My usual practice is to cut all the sound together in PPro or Finnal Cut, do a rough mix, then hire a professional audio mixer to finalize the show mix and produce the final sound track. They use ProTools or Audition. Sound is very important and a really good technician can do more to put a professional polish on your program in less time than you imagine if you provide them with the right elements. It's so much more than knowing how to time elements and how to run some EQ. Cutting some frequencies in the music and boosting some in the voice track can make a huge difference in how a program sounds. Also, you absolutely cannot judge the quality of a sound mix unless you have a room set up for mixing. If you thought getting a greenscreen studio was a pain to set up wait until you try and set up a proper sound mixing room. It may sound great in your editing suite, ok through a set of headphones, but when the final program is played in someone's family room with mom making noise in the kitchen the dialogue may be completely incomprehensible.
When all of the elements are in place a professional audio finisher can usually finalize a mix for an hour program in about 6 to 8 hours. It will be money well spent.
If you want to try it yourself then you must research setting up a sound mixing room, invest in the proper speaker setup, equalize the room, and be prepared for a lot of trial and error. Don't get me wrong. You can do a lot with a great pair of headphones and Audition in the spare room where you're cutting your program, but the difference between a good mix and a perfect mix is night and day when the program is played in different locations with different acoustic properties. Ask yourself how many times you've played a program at home and had a less than perfect balance between dialogue, sound effects and music. At my home, more often than not, it's just barely passable.
Thanks for the insight Rick, really appreciated. What format do you source the audio in, and what format do you hand it to the proffesionals?
We are looking for music sources now, and sound effects. is there a preffered source and output for sound I should be investigating?
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The format your professionals want depend on the system they are using. A ProTools setup is different than an Audition setup. I usually render a compressed color corrected but not necessarily final color grade picture with a rough mix. and give my mixer either a PPro project with all audio tracks and one picture track or a FCP project with a single picture track and all audio including the rough mix, or I send them the compressed video file and export an OMF file with handles. There are plenty of instructions on the Internet.
Here's another good practice. Every audio track should be separate. You put audio from two actors having a conversation on two tracks. Every sound effect on a separate track so you are NEVER cross fading on the same audio track.
You also want to remove any audio effects, level changes, or other audio processing before you export your OMF file. A typical short film with have 16 to 20 audio tracks depending on the number of actors in a single scene. The ideal situation with five actors speaking in a scene at the same time on 5 separate wireless microphones onto 5 separate audio tracks. Lots of times you'll end up with a location mix with your dialogue on just two tracks, but if you can, separate everything. When the scene changes you can put different actors on those 5 tracks. Dialogue is not usually recorded in stereo unless you're doing a location mix.
Usually right below the dialogue tracks you will have a track for 'room tone' or 'background'. A good audio tech will record several seconds of just the sound of a location that can be looped to provide a consistent audio background for the scene. If you are using room tone tracks you'll need two or four if you are working in stereo.
Below dialogue is where SFX go. Here again, cuts only, no keyframed audio level changes and no EQ or effects. If you have a lot going on in a scene then you can easily need a lot of overlapping sound effects. One track for each.
At the bottom of the stack is where the music tracks go. I usually have 4 because most stock music is stereo, but sometimes 8. If you're lucky enough to have your project scored you can have a bunch more. The last made for TV movie I cut had 24 music tracks from the studio session, a production Dolby 5 mix from the recording studio, and a stereo mix for me to rough in. We sent everything to Skywalker Ranch for mixing.
So there you go. A production with 5 cast members would have 16 to 20 audio tracks.
There are lots of resources on the net on preparing for an audio mix.
As far as the format for your source files, your sfx and your music; I'd stick with wav files 48KHZ at a minimum. Avoid compressed audio sources as much as you can. mp3's may be great for your iPod but they can be next to useless in audio production. If you must used compressed audio as a source file then get the highest bit rate available.
This is great. Thank you. I am going to open Audition now for the first time () and go to the help pages. Ill start at the start and see what happens. We will use a studio to record voices, and source music and sound effects. We will most probably use a professional to do our pilot episode at least, and use the time in between to see if i can take a stab at it. There is still a LOT of AFter Effects bits and pieces I need to tie down, but we are getting there slowly and surely. I just signed off our versin of the Earth yesterday, and will use this as a template for the entire season. Next is starfields, then the true test comes of compositing our assets into live footage.
All very exciting.
I am going to have to add all your names to our credit list (espscially since there are currently only 4 of us - so we need more names! )
Hi Rick, (and others...)
Sorry to dredge up an old discussion, and I am not sure if this is a fair question to ask......but.....
Have you gone through any of the Adobe Audition training material? Specifically the "Learn by Video" or "Classroom in a Book" series?
I would like to purchase at least one sound book for our library, and even though we probably will end up taking your advice and outsourcing the sound, I would still like to get an idea od how it all works, so when we speak to sound engineers, we dont come accross completely uninformed!
If there are any other resources that could be recommended, I would appreciate it.