Welcome back to part 2 of our Ultimate Guide to Audio Post Production and Sound Design. 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. Check out part 1 of the guide here: https://www.344audio.com/single-post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
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...
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.
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 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.
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.
Netflix Standard - Max Integrated Dialog: -27 LUFS Max True Peak: -2dB
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:
Our 5 Pro Tools mixing secrets:
5 ways to improve the sound of your mixing room:
Reliable 5.1 monitoring on a budget:
The Interesting history of home monitoring systems:
Noise reduction, how much is too much?:
Rebuilding your studio:
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.
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!
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:
Our interview with Spirit Studios:
Our article on how to find work experience in the audio industry:
5 new years resolutions for your audio business:
How to stand out in sound design:
Our case study on business growth hub:
Masterclass' tips for becoming a sound designer:
Music Radar's post about the sound design career:
Careers in Music's post about the sound design career:
You can also learn about our Lead Audio Craftsman Alex Gregson's story of how he found his way into the industry.
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:
The conservation of peace and quiet:
5 essential tips to stay productive when working from home:
5 inspirational quotes from industry veterans:
The creative independent on how to stay healthy while filmmaking:
NME's guide on self-care in the music industry:
Forbe's article on how to make self-help happen:
Top Tips for beating the creative block:
How to get started on your audio journey will be completely different for everyone who takes this path. Here's our thoughts on the educational side of the Audio Post industry.
Do I Need A Degree In Sound Design? What You Need To Know:
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
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.
If you enjoyed this post please check out our ultimate guide to audio post-production: https://www.344audio.com/post/the-ultimate-guide-to-audio-post-production-sound-design
344 Audio is an Audio Post Production studio in Manchester.
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