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A Practical Guide To Understanding The Audio Post-Production Process - Part 1

A Practical Guide To Understanding The Audio Post-Production Process - Part 1

When talking about audio post-production, one cannot avoid one simple question: what’s the typical process most audio professionals go through when working either with a sound house or by themselves? In fact: is there a predetermined process? Everyone seems to work a little differently; however, there are certainly common steps and some common ground that you, as an audio enthusiast or audio professional, will encounter when working in an audiovisual project.

Finding Your Location

Today, any film’s soundtrack can be get done and mixed in all sorts of places and different facilities. In fact, would it be too much to say that you could even have someone do the whole sound work if you were the owner of a simple sound facility with a fistful of rooms and editors? The short answer would be: it depends.

There are many creative people working in this industry who started off using their own bedroom as their main editing and mix room. If the project you’re currently working on doesn’t require a surround sound mix and is simply going to be broadcasted and heard online, then almost everyone with a basic setup and some experience would be able to take care of your needs.

Likewise, if your documentary is about the Second World War and you’re going to hear bullets passing over your head and missiles blowing up war fields, then you’re going to need a much larger and professional room.

The process of how to find the right sound facility isn’t different from finding people to work with. In this industry, aside from the final pieces of work, which you can use to judge whether someone has skills, word-of-mouth seems to be the best source of candidates. If you’re seeking to gather a team together, ask around. If you remember an audiovisual project where the sound was definitely special, find out who was in charge.

When looking for sound professionals or an audio post-production studio, it is key to find a studio or group of people well known for their creative capabilities. Some might even say that there isn’t too much thought behind the sounds that are required for a film: “If you see a car, make sure I hear the engine once in a while.”

Working with a professional studio and a creative team will take your project to the next level, perhaps questioning the need for the engine sound, as described above, knowing that not hearing it will create another layer within the storytelling. It’s the job of the audio professional and mixer to present you with ideas and different approaches when appropriate. It should be part of a seamless chain of events and discussions and never an argument or a struggle.

In the long term, as a producer or executive, if you want an engine sound you should get your engine sound, but your audio professional might ask you what kind of emotion you’re looking for. Your first contact with a studio should lead to a conversation about the storytelling, the story itself, style, and sound needs for your project. The studio should also look at a fine cut of your film. That way they will be able to anticipate how much work is going to be required to do edit all the sounds, create the sound effects, foley, etc.

This part of the process is mostly known for raising artistic and practical questions that will certainly help the studio, the team, and you envision a much clearer version of the final cut. For instance, do you want to hear the sound effects under silent footage? Your main audio professional should provide you with a sense of the quality of your production sound in order to determine where the budget should go.

Making The Most Out Of Your Budget

Budget, that famous and no less crucial word. As audio professionals, we always try to find out how much the filmmaking team has set aside for both sound prep and mix. This is merely done in hopes of developing a plan that fits your needs as a filmmaker. It the budget isn’t close to what a traditional job would cost, taking into account the project’s needs and running time, then it’s best to state that from the very beginning.

Budget for sound design

Money is, of course, an important factor to ponder and consider, which is why knowing beforehand how much the filmmaking team is able to invest is crucial for saving time. If, as a filmmaker, you’d rather not say what your budget is, normally a studio can quote a wide price range and explain the scope of each version of such a quote. Once the budget issues have been taken care of, the next step is to establish and get the project into the audio post pipeline.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

Is Music Important For Films And Ads?

Is Music Important For Films And Ads?

Something several of the most renown advertisements of this decade have in common is that they all involve music, and not simply in the rather worn-off form of a jingle. Think of John Lewis, for example, whose traditional Christmas adverts are as famous for the music they include as the whole storytelling. Vodafone, for instance, also set the Dandy Warhol’s song, Bohemian Like You, for success, as it managed to enter the UK’s top five charts.

Since the era of advertising started, one thing was clear: music and TV go hand in hand, but why do musical elements fit so well in ads and other audiovisual projects? Let’s find out.

It’s All About The Emotional Impact

There are plenty of original soundtrack songs that are simply stuck in our minds. They remind us of a certain time, individual or place in our lives. As discussed in other articles, music and musical elements are pivotal for any audiovisual project simply because, in order to process music, we use the same parts of the brain that are also the ones responsible for triggering emotion and memory.

Because of the human capability of emotionally associating a piece of music to something either positive or negative (which depends on the context and nature of the sounds), the associated memory tends to equal in strength that exact same emotion. The theory does not elaborate on whether it applies to moments in our everyday life, which it does, but rather on how this phenomenon resonates on songs in film, or music in radio, or ads. As for the type of music that triggers this particular area of the brain, its nature is somewhat special —it’s not just any type of music, though. As shown in this study, a group of Australians reacted to a series of audio clips, and their reactions suggested that different types of music can produce strong, but very different, types of emotional responses.

