• Jack Hughes

The Ultimate Guide To Audio Post Production & Sound Design

Updated: 4 days ago



Our Ultimate Guide to Audio Post Production will serve as the complete resource for anyone looking to learn more about the craft of audio post-production. This guide contains a specially curated selection of our blog posts from our archives, as well as external content such as videos, tips, and insights from trusted industry sources.

The Audio Post Process


Pre Production

Pre production covers all of the sound related activities that need to be completed before the camera starts rolling. It typically will include the following tasks: 


Script Analysis - Reading and annotating the script to form a basis of ideas that the Director can critique and build upon.


Building a Sound Team - The Sound Supervisor may get involved with building the team for Post Production and in some cases Location Sound. It is also important to build relationships between the whole team here.



Location Visits - Location Sound Recordists and/or Sound Supervisors will want to be present during location visits to troubleshoot sound issues and to look for opportunities for recording sound effects.


Spotting Session - The Supervising Sound Editor/Sound Designer will have a meeting with the Director, to perform a thorough creative analysis of the film and it's required sound assets.


Custom Sound Effects Recording - The Sound Effects Recordist will capture sounds that add authenticity and character to the film. These recordings can be taken from a variety of places, both at the location of the production, and during specific field recording trips.


Pre Production Sound Design - Some sounds may need to be created before production begins, to be played on set for actor's cues or to meet the Director's approval in time for Post Production to start.

Check out our blog post below for 7 ways to get involved in pre production sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/07/26/blog-7-ways-to-get-involved-in-pre-production-sound-design


Check out Kaine Levy's post on a Director's perspective of audio post:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-a-filmmaker-s-perspective-on-the-importance-of-audio-post


Session Preparation

The Supervising Sound Editor and Re-recording Mixer will start by building a DAW master template that is suitable for the given project. This will likely house more than enough audio tracks to cover the whole films dialogue, sound effects and foley. They will then begin importing the necessary files: Video File with guidance audio track (used for checking synchronisation between sound and picture and OMF/AAF files (used for delivery of the production tracks synced by the Picture Editor).


Dialogue Editing

The Dialogue Editor will either take sections from the master template above or use his own smaller DAW template to edit the dialogues. They will be using the OMF/AAF files delivered by the Picture Editor which contain the raw Dialogue and Location Sound recordings correctly synced to the picture. Dialogue Editing involves trimming and extending clips, adding fades, copy and pasting, swapping out takes, and rendering audio repair effects onto clips. Removing any inconsistent and discomforting sounds allows the Re-recording Mixer to perform the mix with smooth and clean dialogue tracks. The Dialogue Edit can make or break a mix, so it is crucial to ensure that this sounds great before the Producer and Director make final approvals.



Take a look at Izotope's page covering dialogue editing:

https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/dialogue-editing

Take a look at Film Editing Pro's post covering dialogue editing:

https://www.filmeditingpro.com/3-film-dialogue-editing-tips-eq-compressors-and-tone/


Sound Effects Editing/Sound Design

The Sound Effects/Design team is often the largest sub-department and has the most extensive workload on some projects. They will use a part of the larger master template, dragging, dropping, syncing, fading and checking audio files against the picture. They build layers of sound effects taken from personal or commercial libraries to create an immersive soundscape in line with the Directors notes.



These sounds come in multiple categories:


Spot Effects aka Cut Effects, Hard Effects - Spot Effects are intended to cover obvious sounds on screen such as doors, vehicles, fist punches etc. They may also be used to replace or enhance sounds captured on the production tracks that aren't suitable for the Final Mix. Spot Effects can be quite complex, a combination of intensive sound editing sessions and communicating with the Foley team are needed to get the best results. Action films tend to be heavier on Spot Effects, as they include more vehicles, gunshots and punches; all of which must be covered.


Background Effects aka Atmos, Ambiences - Background Effects are used to widen the stereo image of your film, and surround the viewer in the mix. They are often long, consistent and looping sounds that can give the audience a different perception of what is on screen. For example, if a scene has howling resonant wind it may feel empty or scary, but if it has tweeting birds it may feel more peaceful. Background Effects can also hide issues in the production track, and tend to sell the continuity between shots in your scenes and transitions. They can also be a way to hide issues in your production tracks. For example, if you have a generator rumble under your dialogue, you may be able to hide it with a refrigerator noise if the scene is within a house. They can be quite extensive on some projects. It is not uncommon to see 8 or more layers of ambient sound covering a scene simultaneously.


Design Effects aka Sound Design, Design - These elements cover unnatural/otherworldly sounds, musical sound design or audio that must be manipulated and heavily layered to get the desired result. Examples include monster growls, earthquakes, spaceships, trailer sound effects and drones.


Check out this video for our conversation with Kriscoart for a detailed discussion on achieving great cinematic sound design.


