Based in Hollywood, Smith is a re-recording mixer who landed his big break in 2000 when he received a BAFTA nomination for his work on Billy Elliot. He has since gone on to mix more than 100 films and received an additional seven BAFTA nominations, one win for Casino Royale (in 2006) and an Academy Award nomination for his work on Captain Phillips. He has also worked on several, large franchise films including Harry Potter and The Hunger Games as well as helping define film genres with such offerings as United 93 and Deepwater Horizon.
Smith uses NUGEN Audio’s Halo Upmix as his main stereo-to-7.1 music upmix tool. “There are several software upmix tools available, but retaining the integrity of the stereo image and overall phase and EQ structure of the original source is super important,” he says. “NUGEN Audio does this wonderfully and with a fantastically usable interface and exceptional sound quality. The center balance is especially useful for theatrical mixing and the diffusion option for surround channels is also a great feature. Aside from my work on Kingsman, I also recently used it on Peter Burg's Patriots Day to open up the wonderful score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.”
“The interface is very intuitive and now having the ability to spill into the ceiling channels is fantastic."
With several instances placed across stereo stems, Smith is able to immerse the stage without losing the integrity of the front balance. “This is particularly important for high volume action mixes where the smallest shifts in sound pressure can make huge differences to overall sound balance,” adds Smith. “I’m currently using it on Kingsman: The Golden Circle for upmixing stereo source tracks to 9.1 with the Halo 3D Immersive Extension. The interface is very intuitive and now having the ability to spill into the ceiling channels is fantastic.”
"Retaining the integrity of the stereo image and overall phase and EQ structure of the original source is super important."
Leaving character intact
The Halo Upmix delivers naturally extracted and expanded soundscapes, or when required, can generate full cinematic Dolby Atmos enhancement. With unique center channel management, including switchable dialog extraction, Halo is intended for all types of production from archive restoration and TV in addition to feature film applications. Real-time analysis of the original stereo material identifies and extracts locational cues, without the introduction of any artificial reverberation, chorusing or delay into the downmix — leaving the character of the original source material intact.
"My workflow is all about software."
In addition to NUGEN Audio’s Halo Upmix, Smith relies on Pro Tools and also uses automated plugins for dialogue premixing. “My workflow is all about software,” he says. “Whilst I'm still very much a buttons and faders person, I'm always open to new and better sounding tools. I now primarily use Pro Tools S6 and a combination of plugins from Waves, iZotope, FabFilter, NUGEN, Exponential Audio and more.”
According to Smith, to be a good mixer, you have to have a “balance of technical and social ability with an emphasis on the latter. A good understanding of film language is essential as is an ability to find the consensus and confidently lead in that direction. Whilst the mix stage can be a political and emotional crucible, it is also an intensely creative place and crystallizing a soundtrack from bits and pieces into a cinematic experience can be thrilling.”
From naturally extracted and expanded soundscapes to full cinematic big-stage enhancement, Halo Upmix delivers all the control you need to produce and fine-tune your surround mix to perfection.
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