Here at 344 Audio HQ, we have designed and edited sound effects for our fair share of action movies. After completing perhaps our most ambitious action project yet - The Division, we decided to share our 5 Top Tips for achieving a consistent and interesting action sound effects tracklay:
The layering of sound effects is a common technique used when tracklaying most films. If you combine sounds with different frequency content, you tend to get a fuller mix. But what many people don't realise is that when laying action effects, a repeatable formula helps bring your projects to life.
On The Divison, we used the same layering formula repeatedly to achieve consistency and reliable results.
For example, each face punch consisted of a hit, bone crack, cloth whoosh, blood splatter, kick drum and designed impact:
#2 Anchor Effects
Anchor effects help build a basis for hits in your tracklay. Placing them as a temp track on each effects cue lays a foundation that you can later build upon.
When designing gunshots and hits for The Division, we continuously used the same base layer, and then added unique effects to differentiate characters. Not only did this achieve coherency in our tracklay, but the mixing process became more predictable.
#3 Dump Tracks
The use of Dump tracks allows you to temporarily store enough variations of sound effects to cover entire scenes.
For example, once all of your variations of punch effects are laid, you can copy them down to your Spot FX tracks as needed in the session, which speeds up your editing speed dramatically.
#4 Variety of Samples
Using a variety of samples is crucial in achieving a dynamic mix which compliments the picture. It is not uncommon for us to use 30+ different variations of punch, kick, whoosh and bone cracks within a scene. Failure to do this will lower the perceived production value of the film, and make it feel like an old Kung Fu movie.
#5 Hits In Mono
Most of your layers for a hit should be in mono, to give them direction in the mix. Try shortening and fading samples to provide more realism on fast paced scenes. Reverb and delay can provide spatial awareness and further worldizing where neccessary.