Foley

Foley is intended to cover human (and sometimes non human) interactions with objects. It is created by a Foley Artist watching the picture and performing relevant actions with various objects. The main aim of Foley is to cover footsteps, clothes movement and additional sounds aka props. These include details such as gun handling, kissing and coins in pockets. More advanced Foley covers content such as weather and environmental effects.



Reconforming

Due to the nature of how most DAW systems work, any changes to the Picture Edit that take place after the Post Production Sound Team have started working, will cause synchronisation issues. Anything from a single frame change to multiple scene cuts must be logged by the editor and delivered to the Sound Supervisor in the form of an Edit Decision List (EDL) and a new video file. It is best to avoid this as additional costs will be incurred, expensive software solutions will be needed, and the Sound Team may need to re-edit their tracklay (combination of dialogue, sound effects, foley and music) manually.


Mixing

Mixing is the process of taking all of the elements within the soundtrack and balancing them into a cohesive tapestry of sound. The Final Mix will be performed by the Dubbing Mixer/Re-recording Mixer after all of the tracklay is completed and the Director has approved the work. The Re-recording Mixer will use a combination of software tools to sculpt the mix, ensuring that dialogue is consistent, the foley is realistic, sound effects have an interesting surround field, the music blends well and there is a pleasant tonal balance overall.



Job Roles


While many audio post professionals cover multiple roles when completing a project, understanding the key differences between of each of the different job roles is essential. This is especially important you move higher up the food chain and are working on more large-scale productions, as work tends to become more specialised with individuals/small teams covering a specific area of the audio production. Knowing what each role entails is essential for smooth cooperation between teams and understanding how you fit into the bigger picture.


Sound Designer

A Sound Designer is a multi skilled sound professional who gets creatively and technically involved with making sounds to tell a story. On smaller budget projects, the Sound Designer may also be the Dialogue Editor, Sound Editor, Re-recording Mixer, Sound Supervisor and sometimes the Foley Artist.


Dialogue Editor

Dialogue Editors take the Location Sound that is synced up by the picture editor, and work to ensure a constant flow of dialogue without clicks, pops, noise, distortion and discontinuities.


Sound EFFECTS Editor

A Sound Effects Editor takes recordings from sound libraries and places them in sync with the picture to help create a seamless flow of continuity and narrative.


Re-Recording Mixer/Dubbing Mixer

A Re-recording Mixer takes the audio tracks that the team have created, deciding which elements will remain (in line with the Director's notes) as well as their overall tonal balance, distance perception and technical needs for the final deliverables of the Sound Mix.


Foley Artist

Foley Artists perform sounds that would be impractical to create with sound effects and sound design. Examples include footsteps, cloth movement and gun handling. They also add a layer of continuity to your actors performance.


Foley Mixer

Foley Mixers record the sounds that the Foley Artist creates, giving them feedback on the performance whilst listening for technical issues.


Foley Editor

Foley Editors edit the Foley Artist's work, to make it sync with the picture and to assure that it is suitable for mixing by the Re-recording Mixer.


Sound Supervisor/Supervising Sound Editor

A head of department, who often helps with building the Sound Team and overseeing collaboration with the Director and Producers to achieve the best Final Mix possible.


Sound Effects Recordist

A Field Recordist who records custom sound effects for your project, often with high end equipment.


ADR Mixer

ADR Mixers record ADR (automated dialogue replacement) to replace unusable audio from location. They liase with the Director and Talent to get the best performance and believability out of the recordings. Check out this great video from Filmmaker IQ for an overview on the role of sound in post production.


For a more detailed look into the audio post production workflow, job roles, technology and how to get the most out of your sound designer you can check out these blog posts:


Our post on working with Sound Designers:

https://www.344audio.com/post/working-with-sound-designers


Our post on how Sound Designers perceive the world through their ears:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/06/10/aurally-enhanced-life-through-the-ears-of-a-

sound-designer


Our post on if the sound is really 50% of a film:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/11/07/is-sound-really-50-of-a-film


Our posts covering the entire post production process:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/09/22/audio-post-production-demystified-a-comprehensive-guide-for-filmmakers-part-1


https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/09/30/audio-post-production-demystified-a-comprehensive-guide-for-filmmakers-part-2


https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/10/06/audio-post-production-demystified-a-comprehensive-guide-for-filmmakers-part-3


Beach House Studios discussing some of the differences between music and film mixing:

https://www.thebeachhousestudios.com/mixing-sound-for-film-audio-post-production-overview/


The Pro Audio Files' post discussing different the job roles:

https://theproaudiofiles.com/roles-in-audio-post-production/


Thanks for taking the time to read through our ultimate guide to audio post production! We have condensed countless hours of knowledge into this guide, with insights from our whole team that have been gained from years working in the industry. Please consider supporting us by making a purchase from the 344 Audio store!

https://www.344audio.com/store

Filmmakers/Editors - How to Deliver audio & video assets to your sound designer

Step 1: The Prep

When editing your film, keep dialogue, sound effects and music on separate tracks so that the AAF/OMF file we describe in the following section is organised upon delivery. You should never delete alternative mic options from the dialogue tracks, as your sound team may be able to use these later. When editing, audio synchronisation is crucial. Once you have synchronised your dialogue, the video and audio regions should stay linked so avoid sound slipping out of sync in your editing software.


