Sound Editing: Part 2


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A continuation of sound editing and post-production sound mixing for filmmaking.

Republished with permission from its original owners and creators: Karen Carpenter and the rest of the CSUN faculty.

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Sound Editing: Part 2

  1. 1. Sound Editing, Mixing (part 2)
  2. 2. The creation of the sound trackdemands as much choice andcontrol as the editing of theimage track.The job of sound editing beginswith screening the movie withthe director.Every scene should beexamined for problems and todetermine where effects areneeded and where a certainfeeling or quality of sound isdesired.Deciding where to place musicand effects is called spotting. King Kong ADR spotting notes from “The Citizen.”
  3. 3. Sound guides the viewer’s attention. Normally, this means clarifyingand simplifying the sound track so that important material standsout.If you notice how the filmmaker’s selection of sound shapes theviewer’s perception, you will also notice that they use soundunrealistically. This is to shift the viewer’s attention to what isnarratively or visually important.
  4. 4. The TracksThe sound editor then begins the process of sorting out the sound.The audio is divided into several different “tracks”. One (stereo) setis used for dialogue, another for sound effects, another for musicand so on. Creating different tracks for different types of soundmakes it easier to adjust them. Building up layers of sound is calledtrack building.
  5. 5. The TracksThere are essentially five main audio tracks that are used instandard film editing. Each editor has a preference on how toorganize their audio tracks. The audio of a scene is almost alwayson two separate channels (stereo).
  6. 6. The TracksThe voice over (if there is one) is put onto the very first twochannels because this ends up being the most central, basic, andclearest audio track in the entire film.
  7. 7. The TracksThe next track is wherethe dialogue or sceneaudio goes. This meansthat all the audio that isintended from within thestory space, filmed aspart of the scene is here.
  8. 8. The TracksThe fourth track is whereyou add the sound effectsthat were recorded later,such as ones you recordedyourself or downloaded froma sound effects database.( fifth track is for themusic.
  9. 9. The TracksEnvironmental Noise/Room ToneOne of the most important parts of filling the sound gaps is usingroom tone or environmental noise, and you may want to designatea new track for this. Each location will have its own version of “roomtone”. In this project, your sound effects or music might take theplace of this track. You don’t want any “dead” space. Show The Bourne Identity
  10. 10. Sound MixingWhen all of the tracks have beenbuilt, a sound mix is done to blendthem all together. Enhancing theway the tracks sound in the mix iscalled sweetening. It’s essentialto mix in a good listeningenvironment.A quiet environment and goodexternal speakers are important.Some people use headphones forsound work, which are great forhearing details and blocking outnoise, but can seriouslymisrepresent how people will hearthe movie through speakers in thereal world. King Kong Sound Mix
  11. 11. Sound MixingThe mixer can precisely control the volume, duration, andtone quality of each sound.Volume: In FCP -12 dB is the reference level
  12. 12. Reading Audio LevelsMusic can have quiet parts with a single instrument playing andother parts that are very loud with several instruments playing. Thisrange from quiet to loud is called the dynamic range.A narrator reading text usually maintains a fairly consistent volumelevel.Dynamic range and audio volume are two different elements ofaudio. Changing the volume will not change the dynamic range. Wider dynamic range Narrow dynamic range
  13. 13. Sound MixingIn FCP we are provided with a horizontal pink line, shownbelow, which denotes -12 dB audio level. This audiooverlay reference line can be found in both the Viewerwindow, audio tab and in the Timeline. Red arrow shows -12 dB reference line Red arrow shows -12 dB reference line Audio waveforms peak at -12 dB Audio waveforms peaking well above -12 dB Narrow dynamic range Wide dynamic range
  14. 14. If we have audio of two actors in a conversation. We set the volume on thetimeline so that the loudest part of the conversation hits -12 dB on themeter.In a normal conversation the difference between the softest and loudestaudio, will be narrow. During the conversation a door opens and slamsshut. This door slam, will create an audio spike.It is essential that the spike from the door slam not hit 0 dB. When clippinghas occurred the VU meter will indicate it when the small boxes turnorange. Red arrow shows audio spike Show Traffic dialogue editing
  15. 15. Sound TransitionsCheckerboardingTo make mixing go faster, tracks within any group are split into acheckerboard pattern. This allows an easier adjustment of the volumeand the manual control of audio crossfades. It also simplifies L andJ cuts also known as “split edits”.
  16. 16. Audio crossfades smooth the transition between sounds by fading outthe current sound as the incoming sound fades in. blending the tracksmomentarily.If you cross dissolve the video, the audio will crossfade if the audio andvideo tracks are linked. Manual Audio crossfades give you more control over the volume and in and out points of the audio.
  17. 17. The J- and L-cuts are two of the most powerful, yet simple, transitionsof all. On an Non-Linear-Editing screen, they look like the letters J(audio advance) and L (video advance). These overlaps make thetransitions less jarring and are so effective that the viewer is rarelyaware of them.
  18. 18. J and L cuts are used very subtly to move the viewer into a scenechange, either by trickling in audio from the next scene for a secondor two before the video enters or by cutting to the next scenes videowhile the audio lingers under a bit.
  19. 19. J-Cut EditHere, we want the audience to "hear" the audio from the factory,before they see it. From both an aesthetic and a psychologicalstandpoint, the audience has begun to hear something that is not yetvisually revealed.
  20. 20. L-Cut EditHere, the audio of the telephone conversation continues longer thanthe video. When played, the telephone conversation continues, eventhough the visual of the factory has come onto the screen. Manytimes this is used to give the impression that two events arehappening at the same time, just in different locations.
  21. 21. A J-cut was used subtly and to great effect in the 1975 classicJaws. As Roy Scheider walks down the hall after the confrontationwith his boss a J-cut brings in Quints dialog from the followingscene. This incongruity - the voice of someone whos not in thescene - gives viewers a slight jar and thrusts us into that nextscene, compacting time.
  22. 22. Straight cuts are used to create a faster pace, when the shots areshort. Fast, frantic cutting works well to keep people engagedduring action scenes, but during calmer scenes fewer edits andlonger shots are better.
  23. 23. Straight-CutImagine a conversation between two people with video that cuts every timea character speaks. This is like a ping-pong ball being smacked back andforth across a table.The Rocky Horror Picture Show - eighteen straight cuts in as many seconds Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
  24. 24. Unlike the smooth transitions created by J and L cuts, straight cuts,when used proficiently, can also create tension and drama. In this clipfrom the film Silence of the Lambs, editor Craig McKay, uses J and Lcuts for every cut but one. The single straight cut has a change involume, sound, and mood and underlines the danger that thecharacter is approaching.