Although film production is mainly about the combined work of specialists, we editors sometimes need do some of the work others are responsible for. We add titles, do simple composites, a little colourisation and temp mixes. This is to make test screenings run more smoothly. It is easier to show audiences ‘good enough’ titles, composites and so on without a lack of such refinements distracting people from the story.
This means we have to create our own temp mixes: add simple sound effects and temp music while balancing the elements to make the dialogue clear.
For a long time I wondered about the pan settings in Final Cut Pro. I found it odd that all the stereo tracks I imported had their pan set to -1. If they were mono, the default pan was 0. That meant that I usually set all stereo tracks to have a pan of 0. I didn’t want all the sound to be on one side of the mix.
It turns out that ‘pan’ for stereo tracks in Final Cut should be labelled ‘spread.’ A value of -1 means that all the information from the left channel in the source gets sent to the left output channel, with the right going to the right. A value of 0 sends both left and right channels equally to both outputs. A value of 1 sends the left content to the right output and the right content to the left output.
This meant that when I ‘fixed’ the pan of my stereo music and room tone effects so that their pan value was 0, I was making sure that the music and room tone sound came from the centre of the stereo field. That’s not a good idea if you want to make your dialogue clear: because for temp mixes, you should always set dialogue to come from the centre (0) with nearly everything else coming from the left and right (-1). That makes your temp mix much clearer.
I think it would be a lot clearer if ‘pan’ was marked as ‘spread’ when a stereo pair is loaded into the viewer. Pity that the value of normal stereo is -1, which is a trap for new users – which is probably too late to change now.