Step 2: Audio Assets

Upload all of the audio rushes (audio takes recorded on set) to a file sharing service with a service like Google Drive, which will allow your sound team to stream selected files online and download if needed.


Complete the final locked edit of your project (this can be pre Colour Grading or Visual Effects). Completion of your final locked edit before audio delivery will ensure the most seamless workflow with your Audio Post Production Studio. Place all current dialogue tracks, ADR, voice over, sound effects and music at their desired timecode position in your editing session.


Place a 1kHz sine wave, 1 frame in duration, 2 seconds before the video region starts. When the final mix is delivered by the Audio Post Production Studio, you can use the sync tone in your edit and match it with the one present in their mix to achieve perfect synchronisation. The video region should start at timecode 01 00 00 00, unless your distribution specifications say otherwise.


Navigate to your software’s AAF/OMF export window (as shown below), and select the following settings:


File Format: AAF / (OMF if under 2GB) with Embedded Audio (do not embed video)


Audio File Format: WAV


Bit Depth: 24 Bit


Sample Rate: 48kHz


Audio Handles: Minimum of 240 frames

This file will allow the sound team to access all of your audio edits, volume key frames and extend takes within clips (it is comparable to an XML file). The better organised it is before delivery, the happier your Audio Post Production Studio will be, and the more time they will have for creative tasks.


Step 3. Video Assets

Add a timecode indicator to your video, placed inside the visual ‘letterbox’ (or where it would be) at the bottom or top of the frame. The audio attached to your video file will need to match the AAF/OMF file, so retain all dialogue tracks, ADR, sound effects and music at their desired timecode position in your editing session.


Navigate to your software’s video export window, and select the following settings:


Video Format: MOV Video Codec: Avid DnxHD is the officially supported format by Pro Tools (H.264 if your Audio Post Production Studio are willing to convert the file)


Video Frame Rate: Matching that of your video master


Resolution: Up to 1920 x 1080


Key-frames each 12 frames, P and B frames: Disabled


Automatic Key-frames: Disabled


Audio: Linear PCM/WAV in Stereo L/R

Step 4. Online/Physical Delivery Keep all of these assets on an online file sharing service with no deletion date, and avoid using zip/rar archives. This is to reduce the risk of download corruption or lack of access. Ensure that the Audio Post Production Studio have checked and approved your assets before the start date of Audio Post.

Setting Up Your Session


In Audio Post Production, having a clear session template can be the difference between a well structured, efficient workflow, and a selection of tracks that is difficult to navigate.



Here is a breakdown of how to set up your session, and the different types of tracks to include:


Dump/Dialogue Tracks - The Dump tracks are for all of your imported OMF/AAF file data and any recordings / sound effects that wont be used in the Final Mix. They should be made inactive when not in use. The Dials/ADR tracks are for editing and mixing dialogue, voice overs and automatic dialogue replacement (ADR).


Foley/Spot/Atmos Tracks - The Foley tracks are for editing and mixing recorded foley footsteps, cloth movements and prop sounds. The Spot tracks are for editing and mixing sound effects that are not present but are needed to fit on/off screen cues, for example gunshots, doors closing etc. The Atmos tracks are for editing and mixing atmospheric sound effects, for example wind blowing, birds tweeting etc.


Design/Music Tracks - The Design tracks are for designing, editing and mixing audio material, for example trailer impacts, monster vocalisations and sub rumbles etc. The stereo Music tracks are for editing and mixing mainly non diegetic music. The mono Music tracks are for editing and mixing mainly diegetic music.


Auxiliary Inputs - These tracks are for balancing the levels, frequency content and dynamics between dialogue, sound effects and music in your mix. For example, routing all of your dialogue tracks out to Aux 8, lets you control the levels of the dialogue as a whole against the other elements of the mix. Aux tracks are also used for adding reverb and delay to your mix via buses.  


If you are interested in a set of professional templates for your projects, take a look at our Audio Post Production Template: Ultimate Edition Bundle on the 344 Audio store: https://www.344audio.com/audio-post-template-ultimate-bundle



You can find also more in depth coverage of how to set up your session, as well as tips for a successful spotting session with your director, and optimising Pro Tools for video playback in these blog posts below.


