Audio Mixing -- the Aesthetics of Panning

Posted by MitchellRose 
Audio Mixing -- the Aesthetics of Panning
January 31, 2010 04:21PM
I've rarely used panning because I always figure in a theater, somebody's sitting way over on the side and the mix will sound imbalanced for them. Or someone has their computer speakers wired backwards and the pan's going to go the wrong way. OK, I'm paranoid.

But I wanna try some panning on the project I'm working on, and my question is this: Is there a rule of thumb for how heavy to go with panning -- if a sound source enters from the side, crosses the frame, and exits the other side, do you pan 100/0 > 0/100 or 75/25 > 25/75?

An example. A scene at a track and field event. We see a race from the spectators' perspective in the bleachers. Because it's a far-away perspective, I have the sound panned Center. Feels right. Cut to:

Reverse shot of the fans watching from the track perspective. We hear the footsteps and panting of a runner approaching from the Right -- whoosh, he crosses the frame -- he exits and fades away Left.

In that second shot, I'm panning 100% Right to Left. To me, it sounds a bit weird, to hear some some mixed Center in the first shot, and then cut to the same sounds panned fully Right. Although it conceptually makes sense.

So I just wanted to hear what the conventional wisdom is in regards to panning.

Thanks, mixing mavens.

Mitchell Rose
Re: Audio Mixing -- the Aesthetics of Panning
January 31, 2010 04:41PM
Kind of in the wrong place for that. You're talking about very involved, aesthetic decisions about sound mixing. Not really the right question for an editing forum whose main focus is technical troubleshooting.
Re: Audio Mixing -- the Aesthetics of Panning
January 31, 2010 06:24PM
Yea. Doing a pan from -1 to +1 is the clunkiest thing in the world. You'd be better off discussing the aesthetics of audio mixing in a sound editing forum. And yes, you're paranoid. 5.1 surround means the sound is actually divided, usually dialogue at the center, it's not your business to care if they hooked up the subwoofer to the back left speaker.

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