Something sounds off but I don't know what


Hi everyone,

I don’t know if I should be putting this in the “critique me” thread or here but, since my problems and questions are all sound related, I guess this is where I’ll get the best feedback.

Lately, a friend of mine and I worked on the sound a short film called “Door by Door”. We worked on the sound for both production and post-production and now we’ve reached a point at which I’d say, we’re almost done. However… something is off (regarding sound) I don’t know what but I can tell it is there an it is bothering me. And I was hoping you guys could provide some advice and help identify what’s missing or what we should improve.

I’ve uploaded the short to YouTube and subtitled it so that those of you who don’t speak Spanish can follow the story. Just be sure to turn them on.

Thank you very much for your help in advanced,




Congrats on (almost) finishing the project!

I don’t think you have any real major issues, but perhaps it’s the backgrounds that are bothering you? On stereo playback, the backgrounds feel a little narrow; are you working with stereo BG elements, and if so, how are they being panned? I also noticed that the backgrounds mostly feel like distant voices; maybe what you’re wanting is a little more steady “air,” something like a room tone or a traffic drone?


Hey @Kevin_Senzaki, thank you for your quick reply. I don’t know what you mean “stereo BG elements” so there’s a part of your reply I can’t make sense of but you’re probably right about the backgrounds.

I’ll try out what you mentioned in your reply, hopefully that gives it that final touch to get it sounding perfect.


I meant whatever elements you were using for your ambiance / backgrounds felt a bit center channel to me. You typically want to spread stuff out wide (in stereo space, I usually like around 80/80 in L/R pan, or 5.1, typically pushed into the surround channels) so the “world” of the film feels wider than the action on-screen. It felt a bit center-channel to me. I’m not sure if that helps or makes it more confusing, but ^^;


It does help indeed.

Most ambiences are mono ambiences that we recorded on set (we only had a single microphone). What you say maked a lot of sense.

And since you’ve brought up the subject of stereo space yourself, I’d like to take this chance to ask some questions about stereo image that I’ve never quite fully understood.

I don’t exactly understand the technical details but it would seem that, in stereo sounds, you can have your “Left” and “Right” completely separete from one another or you can have “a bit of your Right channel on your left channel” and viceversa. I guess this would make sense because if you want to open up the stereo field, you just have to increase the “separation” between them which in practical terms would translate into having two channels without any crossover between them. However, if you wanted to close the stereo space, you’d have to decrease the separation between the left and right channels (meaning that you’d allow some of the Right channel’s signal to come out of the Left Channel and viceversa).

Is this how stereo imagery works?

BTW, what happened to sound advice?


Yes, that’s correct!

So I’ve been in the same situation where I’ve had a mono source file I recorded on-location. What you can do is duplicate it, offset the timing (so you have two versions at different points in the file), and then either pan two mono tracks out to the left and right, or move it to a stereo track as a “fake” stereo file. Since there’s no true stereo data, I would not pan it full 100% left and right - it’ll just sound like two files - but maybe somewhere around 60 or 70 pan to the left and right.

While it’s not essential, I typically try to have most backgrounds be at least three or so layers, so that way it’s easier to hide edits and little issues in any single file. Also, if you’re working in surround sound, it’s also smart to have a room tone or very “basic” background layer in mono, that you can leave in the center channel with the dialogue. In stereo mixing, I find this often isn’t really all that necessary.

I haven’t done Sound Advice recently just because of time! I started it on my own YouTube channel and then it became part of RJFS, but since then I’ve been busy with my personal life (I have a kid now), and also a couple other big side projects that are taking up the time I used to do Sound Advice in. I really enjoy making tutorials and having discussions with people though, so it’s definitely something I’d love to return to in the future! It’s always easier when someone can pay you to do it, though :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Thanks again, @Kevin_Senzaki for your advise and wisdom, it’ll sure com in handy in this and all the projects to come.

Congratulation on being a father!