Our guide on building a basic post production template:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/10/14/audio-post-essentials-a-basic-session-template


Our guide on what to discuss in a sound design spotting session:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-5-things-to-discuss-in-a-sound-design-spotting-session


Our guide on how to improve video playback in Pro Tools:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-how-to-improve-video-playback-in-pro-tools


Our guide on how clients should deliver AAF/Video files to you:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/10/09/article-how-to-deliver-aafvideo-assets-to-your-sound-designer-hassle-free



Capturing Sounds


Capturing your own sounds is an essential part of the audio post production process. No matter how many sound effects libraries their are to choose from, there will always come a point in a project where you can't find the sound you need, and must either capture or create it. You will principally turn to either field recording, or foley as your solution.


Field Recording

The process of recording sounds "in the field". That means taking your recording equipment to a location that sonically matches the one in your project and capturing the sounds you need. The outdoors nature of field recording means that the microphones used tend to differ quite a bit in design from their studio counterparts. There is a particular focus on capturing sounds in their most natural form, and in the highest fidelity possible.



Check out our 5 essential tips for field recording:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-5-essential-tips-for-field-recording


Check out A Sound Effects' post on urban field recording: https://www.asoundeffect.com/urban-field-recording/


Soundonsound's post on what to consider when recording outside:

https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-what-should-i-consider-when-recording-outside


Foley Recording

The process of matching the physical movements an actors performance and recording the associated sounds such as footsteps, cloth movement and prop interaction. Foley differs from field recording in that it takes place in a studio environment, and you are capturing the actions of a foley artist instead of natural occurrences.

If you are interested in recording professional grade foley in your studio, take a look at our guide to building your own D.I.Y foley pit:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-how-to-build-a-d-i-y-foley-pit


You can find out more about foley in this great video from BAFTA Guru.



Crafting/Designing Sounds


There are 2 primary methods of designing sounds from scratch. They are making the sound using a synthesiser, or taking a real-world sound as a starting point and manipulating it for the desired effect.


Synthesis is the process of creating sounds using specialised hardware/software called synthesisers. Synthesizers typically come in two forms, hardware and software.


Hardware analogue synths are physical objects containing electronic circuit boards that generate sounds and allow the user to control them based on different parameters. The user shapes the sound using different physical inputs (knobs and sliders) to manipulate the voltage/signal travelling through the circuit. Hardware synths typically have a rich and fiery sound compared to software alternatives. Some hardware synths use fully digital sound generation, and therefore have more flexibility, but can sound more like their software counterparts.



Software Synthesizers function in a similar way except there are no physical components controlling the sound, meaning that everything happens digitally. Because there are no physical limitations restricting design, software synths generally offer much more flexibility than hardware, and will be more accessible to most users. Another huge advantage of almost all software synthesisers is the ability to save your patches for future use and to use an almost unlimited amount of iterations at once.



Synthesizers offer an unparalleled level of control when creating sounds, and will be useful for a wide variety of sound design tasks.


Our blog about designing sounds with hardware effects:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/01/12/article-designing-sound-with-hardware-synths-effects


Our blog detailing the best Reaktor ensembles for film and game sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/08/11/the-5-best-reaktor-ensembles-for-film-game-sound-design


Our demonstration of using hardware synths for sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/06/28/blog-how-we-use-the-korg-minilogue-for-sound-design


Our demonstration of using hardware effects for sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/07/12/blog-how-we-use-the-zoom-ms-70cdr-for-sound-design



Although synthesisers allow the user to manipulate sounds with the most precision, they often lack the sense of weight and physicality that comes from sounds occurring in the real world. The manipulation of real world sounds is the way to bridge the gap, and will often yield results that would be very difficult if not impossible to replicate with a synthesiser.


This method is especially useful for creating sounds that have a 'designed' quality, but still feel like they exist in our world, which is a critical part of sound design. We have a huge array of tools to work with nowadays, so get creative and see what you can conjure up. Common everyday objects can become monstrous with the right care and attention!


A great example of manipulating everyday sounds is our sound effects library Household Drones: https://www.344audio.com/household-drones


Specific methods of audio manipulation to implement.


- Modification of pitch, playback speed or bit rate.

- Cut or boost frequencies with EQ or filter.

- Use modulation tools such as chorus, flanger, phaser.

- Use heavy reverb/delay.

- Reverse the sound.

- Apply harmonic processes like distortion and saturation.

- Degrade the sound using lo-fi effects.

- Layer multiple sounds together.


Understanding how to manipulate and re-purpose sounds will allow you to extract the maximum value out of the assets you are working with.


In this video sound editor Mark Mangini gives us a short masterclass on sound effects editing.


Synthesis vs. field recording, which is more effective?

