Audio Specifications for an M&E (Music & Effects) Track for Film & TV

We often get questions about what is and is not acceptable on a stereo or 5.1 M&E track. (Music & Effects) This will be an overview of how to make a proper M&E Track and what should and should not be included.
Music and Effects tracks are used to dub foreign language dialogue onto a movie or television program. The fully filled M&E track contains all audio from a movie or TV show except English dialogue. (or whatever the native language that the movie contains) A Separate track with dialogue in whatever language they are using is synched up to The M&E track. The new dialogue track is then added to a 5.1 M&E mix and then exported to a new file with the correct Spanish, French or other foreign dialogue. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of creating an M&E track.

Fully Filled M&E track:
Most distributors will want a fully filled M&E track if you want to get foreign distribution; As stated above this would contain all audio except English (or native language) dialogue. There are however questions about what needs to be kept in and what needs to be left out. For example:
All effects sounds in M&E should match the effects sound in the full mix 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Meaning they should be at the same audio level and clarity as the Full mix. (Often filmmakers use foley effects that do not match the original full mix when they could use the effects that are already there.)
All Native language dialogue must be removed including audio coming from TV’s radios, or other outside sources. However any Music and/or effects from said sources should remain.

All crowd background noise (known as Walla in the business) that has discernible English dialogue must be removed and replaced with background noise that is “Neutral” meaning no discernible English dialogue is present.

Songs in dialogue (lyrics) with Vocals:
Many movies and shows contain songs with lyrics sung in the native language of the production. Often leaving the original language lyrics in the song is OK but this must be decided on a case by case basis, also to be taken into consideration is the ownership rights to the song. Even if a song’s native language vocals are approved to stay in, there is often a requirement that a separate music only version of the song be provided on a separate file in case it is later decided to record the song in the language the film is being dubbed into.
Foreign Dialogue:
Any dialogue that is a foreign language and not the native dialogue will usually be kept in the M&E mix for example: Spanish dialogue in an English language movie would be kept as it is not meant to be understood by the majority of the audience anyway. In some cases a distributor may require the removal of foreign dialogue as well. Consult your distributors specification requirements for more info on this matter.

Ambient background sound effects,and room noise:
Any ambient sound effects (background noise) from indoor and outdoor scenes should be included in the m&e mix (including room noise, outdoor car traffic, horns, footsteps, and all off screen effects etc.) These effects should match the Full mix and should not have extra audio noise or hiss.

Human non dialogue sounds / noises:
While all native language must be removed, other human sounds should also be left out such Yawning, sighing, laughing, crying, kissing sounds, snoring, whistling, and humans mimicking animal sounds. These will be added to the new foreign language track in which the movie is being dubbed into.

Body movement sound:
All body movement sounds should be included in M&E tracks including clothing rustling sounds when an actor stands up or sits down. Noised form people moving arms, touching anything, sliding across a couch or bed.

If there is a laugh track in the program it should be included in The M&E track with the exception of any English dialogue discernable in the laughs. Which should be removed and replaced with “Neutral” laughs.

Please contact us if you have any questions. We provide free consulting to all clients.