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Entries in Audio (5)


Saving Time and Money in Audio Post

By Woody Woodhall

Some picture editors say “I don’t do sound.”  Other picture editors storm into the bay and insist that as much of their edits, effects and automation as possible from the AAF remain so that their “audio doesn’t get [screwed] up.”  I am much more interested in working with the latter than the former.  I can tell by looking at a few moments of their output movie file, without even opening up the AAF, what their timeline will look like in Pro Tools. Typically an excellent picture edit means a well thought out edit timeline.  Thankfully, there are a lot of really great editors out there.  There are however, a few things that can help save some time and money when the project gets to audio post.

INDIE filmmakers wear many more hats than just one. Writing, producing, directing, editing and more... they typically will have more time than money.  For those of us who work in audio, one of the first main hits on the budget typically occurs in the sound department.  Location audio suffers immediately, budgeting less experienced crew, less expensive gear and usually a distinct preference for the visuals over the audio.  Post audio will also suffer since it is last in the chain and budgets are exhausted at that point.  These budgeting constraints can leave the audio recordings and mixing and re-recording in a precarious situation. 

Meticulous picture editors will slave over their sound as much as their image choices and montage.  If their picture edit is good then generally their AAF (or OMF) will be neat, organized, have a logic unto itself and best of all - sound good.  If their picture edit is sloppy, not well timed to the music and effects, and mic choices all came from a composite track and not an ISO track, it might take some work to get the AAF into a Pro Tools session to edit and mix.

Obviously, a picture editor who takes the position of “I don’t do sound” probably isn’t the most experienced or celebrated editor on the block.  Sound and picture in the work that we do comes as a package.  They may not do sound well, but no matter what, they indeed do sound.  Every dialog take that is chosen, all of the sound effects that are added and every music cue that is spotted and cut, sloppy or not, is a key choice in the final project.

Post audio can be an expensive endeavor.  Its always a good idea to minimize the time spent at a facility since time is money.  If the editor has spent quality time on the audio editing during the picture editing, that will help enormously in the post audio process.

Mundane tasks like cleaning up stray, unused and unwanted audio from the timeline prior to AAF or OMF export is an obvious one.  There should also be a logic and consistency in the track layout.  A simple solution is to dedicate separate tracks to dialog, tracks to effects and tracks to music as well as specific tracks for mono sources and stereo sources.  Often the translated audio in an AAF is no longer stereo interleaved.  Many picture editors do not take this into account.  Sound editors and mixers don’t care about split mono files, except when they are laid out in an illogical manner.

This illustration of an extremely simple edit may help to explain this.  There are stereo and mono elements bundled together here.  And are laid out in an inconsistent manner as can clearly be seen.  In an uncomplicated edit such as this these things can be quickly sorted out by the sound editors.  But if it is an effects intensive show with many mono and stereo elements this can slow things down considerably.  Instead of a quick highlight and drag to stereo or mono tracks in a Pro Tools timeline, individual audio elements must have their sound field determined and then be sorted, one by one.

Track lists that are well thought out and organized and then followed accordingly throughout the picture edit can speed the process.  Not paying attention can have the unintended consequence of improperly checker boarding the stereo field of the files.  What was stereo left on one track just moments ago is now stereo right later in the timeline.  Multiply this practice by hundreds, if not thousands of elements, then the time spent sorting can be considerable.

If sound editors normally do this kind of sorting then why is it a big deal?  Time and money.  A sound house will have to do it in the course of preparing for the mix.  However, It doesn’t make economic sense to be potentially paying top wages for work that could have been done in house prior to the sound hand off.

The dialog tracks, location audio cut by the picture editor, can often be organized with no particular order in mind.  If location dialog were recorded with a boom and a lavaliere, it is an excellent practice, to keep the boom on one particular track and the lavaliere on another.  Sounds logical.  Reasonable.  Practical even....  However, many times, I’ve encountered a changing track order for the various microphones - not only within the entire show edit - but also from within a single scene!

This can soak up many hours of time sorting things out what.  Sound editors will not simply look at waveforms to determine which is which.  The absolute best recording for each audio element must be used.  If there are thousands of small bits of dialog that are not properly labelled, sorted and cut, it can take time to figure it all out. At a mix facility that extra time can translate into extra costs. 

Often the duties of the audio preparation for mixing is tasked to someone who might have never seen a non-linear edit timeline opened in a program like Pro Tools.  It’s understandable that if the person has no experience with how an AAF or an OMF opens on the audio side then the preparation can suffer.  Although AAFs and OMFs are wonderful file types for moving media between systems and programs, at least for audio, they can be sorely lacking.

Another essential element for the edit timeline is to include the various roomtones for each scene on a separate track in the AAF or OMF.  Roomtones are something that I speak of regularly since it is not an optional part of sound editing but rather an integral part of it.  Roomtone is the glue for all of the dialog editing and mixing.  If there is dialog re-recording or if there is Foley added then roomtone is essential for the sound mixing.  It is sometimes hard to find. I have asked location recordists about this and I am always assured that roomtones were recorded for each scene.  Many of of the AAFs that I receive from picture editors do not include roomtones.

....Read the full article here!


Beyond the Mask - Final Audio Mix

“There were many people involved in the sound work for Beyond the Mask. We had sound designer Nathan Ashton, composer Jurgen Beck, and their teams,” says director Chad Burns. “But on a project, there’s usually one person who has what is called the ‘golden ears.’ And that person is the last one to listen to the audio and put all the pieces together. It’s an incredibly important job.”