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/02/04/article-synthesis-vs-field-recording-which-is-more-effective


How to make horror sound effects:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/10/22/how-to-make-horror-sound-effects


How to sound design halloween:

https://www.344audio.com/post/how-to-sound-design-halloween


An introduction to creative sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/an-introduction-into-creative-sound-design


ASMR and sound design:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/02/14/asmrtists-sound-designers-where-pleasure-meets-purpose

Writing music with toys:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/02/23/designing-music-with-toys-writing-a-song-on-the-nintendo-3ds


Electric coil pickups:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/02/15/article-electro-coil-pickups-a-budget-friendly-tool-for-sound-designers


Top 5 audio manipulation plugins for Pro Tools:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-top-5-free-audio-manipulation-plugins-in-pro-tools


Voice Manipulation

The Human voice is an incredibly powerful sound design tool, not only for the range of sounds it can produce but for the simple fact that it is accessible to everyone.



Orcs, trolls, zombies and everything in between are brought to life through the use of manipulated voice sounds, and there are several staple effects that show up time and time again. These include pitch shifting, reversing, and modulation.


Pitch shifting is a great tool for changing a voice into a new creature. Lowering the pitch for example will give the impression of the voice being from a large creature, whilst raising the pitch will do the opposite. Pitching things down can also bring out different harmonics in the voice that weren't apparent at its regular pitch. This technique is especially useful for creature effects like growls and snarls.



Modulation effects such a chorus, flanger and frequency shifters are used to give a voice an electronic or metallic quality. These effects are frequently used in science fiction for robotic and AI characters. Vocoders are also a great option for this kind of sound, as they give the voice a resonant tone that is very synthetic.



Another staple effect is the use of reversed whispers and vocalisations in horror film to raise the creep factor. Try blending a reversed whisper with the un-reversed signal and apply a heavy reverb to create an unnerving wash of sound.


Some of our sound effects libraries that were created using the human voice:

https://www.344audio.com/sci-fi-voices

https://www.344audio.com/british-soldier-voices

https://www.344audio.com/zombie-specimens

https://www.344audio.com/supernatural-ghosts


Here are some useful voice manipulation plugins for you to check out: https://www.344audio.com/post/article-5-best-voice-manipulation-plugins

https://www.344audio.com/post/review-devious-machines-pitch-monster

https://www.krotosaudio.com/products/dehumaniser2/

https://www.deviousmachines.com/pitchmonster/

http://www.zynaptiq.com/morph/

https://www.waves.com/plugins/morphoder



If you are interested in sound design and want to know more about building sound effects libraries head over to the 344 audio store and check out some of the products that the team have created:


https://www.344audio.com/store




Working With Sounds


Knowing how to make cool sounds is one thing, but being able to work efficiently with them is a whole different game and shouldn't be overlooked. Time is always a critical factor in delivering great work so you should work to maintain an efficient workflow when building soundscapes.


Take a car chase or fight scene for example. We know that there will be lots of similar sounds use to fill out this scene in the form of engine noise, tire squeals, punches, kicks etc. It therefore makes sense to work with a batch of sounds you have auditioned and are happy with for each layer. These can be can quickly copied and pasted across your scene rather than sifting a gigantic library and placing sound effects one at a time.



You can also use a common element to "glue" sounds together such as a low frequency sine wave layer to add some beef to punches for example. This can be copied and pasted in place each time the same effect happens to give a consistent tone across the scene.


Implementing these techniques will give you a more architectural approach to building your scenes and maximise your efficiency.


Check out this video from Pro Sound Effects where veteran sound designer Richard King talks us through how to approach a project with multiple scenes.



Our top tips on action sound effects editing:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/12/02/article-10-top-tips-for-action-sound-effects-editing


Our post on how to use subconscious sound techniques in your film:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2017/01/21/capturing-your-audience-how-to-use-subconscious-sound-techniques-in-your-film


The 5 best online sound effects resources:

https://www.344audio.com/post/2018/12/05/article-the-5-best-online-sound-effects-resources


Hyperbitsmusic's 5 innovative sound design techniques:

https://hyperbitsmusic.com/redefining-sound-design-5-innovative-techniques/


Designingsound's guide on adapting your sound editing workflow for your mixer:

http://designingsound.org/2018/08/03/know-thy-mixer-a-guide-to-adapting-your-sound-editing-workflow/



Where to Purchase/Download Royalty Free sound effects


344 Audio Store:

https://www.344audio.com/store

Pro Sound Effects:

https://www.prosoundeffects.com

Soundly:

https://getsoundly.com

The Sound Pack Tree:

https://thesoundpacktree.com

22GB free sound effects in the Game Audio GDC Bundle:

https://sonniss.com/gameaudiogdc19/


A huge library of free sound effects - Freesound:

https://freesound.org/




Music


A film's musical score is an important piece of the puzzle. Music has the innate ability to convey the emotion of a story and is a powerful device for the director to employ. Its important from an audio post perspective to have a good knowledge of the music composition process and to understanding the key terminology. You will most likely be collaborating with a composer at some point, so knowing the language that they speak in will be a huge help. Composers, whilst falling under the umbrella of "sound" tend to come at things from a different direction than sound designers and the audio post team. Its important to consider how the overall sonic picture of the film will be built up and to leave space for the music to shine through. 5 tips for film composers:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-5-tips-for-film-composers


