Dialogue design session

Dialogue design

Gangs of Wasseypur is the first movie in my experience that was mixed in two studios simultaneously. It is a 9 Jumbo film of which Sinoy Joseph in Qlab mixed some reels and I did some in Sound City. I wont be able to comment on the techniques and mixes of those reels except for the fact that they sounded absolutely brilliant. I will be mentioning some ideas and techniques that I had used in the reels that I mixed.
Before I get to that, I must mention that a brilliant sound design by Kunal Sharma, a superb track layout by Mishaal Chinai and a razor cut dialogue editing by Zahir A Bandukwala made my job half done already. The challenge was to take their tracks and try and make it sound better and bigger. With such a well-organized track, it was easier to let go of the technicalities and just focus on the creative part. Kunal wanted to try out a very interesting thing. He wanted the basic mix to be 5.1 and open up the 7.1 mix (Left back and Right back) only in the action sequences where it matters. This turned out to be really good. The audience is unaware of the back speakers for most part of the film until they are put into the midst of an intense gunfire all around them. The back surrounds really played a vital role in that part being silent until then.

The reels I handled majorly were Reel 6 with the shootout sequence in the house and Reel 8 with the KKL Dubstep climax shootout. In Reel 6, there is a sequence where inside the shootout, as the lead character goes upstairs, Kunal wanted to focus on his breath and let everything else wash off. I then thought that it would be better to get an inside of his head perspective. Kind of let the audience know how that breath would sound to him. Zahir had already created a layer of breath tracks for me. The basic idea I thought was how would sound be to within oneself. The first thing that I tried was to create an underwater effect. That didn’t work out much because it just didn’t fit the scene. The whole idea then was to create a ring and a depth that one can associate with closed ears thereby making it very intimate. I wanted the ring to be generated from the dialogue and not with a high frequency tone.

What I later did (after many experiments) was inspired from a random discussion about three-way speakers. I kept the breath in the center channel, duplicated it and made 5 tracks. Each of these tracks was processed with a very tight reverb and almost 80% to 90% wet. Then I put a 2 frames offset on the last two tracks. Example, the 4th one was 2 frames early and 5th one 2 frames late. The Track layout will be like this:

-Original Dia -Center pan
-Tight reverb 1 -Center pan with slight LCR divergence
-Tight reverb 2 -Reverb and send to a phaser and diverged
-Tight reverb 3 -Low Send bus to Aux Low1, Low2, Low2
-Tight reverb 4 (2frames early) -Mid Send bus to Aux Mid1, Mid2, Mid3
-Tight reverb 5 (2frames late) -High Send bus to Aux High1, High2, High3

The 9 auxes created each have a set of complex filters to get a ringing effect. I didn’t want to use a ring modulator because that would create too much variation. Instead, I used filters from the Channel Strip plugin in Protools with notches at very close frequencies like for low it would be 150, 170 and around 200 with high Q factor and varying that. Same for Mids and Highs. The pan position for these auxes is as:

Low1 Left Surround
Low2 Center
Low3 Right Surround
Mid1 Left
Mid2 Center
Mid3 Right
High1 Left mid space
High2 Center
High3 Right mid space

The idea of using pans like this is so that the lows enclose you because the surround speakers are an array; the mids reach out in the dialogue register but being filtered and 2 frames early sound like a ghost signal preluding the dry. The half pans of the high filters position the rings arbitrarily so that they just have a presence. The phaser was a later addition to remove the feeling of the sounds being static. It gives a slight tinge of motion to the sound thereby making it feel as if we are moving within the headspace. Although it looks complex in writing it really is simple to execute and once you have a template or idea like this, the possibilities are endless. The separation into low mid and high is an inspiration from the 3-way speakers. Apart from that, Mishaal had an idea of using waves 360 imager to pan a series of gunshots around the space so that we are within the actual action. To add to the in body feel, Kunal inserted some low frequency tones that really gave an in-the-head experience!

A song follows this. The song was mixed in a non-conventional way where the vocals were panned to lead the character as he walks through a series of rooms and the whole song itself being treated to the room reverb in a 5.1 space as the rooms change.

For the Reel 8 climax, I did a completely whacky pan motion based on the performance in the bass track of the Dubstep version of KKL. There are some killer glitch and bass notes in Sneha Khanwalkar’s music. When I heard that, the first instinct that came to me was to treat the bass as a performance to accent the climax on screen. I panned each and every note of the bass in a section of the song all throughout the room, each based on the kind of notes and moves that was played. I didn’t realize, but if the scene hadn’t been shot in the way it was, this pan would be really silly. But Kunal and Anurag liked the way it was done. In addition to this, another trick I did was to make the beginning of the song mono, low and in a way the notes just registered through the guns and roll off the lows and the highs so that the mind is used to that bandwidth and when the bass notes and percussion kicks in start all the channels and open up the bandwidth so that there is a more apparent bigness in it without pushing levels. In addition, there were some really cool processings done by Mishaal with white noise, compression and whatnots for the guns.

These are some of the tricks and techniques I used while mixing this film. There are a lot more ideas speckled throughout the film, but then it’s better those are left to be experienced. Sinoy has done a superb mix in the other reels. I have only helped him with these two reels. In the whole film experience, he has the major role in mixing.


I realise that mixing is not merely about techniques but about getting the storyline across. Once that is achieved, all these tricks and tips are just tools to accentuate a given emotion. The reason I share all of this is to pass on ideas that have occurred to be and can be applied somewhere or the other in some form. Some of them may look complicated, and some of them really simple. The whole idea is just to share my version of how I looked at it. Everyone looks at a scene differently. It’s that difference that brings a whole lot of color and perspective to a film.