The Importance of temp mixes

Gary C. Bourgeois

For the last couple of years there has been a definite decline in the number of films that utilize temp dubs, mixed by those who will eventually be on the final.  The reasons for this are numerous, cost, time, availability etc.  Whatever the reason given, it should be weighed against the advantages lost.


Quite often the initial temp is made just before the first preview.  If a preview were not in the plans, it would still be prudent to do a rough temp for the screenings for all those involved with the project.  Only a small part of the purpose for the temp is for screening purposes.  Mostly though, the reason for temping is the process itself.


Firstly, as an exercise for the director to be able to assess the quality of the original production and to determine what needs to be Looped (ADR) for reasons of clarity and sonics.  This, done with the dialogue mixer, is more of an accurate assessment, than done in the cutting room with near-field monitors that don’t realistically reproduce the problems on the track.  Many times ADR is done for reasons that are creative, with changes in reading or dialogue etc.  Better to utilize those sessions for those reasons, and keep the necessary ADR down to a minimum.


During the temp session, both the mixers and principals (director, editor, sound supervisor) are able to determine a structure for the soundtrack itself.  Deciding on overall dynamics, and establishing where the big moments for music or effects play and to be able to see how they are working together are key considerations.  During this time, finding out how choices of sound effects are working is also a great benefit.  Yes a spotting session in the editing room is reasonable, but ultimately not the same as in the dubbing theater in the context of all the other elements together.  What is working together at that time is quite revealing and to have the time between the temp and the start of pre-dubbing to make adjustments is invaluable.


The ability for the mixers to have the temp stems available during the pre-dubs is important in that, (for instance) the dialogue mixer is able to know exactly how to record the dialogue against the music and effects stems.  Likewise the effects mixer uses the music and dialogue stems to balance his pre-dubs.  When these are not available the work is done in a defensive manner, which takes longer for the pre-dubbing process and inevitably also takes longer on the final (figuring out what is necessary to be played, and how it is to be played).  In other words the whole process of pre-dubbing all the way through the final is made more efficient when a structure has been established by the mixers – with the guidance of all those involved in the temp.


It has been argued that because of budget considerations, using a few days to temp is a waste of possible days for the pre-dubs and or final.  I believe that the savings on the ADR stage, pre-dub time and final are quite obvious as compared to the hours spent later figuring out where we are headed.  Many times I have encountered a director and picture editor who are quite happy not to have to attend the pre-dubs because they know that the mixers already have the input necessary to do the job they require.  On the other hand when a temp has not been done, the surprise of these same two as to what is then presented is usually not warm and fuzzy.  Overall the advantage of doing a temp is multifold and a positive to all involved – from the producer on down to the mixers.  I hope next time the subject comes up that someone can influence those involved to consider the advantages.  Hope to see you at the next temp!!!