How to record an orchestra:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-how-to-record-an-orchestra


Working with a live string ensemble:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-working-with-a-live-string-ensemble-a-guide-for-budding-film-composers


Raindance's guide on recording and mixing music for film:

https://www.raindance.org/7-quick-tips-recording-and-mixing-music-for-film/


Thanks for taking the time to read through our ultimate guide to audio post production! We have condensed countless hours of knowledge into this guide, with insights from our whole team that have been gained from years working in the industry. Please consider supporting us by making a purchase from the 344 Audio store!

https://www.344audio.com/store


Mixing Process / Delivery Standards


Mixing is the process of balancing all of the different pieces that make up a film's soundtrack.



The mixing stage usually consists of pre-mixing and the final mix...


Premix

The pre mix stage is where each section of the tracklay (dialogue, foley, backgrounds, sound effects, music) will be individually mixed into the film. The mixer will work to ensure a consistent tone throughout, making sure that each element is positioned and that the levels are consistent. The pre mix stage aims to provide the Dubbing Mixer/Re-recording Mixer with as many creative options as possible in the final mix, and as such may contain a lot more content than what ends up in the final delivery.



Final Mix

This is where all of the different elements will be balanced against each other. This stage is usually conducted in a specialist mixing environment that offers similar acoustics to a cinema system.  The Final Mix will be performed by the Dubbing Mixer/Re-recording Mixer after all of the tracklay is completed and the Director has approved the work. The Re-recording mixer takes the audio tracks that the team has assembled, deciding which elements will remain (in line with the Director's notes) as well as their overall tonal balance, distance perception and technical needs for the final deliverables of the Sound Mix.


Mixing sound for picture involves a lot of artistic performance. Re-recording Mixers tend to cue the picture while moving faders, pots and touching screens on digital mixing desks, which yields a very fluid sound. Their eyes, ears and hands are used in tandem whilst working.


Another crucial element to mixing is the distance perception of sounds. Dialogue is usually situated at the centre of a mix, but will have effects added to push it further from the viewer when characters are further away visually. The remaining tracklay will fill and take advantage of whatever 'percieved space' the given speaker system and delivery specification provides. This means that the more channels you have in your mix (common setups include Stereo 2.0, Surround 5.1 or Surround 7.1), the more options you have to immerse the audience and place sounds in different areas of the listening environment.


For Theatrical Release, the Final Mix should have more dynamic range (the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds) than a mix for Television or Online Distribution. This is to allow for a more pleasant and emotional journey when listening through an ideal system (cinema) vs. a more consistent and louder mix when listening through a less than ideal system (television speakers, phone speakers).


Paul Maunder discusses mixing surround sound in Pro Tools.


Deliverables

Deliverables are the final product that you deliver to the Editor, Producer and Director for use in the final master version of the film.


See the following table which details the deliverables needed for the most platforms.

Standard Mixing Levels

Standard mixing levels for different formats are a common area of confusion for many budding audio post professionals. Lets break down some of the key terminology.


True Peak Level - Refers to the absolute peak amplitude of the audio signal.


Loudness - The perceived loudness of an audio signal measured in loudness units measurements such as LUFS or LKFS.


Loudness Units - A measurement unit to describe the loudness of an audio signal. There are different types of standards depending on the broadcast territory or streaming service.


LUFS - Loudness units relative to full scale. LUFS was developed to ensure the consistency of audio levels, and is tailored to how our ears perceive sound.

DBFS - Decibels relative to full scale. This is the measurement most commonly seen on the standard peak metres in your DAW.

LKFS - Loudness, K weighted, rela


tive to full scale. A standard loudness measurement for broadcast television in the USA.


EBU R128 - Refers to the recommended loudness for film/radio broadcasters in the EU to measure and control programme loudness. EBU R128 regulates that all broadcasts must meet the following audio standards: Max integrated -23 (±0.5) LUFS, Max True Peak -1dbtp. Reference: link


ATSC/A85 - Refers to the recommended loudness for film/radio broadcasters in the USA. Max integrated -24 LKFS, Max True Peak 2dbtp.

Reference: link


TASA - Regulation to cover maximum loudness level for theatrical trailers and commercials. This is measured using the Dolby Model 737 soundtrack loudness meter with a measurement technique called Leq(m). TASA regulates that trailer loudness should not exceed 85 dB Leq(m).


AES 'Online' Standard - Loudness recommendation for online streaming platforms such as Youtube. Min Integrated: -20 LUFS, Max Integrated: –16 LUFS, Max True Peak: -1dBtp.

