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Ruy Garcia Leverages Upmixing Software for Film Releases on Netflix And AppleTV

NUGEN Halo Upmix Preserves the Character of the Original Audio for Wendy and Midsommar Without Adding any Artificial Reverb, Chorus or Delays

As one of the industry’s most respected audio experts, award-winning re-recording mixer, sound editor and sound designer Ruy Garcia is passionate about using only the best audio equipment for his craft. When it came time to fine-tune the surround mixes for the Netflix release of Square Peg/B-Reel’s 2019 Midsommar and the world premiere of FOX Search Light’s recent Wendy, Garcia selected NUGEN Audio’s Halo Upmix. Initially, both Midsommar and Wendy were 5.1 projects, but with the advent of streaming releases on the horizon, film execs requested Atmos-compliant mixes.

Though Garcia did sound design, he didn’t mix the original theatrical version of Midsommar. Instead, he was brought back on for its streaming debut. “When Midsommar was seen in theaters, it was a beautiful, sonically complex, 5.1-format movie,” he says. “After the film was sold to Apple TV, A24 and supervising sound editor, Gene Park, hired me to mix the Atmos version.” With Wendy, Garcia served as sound designer, supervising sound editor and effects mixer. “We originally mixed in 5.1 and then, thanks to a Dolby Fellowship grant, had the opportunity to finish our mix in Atmos before it premiered in theaters.”

Recognizing the complexity that might have previously gone into upmixing these projects, Garcia explains, “In today’s mixing environment, sound designers often have to make their projects simultaneously compatible with Atmos, 5.1, and stereo. It’s important to have tools that work well with the artistic side in conjunction with all these technical requirements. In the past, I never really liked using upmixers – I always preferred panning things manually. But, in the case of both Midsommar and Wendy, using the ‘exact mode’ from NUGEN’s Halo Upmix provided us with quick transparent Atmos capability, along with the stereo mix compatibility, which was very important.”

From naturally extracted and expanded soundscapes to full cinematic big-stage enhancement, Halo Upmix delivers all the control needed to fine-tune surround mixes. “Halo Upmix is not only fully immersive, but its visual tools and sonics stand out from all the other upmixers on the market,” continues Garcia. “NUGEN’s Halo Upmix is incredibly useful for simultaneously delivering projects in both stereo and Atmos, and it has given us the option of making a really immersive sound field. For example, with Midsommar, there are scenes where the camera is tilting and rolling around. We literally took an entire piece of stereo score and made it flow all around us with the simple move of a fader. That was incredibly natural, and you could really feel it in the room.”

Although Midsommar was Garcia’s first time using NUGEN’s Halo Upmix, he’s no stranger to the brand. “We use the company’s ISL limiter and VisLM meter to comply with Netflix, HBO or Apple’s loudness requirements,” he adds. “When we were creating the theatrical mix for We the Animals, the soundtrack ran the entire spectrum of loudness. Overall, it’s a very quiet film, but it is also very dynamic, and we didn’t want to lose that quality to hit a required delivery level. In order to make it work for TV, we had to limit that spectrum to hit specific targets while still aiming to retain the overall emotional feel. In the case of Midsommar, we set up a recorder system for running VisLM meters after the Dolby DMU, this allowed us to check that the 7.1, 5.1 and stereo versions would also work for Apple’s specifications. By doing so, we still had the full Atmos format options and could confidently push the loudness levels, which was really useful.”

For Garcia, NUGEN provides a vast array of other benefits. “I really like NUGEN’s Halo Upmix software because, when I’m mixing, I prefer not to leave one setting for the entire movie; I'm moving it all the time,” he says. “The plug-in allows me to have more in the center or in the ceiling, when working between sequences. They are really creative tools, not just converters. The graphics are also very informative, especially the meters, which provide visual cues for what we have to adjust. I also really like the Halo Upmix ‘exact’ control mode, which affords me the confidence of knowing that the original source integrity is precisely preserved. No matter what I’m working on, NUGEN is part of my template.”

Owing to his artistic style, Garcia says he is typically drawn to smaller, independent-style films. Many of his projects have also turned into blockbuster hits – like Wendy and his previous work on Roma. “I usually work on movies that have more of an emotional content; and my main expertise is sound design–creating new and interesting soundscapes, trying to create an entire soundtrack for a film,” he says. “These independent films are mixed in just a few weeks. And, on top of trying to provide a theatrical level mix under that time constraint, there’s usually the requirement of making them Atmos, Stereo, and 5.1 compatible.

In addition to his recent projects, Garcia’s credits include the hit movie Y Tu Mama Tambien and the popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire and The Night Of, for which he won prime-time Emmy Awards in 2013 and 2017. It is these types of series that have made him well-equipped to efficiently budget his time. “TV (or streaming) shows are especially challenging to produce,” he adds. “You have very little time, with tight schedules. During the five years I was with Boardwalk Empire, we literally had five days to turn hours’ worth of material into one-hour of film-quality material content. You really have to learn what’s more important, prioritize your tasks and make it work quickly without sacrificing quality. Having software that lets you put everything into one single session has proven incredibly helpful over the years.”

Interestingly, Garcia’s workflow lends itself incredibly well to the at-home production format that everyone is experiencing the world over. “I have a personal mix studio in New York City and another one upstate,” he explains. “Both rooms are perfectly tuned for mixing and editing work, which has been helpful in the current environment of our industry.”