Mixing backgrounds/atmos for 5.1



I'm curious as to how you all lay up/mix backgrounds for 5.1. Originally, i would lay the tracks discreetly and just send them to the appropriate output (ie. L, R, Ls, Rs), but since then i've seen mixers with stereo tracks use the surround panners to diverge them to the centre or push them to the back, or just leave them hard L/R.

Very soon i'll be mixing my first feature (ultra low budget) and i have to be economical with tracks. I'm testing out panning stereo background tracks to where i want them in the 5.0 field, but is there anything i should aware of? Any potential problems when outputting an LtRt?

Roger Middenway

Posted 2010-08-17T05:01:11.993

Reputation: 4 715

Great question. – Steve Urban – 2010-08-17T12:50:39.533



Great question. I use the 5.1 panners in Pro Tools for every project, whether I'm designing backgrounds or FX. It's really the only way to go for maximum flexibility and efficiency.

To address your question specifically, a good approach is to design the track as if you are not only assembling the backgrounds but also predubbing them, taking responsibility for everything from leveling to panning, EQ (mostly corrective) and even reverbs (virtual or rendered). When you're done, you have a finely honed bed of backgrounds that are ready to be incorporated into the final mix.

This technique becomes really powerful when you take control of your layers and pan them thoughtfully. Example: A nighttime forest scene may have:

  • 3 stereo tracks of air; 1 pair LR, 1 pair LsRs, 1 pair somewhere in the middle
  • 2 stereo tracks of wind; 1 pair LR, 1 pair LsRs
  • 3 stereo tracks of insects; 1 pair L+Ls, 1 pair R+Rs, 1 pair C+Rear C
  • 5 mono tracks of spotted BGs (owls, nightbirds, cicada, etc); discretely panned wherever you want them

When grouped together in "food groups" and bussed out to the appropriate auxes, you've just created your first virtual predub. This method, by the way, is fast becoming the norm in feature post-sound here in LA and has been successful for many years now.

Regarding issues with LtRt fold downs, I'd just be aware of any potential phase problems in the recordings you are using. Other than that, you should be good to go.

Jay Jennings

Posted 2010-08-17T05:01:11.993

Reputation: 15 432

What about music? – Karol Urban – 2013-08-08T05:01:36.873

@MixingManiac, how do you mean? – Jay Jennings – 2013-08-08T16:35:35.837


Hi Jay,

really great info! do you use the same track, only different parts of the same track or three different tracks of air to fill LR LsRs and 1 pair in the middle?

do you use any eq? LsRs softer/less bass heavy than LR?

how are you feeding Center channel?

with the LR channel or a dedicated Center one?

What about phasing?



Posted 2010-08-17T05:01:11.993

Reputation: 1