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Terry Dwyer | Mixers Hollywood
ISL gives insurance Against True-Peak Violations
- Original article first appeared in Prensario Magazine
NUGEN Audio’s ISL Gives Mixers Hollywood Insurance Against True-Peak Violations
by Terrance Dwyer, owner of Mixers Hollywood
After years in the business and a long history in reality television, I founded Mixers Hollywood in 2010 to focus on postproduction sound services for television, documentary, music and film. Mixers Hollywood is a relative newcomer on Hollywood’s postproduction scene, but I’m pleased to say we already have an impressive résumé. We’re best known for mixing documentaries and many seminal reality shows – including “The Rescuers,” “Operation Homecoming - Writing the Wartime Experience,” “Survivor,” and “Fear Factor”. Mixers has won Emmy® Awards for both types of programming.
In summer 2012, Mixers Hollywood started postproduction on the reality show “Stars Earn Stripes” for NBC. “Stars Earn Stripes,” as with most of the shows we do, has a lot of action, with gunfire and bombs going off almost constantly. A lot of action means a lot of peaks to deal with, and not much time to correct for them. So we began searching for a True Peak limiter that would ensure our mixes were compliant with network specs.
We tried NUGEN Audio’s ISL True Peak limiter and have never looked back.
The problem with most peak limiters is that the harder you hit them, the more likely they are to miss something that’s out of spec, a mistake that could cause the broadcaster to send the mix back for correction – and cost us thousands of dollars. With all the gunfire and bombs going off in “Stars Earn Stripes,” our ISL True Peak limiter gets a real workout. It would be easy to miss a peak here and there, but ISL catches everything.
True Peak limiters are pretty rare – until recently they didn’t even exist – and it’s even rarer to find one that can handle such a broad dynamic range of sound without missing anything. ISL is the only product I’ve ever found that handles true peaks transparently and reliably without having to think about it. Before ISL, we would have had to leave a greater margin of error to allow for true peak violations that might get past traditional limiters. ISL holds the line.
Another problem with other limiters is that the harder you hit them, the more you hear them – a quality that might sometimes be desirable in music mixes, but not in post. For example, if the sound of a gunshot hits a limiter too hard, the sound usually becomes dull and flat. But ISL catches the sound fast enough that it continues to feel dynamic rather than falling flat. The first episode of “Stars Earn Stripes” was a two-hour special, with guns, bombs, and helicopters throughout most of the show. We mixed it in a just few days. Without ISL, we would have had to measure and allow margin of error for every single pop or shot, which would have slowed the process and compromised the output. But because of ISL, we didn’t have to think about it, and we mixed it in about half the time.
ISL has become a staple at Mixers Hollywood. It’s in our template now, incorporated into every output stem on every show. When we receive recorded material for mixing, we simply plug in the ISL to the music master channel and the effects master channel. ISL will see every channel that feeds into the master and every type of output required by the various networks. For redundancy, ISL also measures the 5.1 mix itself.
The most valuable thing about ISL is that it protects us like an insurance policy against compliance violations. If the ISL is in the chain, we don’t worry about a transient getting through. It holds spec so that we can be certain nothing will get beyond it – and that means nothing will be kicked back to us for over peak correction. ISL is an invaluable tool for even the most stringent -10 delivery specs.
ISL is also quite well-priced considering how valuable it is. And it’s clear that the designers knew exactly what they were doing. The layout is made for TV, as opposed to others I’ve seen that don’t seem to fit our business, and the thresholds for various TV and film settings are dead-on.
NUGEN Audio’s ISL was the right solution for Mixers Hollywood because sonically it’s quite transparent, and it’s foolproof. With ISL, we spend more time mixing and less time thinking about the over peaks. It’s that simple.
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