  • [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.
  • [IN1] To successfully manage the provision of service by the business for the film Descent with regard the assignment of resources, specialisms and working time, liason with the director, editor and producer on a practical and creative level, and communication of information on their needs and requirements for the piece, in order to appraise the efficacy of the collaborative approach to working on the piece – (Supervisor and Company Officer)

Research into dub mixing of films relevant to those in our workload – Research, Similar items

  •  [PER3] To expand my knowledge of the theory of and audio techniques deployed in films similar to or influential upon those we will deliver.
  • [IN3] To better my understanding of sound design with at least some reference to the science fiction genre – (Sound Effects Editor)