Reference: link


Netflix Standard - Max Integrated Dialog: -27 LUFS Max True Peak: -2dB

Reference: link


Mixing for Theatrical/Cinema Release - No loudness standard. When mixing film for cinema, the mixer relies on their own judgement in order to craft the loudness journey of the film and the sonic experience. They should, however, be operating in a calibrated listening environment.


Here is a video showing how to calibrate your monitors for theatrical mixing:


Youlean's list of loudness standards:

https://youlean.co/loudness-standards-full-comparison-table/


Our 5 Pro Tools mixing secrets:

https://www.344audio.com/post/5-pro-tools-mixing-secrets-for-audio-post-production


5 ways to improve the sound of your mixing room:

https://www.344audio.com/post/top-5-ways-to-improve-the-sound-of-your-mixing-room


Reliable 5.1 monitoring on a budget:

https://www.344audio.com/post/reliable-51-monitoring-for-c2-a31000-is-it-possible


The Interesting history of home monitoring systems:

https://www.344audio.com/post/the-interesting-history-of-home-audio-systems


Noise reduction, how much is too much?:

https://www.344audio.com/post/noise-reduction-how-much-is-too-much


Rebuilding your studio:

https://www.asoundeffect.com/rebuilding-your-studio/?fbclid=IwAR0Vkg-ZnpV4DHZGxfC-0N76hvCbcUZYdkipsDwlPI75Xt-b6Z-vqLQvwTU



Audio Branding


Audio branding encompasses the use of audio/music alongside a brand or product to communicate brand values to the customer and reinforce brand identity. It has its origins back in the days of radio advertising, and is an important area of audio post production, music composition, and sound design.


Audio branding is effective because sound has the ability to convey emotion in a way that visuals cannot. Companies want us to associate their brand and products with positive emotions. Sound is used to thrill and excite us, all in the hope that when the time comes we will choose their product over a competitor.


But audio branding is about much more then making sales, it is a statement, a way to convey the essence of your company down into a single digestible piece. Think 20th Century Fox, Intel or the Mcdonalds whistle. Audio branding allows companies to communicate their vision to the masses without a single word being spoke. Powerful is an understatement.

When working on an audio branding brief, You will likely be given a set of descriptive words that sum up the values of the brand, or the values they wish to express. This could be something simple like innovative, prestigious, exciting etc. The brief may also give further guidance on the structure and general flow of the piece if its music, or if its something more sound design based they may give references to similar sounds and aesthetics. If asked to create an audio logo you may also have to re-purpose it into different variations for different circumstances such as advert, corporate video, company conference etc.


Take a look at a piece of audio branding that we have completed along with a blog detailing the brief and how we achieved it.


https://www.344audio.com/post/news-344-audio-rebrands-global-company-bni


Audio branding is worth paying attention to, especially considering the rise of voice based technologies such as Alexa and Google Home that allow consumers to interact with a brand through sound. As these technologies continue to develop and new advertising channels are opened up, there will be considerable new opportunities for sound professionals to employ their skills and expertise.


Thanks for taking the time to read through our ultimate guide to audio post production! We have condensed countless hours of knowledge into this guide, with insights from our whole team that have been gained from years working in the industry. Please consider supporting us by making a purchase from the 344 Audio store!

https://www.344audio.com/store


Business Skills


Audio post production is a business like any other, so its important to invest time outside of the studio and develop professional skills such as networking, marketing and promotion.



In a competitive freelance environment like the one in which we operate, you need to know how to brand and promote yourself. If you imagine you are walking down a supermarket aisle and filling the shelves to either side are rows and rows of sound designers, what are you offering thats going to make someone pick you?  


You should also pay close attention to how you present yourself to clients and prospects both online and in person, and make every effort to act in a professional manner. Regardless of what anyone tells you, appearances matter, regardless of how good your work is. Making films is expensive so why should someone take the chance on you if you haven't made the effort to present yourself properly. This is crucial to get right in the process of building relationships that lead to repeat collaboration. 



Building A showreel

Your showreel is your professional calling card that shows off what you can do. It gives potential clients a complete overview of your skills and the sonic style that you bring to the table. If you don't have much experience with editing videos, enlist the help of a friend, and assemble a selection of your best audio work from the projects that you have completed.


Resist the urge to play it safe. You want your showreel to be bold, exciting and impactful for whoever is watching. Your showreel should have a sense of flow to it, with building intensity until the climax in the final 3rd, much like a piece of music. Make sure to include some of your most interesting and unique sounds, as this is what will help you stand out from the crowd. It also helps to show some variety so try and stay clear of using the same 2 or 3 projects. Animation projects are always great to include as they are usually visually striking and usually allow for some fun and creative audio work to sell the story.


