The Ultimate Guide To Audio Post Production & 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.

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


Take a look at our guest post for Pro Sound Effects on how to communicate post-production with directors: https://blog.prosoundeffects.com/how-to-communicate-post-production-sound-with-directors


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/


Our guide on cleaning up dialogue using a process of elimination:

https://blog.prosoundeffects.com/how-to-clean-up-dialogue


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