Allow me to introduce Ben Zarai, Beyond the Mask’s “golden eared” sound mixer. I had the privilege of interviewing Ben about his time working on Beyond the Mask. Ben is an LA based audio expert who knows his field well, having worked on audio in over two hundred films. Chad, Aaron, and Nathan Ashton had the opportunity to work with Ben on the film’s final audio mix. As Chad commented, “Ben is really a power mixer. He didn’t just do the work of a final mixer. He did the work of a music mixer, a sound effects mixer, and then a final mixer as well. Ben’s impact on the movie was a night and day difference.”


Director Chad Burns in the studio with audio mixer Ben Zarai

All of the pieces have already been recorded and created by the time the film reaches the mixer, but at that point, Ben arranges each of them so that they sound good relative to each other. As Ben says, “My job is to take all of the sounds plus all the music and blend them together so that everybody can understand the dialogue; the sound effects are what they need to be – big and dynamic or soft and subdued – everything that needs to happen to make it sound like a movie.”

In the studio, Ben worked alongside Chad, Aaron, and Nathan to create the final mix. Working as a team, they went through the film, moment by moment, adjusting each individual sound to reach the perfect combination. In the mixing process, Ben converted the audio from stereo to surround sound as well as adjusting several elements on each sound. “We have all the different sounds on a computer, and we turn them up and down and modify them so that they sound a little bit thicker or thinner or add more treble or bass to each sound, just to get everything to fit together as well as it can.” There are many aspects to every sound, but Ben’s main adjustment is the relative volume of each sound. “That is probably number one. How loud the music is, even how loud maybe the strings are versus the horns, compared to the dialogue.” But knowing which layer to increase or decrease gets complicated quickly, and that’s where the discerning ears of an experienced mixer are needed. “Maybe the scene is on a ship,” Ben offered me an example. “And you’ve got the creaking of the ship as a sound and you’ve got the crashing of the waves. You’ve got the boots on the wood deck as people are walking around and the swords clanking in their belts. So many sounds are happening at once, and you have to decide what is important for telling the story. You want it to sound big and full and rich, but you also want it to be clear so that the dialogue isn’t buried by the wind.”

The most difficult yet rewarding sound work in Beyond the Mask comes at the end of the film. “The most challenging part was the big finale,” Ben says. “Everything goes crazy, and stuff is blowing up and there are sword fights while there are explosions while there’s dialogue. It’s pretty intense. We had to get all of that to fit together so that you can hear what’s going on, but also make it exciting and cinematic and as entertaining as possible. That came out really well. We are all very happy with it.”

At the close of the interview, I asked Ben what he thought of Beyond the Mask as a film. “This is sort of like a critique of the movie,” Ben said. “Wow, that’s hard, because there are so many really strong elements in Beyond the Mask. The story’s strong. The acting’s great. The cinematography’s terrific. Of course the sound is good,” Ben added with a laugh. “I would say the story is probably the strongest element. It’s a very classic story, but it’s told in a fresh way that doesn’t feel tired or contrived. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a hero’s journey with universal themes of love, honor and integrity. With a great plot line, and great action sequences… It’s a winner. ”
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(Article Source)


Motion Pulse - Sound FX

Video CoPilot: Our new Sound Design Toolkit is Now Available!  This is by far the biggest sound FX collection we’ve ever made and we went to a whole new level with every sound.

Check out the new MotionPulse product demo and see our new Sound FX toolkit  in Action! This is just a glimpse at the 2000 sound FX collection that we’ve been working on. The possibilities are unlimited!


PluralEyes 3

Audio/Video sync in seconds

Videographers and filmmakers win by telling a good story. Now you can win at the workflow behind that story too. By synchronizing audio and multi-camera video automatically, PluralEyes revolutionizes post-production and speeds your sync in seconds rather than days. PluralEyes 3 is a standalone application with a new timeline, visual feedback, and touch-up features for quality control. PluralEyes 3 is up to 20x faster than PluralEyes 2, and can easily prepare an audio/video sync for any NLE. For a faster, less tedious and more accurate workflow, use PluralEyes 3 to put the focus back onto creative storytelling.

Now for Windows too! PluralEyes 3 delivers in one package, at one price, for all operating systems. Version 3 brings the sync to both Mac and Windows, plus you still get the original PluralEyes 2 and DualEyes.

What's New

  • FREE UPDATE! PluraEyes 3.2 adds full support for Windows systems, and imports/exports its timeline with Sony Vegas Pro
  • Turn post from tedious to lightning-fast. PluralEyes 3 is up to 20x quicker than PluralEyes 2, and hundreds of times faster than synchronizing the old-fashioned way. Learn to love visual storytelling again.
  • Enjoy production more as you do less. A brand new timeline with visual feedback gives you confidence as you watch the sync happen. Identify problems before they happen, and get some geek excitement by watching the sync occur in real time.
  • Get the sync in one place. We integrated DualEyes features to create a standalone PluralEyes 3 application. Now you can sync footage before going into an editing platform.
  • "Do It For Me" workflow. Let PluralEyes do the heavy lifting, when you add a group of clips as 'Takes,' and let PluralEyes decide their relationship while it's syncing.
  • Bring quality control to the edit. New ‘test & tweak’ tools such as Two-Up View and Synchronize Pair of Clips save time by adjusting the sync on-the-fly, offering you a full quality control step before the creative editing.
  • Learn More -


    Rode smartLav for iPhone

    Professional audio, direct to your smartphone or tablet.
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