Watch some of our showreels here:




Our article on the importance of repeat collaboration:

https://www.344audio.com/post/article-the-importance-of-repeat-collaboration


Our interview with Spirit Studios:

https://www.spiritstudios.ac.uk/news-item/our-stories-alex-gregson/?


5 new years resolutions for your audio business:

https://blog.prosoundeffects.com/top-5-new-years-resolutions-for-your-audio-business


How to stand out in sound design:

http://www.soundspheremag.com/news/manchester/industry-blog-how-to-stand-out-in-sound-design/


Our case study on business growth hub:

https://www.businessgrowthhub.com/case-studies/344-audio


Masterclass' tips for becoming a sound designer:

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-becoming-a-sound-designer#quiz-0


Music Radar's post about the sound design career:

https://www.musicradar.com/tuition/tech/music-careers--sound-designer


Careers in Music's post about the sound design career:

https://www.careersinmusic.com/sound-designer/


You can also learn about our Lead Audio Craftsman Alex Gregson's story of how he found his way into the industry.



Personal Care

A career in audio post production is going to involve long hours sat in front of a screen, with large doses of stress and external pressure in the form of deadlines. It's important that we make caring for ourselves a top priority, not only to avoid burnout, but to ensure quality work. The happy blacksmith makes the sharpest sword. 



Avoid smoking and excessive drinking. Make an effort to eat properly and partake in some regular form of physical exercise. Treat sleep with reverence and don't pull all-nighters if you can help it. Also, go easy on the coffee and consider a glass of water instead.


When the pressure and stress of meeting deadlines becomes a little too much, just take a second to step back and reflect on the things you love about your job. Remembering your grand vision and your reason for doing what you do will help you get through any tough times you might face.


How to stay healthy in post production:

https://www.344audio.com/post/how-to-stay-healthy-in-post-production


The conservation of peace and quiet:

https://www.344audio.com/post/the-conservation-of-peace-quiet


5 essential tips to stay productive when working from home:

https://www.344audio.com/post/5-essential-tips-to-stay-productive-when-working-from-home


5 inspirational quotes from industry veterans:

https://www.344audio.com/post/5-inspirational-quotes-from-industry-veterans


The creative independent on how to stay healthy while filmmaking:

https://thecreativeindependent.com/guides/how-to-stay-sane-and-healthy-while-making-a-film/


NME's guide on self care in the music industry:

https://www.nme.com/features/phil-taggart-slacker-guide-music-industry-self-care-mental-health-2488774


Forbe's article on how to make self-helphappen:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/05/08/how-to-make-self-care-happen/#45a1d8fe4cd1



External Resources/Additional Reading


There are a number of great online resources for those interested in learning more about everything we have covered here. Sound Design


https://www.musictech.net/guides/essential-guide/the-creative-guide-to-sound-design/


https://www.soundonsound.com/series/synth-secrets


https://www.macprovideo.com/library/topic/synthesis


https://www.youtube.com/user/SeamlessR


https://www.asoundeffect.com/category/sound-design-guides/


https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/sound-design-visual-media


Field Recording


https://vimeo.com/399651547


https://www.soundguys.com/field-recording-guide-26352/


https://www.creativefieldrecording.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/The-30-Day-Quick-

Start-to-Field-Recording-Sample-1.1.pdf


https://www.creativefieldrecording.com/2015/11/18/field-recording-gear-buyers-guide/


https://www.asoundeffect.com/field-recording-guide/


Sound Effects


https://www.asoundeffect.com/blog/


https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/recording-foley-and-sound-effects-the-fundamentals/

https://www.videomaker.com/the-comprehensive-guide-to-recording-and-editing-your-own-sound-effects


https://www.boomboxpost.com/blog/2017/3/1/top-5-tips-for-recording-sound-effects-like-a-pro


https://www.creativefieldrecording.com/2012/10/17/how-to-record-sound-effects-on-a-budget/


http://www.rode.com/blog/all/a-quick-guide-to-recording-foley-effects


https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/how-to-record-foley-at-home.html


Mixing


https://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2017/6/21/loudness-and-dynamics-in-cinema-sound


https://chrisjonesblog.com/2014/08/film-sound-mixing-top-tips.html


https://film-mixing.com


https://www.thebeachhousestudios.com/mixing-sound-for-film-audio-post-production-overview/


https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-a-production-sound-mixer-understanding-the-role-of-production-sound-mixer-on-a-film-set#quiz-0

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide and have hopefully gained some useful knowledge to take forward into your next project! Keep checking back as this article will be updated regularly with new content.

344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.


Our work:

344audio.com/work


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344audio.com/studio


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344audio.com/store


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344 AUDIO LTD.

Audio Post Production Studio in Manchester.

The Old Courthouse

Chapel Street

Manchester

SK16 4DT

+44 (0)161 7111 344

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