Different types of melodies, key changes, chords, etc., can produce and cause different responses. A string ensemble, for example, when playing sharp and long notes in a major key, were able to cause feelings related to happiness in almost 90% of the people assessed. On the other hand, a dramatic shift from major to minor tonality elicited the opposite feeling in the respondents —sadness and melancholy. An acoustic guitar is highly associated with calm and sophistication, as suggested by almost 83% of the respondents.

The aforementioned examples show how important it is for filmmakers and advertisers to have a deep understanding of the emotion they want to convey, but most importantly, the emotion they want to cause in the audience.¡ —and what type of music is more suitable for such a purpose.

And It’s Also About Telling The Story

Although music and musical elements on their own are an unquestionably powerful tool, they acquire a far more authentic effect when they accompany a story within a solid narrative arc. According to a study, and after having analyzed more than 100 ads to identify which ones were more correlated with long-term memory, the fact that music in TV ads, for example, becomes way more memorable when the music drives the action of the moving images being projected. For instance, if the lyrics match what is happening. The visual part is eye-catching enough sometimes; but when melodic music comes in, it sort of creates a hypnotic effect on the audience which triggers the areas of the brain previously addressed.

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In a wider general sense, music and musical elements can definitely set the tone for a business’s or a brand’s personality, as well as to address a specific type of audience or portion of a specific demography. Adidas or Puma often target younger audiences when it comes to their activewear, for instance.

Creating From Scratch

Many filmmakers or advertises often choose existing tracks or songs from renowned artists; however, especially in filmmaking, many directors rely on composers to create an original soundtrack for a film. And it definitely works: Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Howard Shore, Ennio Morricone, James Horner, etc., are known for having created some of Hollywood’s best tracks for films. Who doesn’t remember Jaws for its soundtrack? Or Star Wars? Or Indiana Jones? Or Interstellar? Or the Lord of The Rings? The list goes on and on, but most importantly, the fact that movies serve as the perfect opportunity to craft a compelling and emotionally aggressive soundtrack, confirms the initial thesis that raises the question: is music really important in films and ads? Of course it is, and of course, it will always be. Without music, some parts of the action go missing. There’s simply no way to engage with an audience if an emotive soundtrack is not present. Music helps to tell the story; music is what people remember and what gets stuck in people’s minds.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

The Evolution Of Film Sound: Music

The Evolution Of Film Sound: Music

Understanding today’s status of what is traditionally referred to as film sound demands certain background. How did we get here? That’s a question all film sound editors ask themselves at some point in their careers. Here we have compiled several important points of reference to understand how sound has evolved throughout the years.

A lot falls under the umbrella of film sound —music, movie image, silence, foley, dialogue, etc., are some of the elements that are directly affected by sound as an abstract term. The industry has learned a lot about how music and film score are totally under different circumstances than they were 50 years ago. Of course, this evolution has been determined by the use and constant development of technology, flavored by the ongoing use of social acceptance.

If we were to fast forward 100 years in time it would be really challenging to tell where we will be and would be equally hard to tell what composers will have made a name for themselves in the history of the film score to stand out and be dubbed as legends within the industry. Instruments, likewise, have evolved. Think of the Waterphone, for example —that acoustic instrument, highly popular in older films, mostly used in a moving image. Today, there is a plethora of sound effects and sound effects libraries that can imitate that exact same sound, and even improve it through the use of synthesis. History has taught us that music as a crucial film sound element has evolved a lot, not only in terms of sound effects but also in its own interpretation. Composers such as Hans Zimmer and even Walt Disney’s have completely changed the way we visualize and digest music.

Hans Zimmer, for example, is known for having taken part in a lot of successful audiovisual projects; but the majority of his work has been a major game changer within the industry —Hans Zimmer is a true artist simple because how his work blends with the images being projected. Writing music for a project and for moving images is something we see every day, but changing the entire mood of a film and its moving images is a complex thing only a true artist can achieve, especially if it’s done whilst captivating audiences of today’s modern society.

Walt Disney’s composers, on the other hand, kind of took a leap of faith when they decided to integrate music and musical sounds into their projects. They thought initially that including music would not be accepted by a modern society and middle-aged people, but the experiment ended up being positive, especially for younger audiences at that time. So, by incorporating music into film, the film industry helped man alter the way films are portrayed these days. Had they not taken the risk of using movies in the films, probably we wouldn’t be hearing of composers and original soundtracks.

And although many seem to agree that, at some point, someone would have done exactly the same, chances are Walt Disney managed to integrate music into films simply because of the name he had made for himself in the industry at that point in time, so, chances are, when the time came, no one even questioned him about what he was planning to do; but most importantly, without a big company behind that idea, who would have managed to pull that off?

The inclusion of music and musical sounds in films brought along subsequent jobs and positions within the industry such as foley artists, for example, and the recording of realistic sound effects in films and moving images. Once the idea of giving music and sound effects a key role within the whole conception and production of film, other ideas followed, but most importantly, other industries started to develop themselves according to the pace at which filmmaking was developing: software, music instruments, technology, Foley techniques, etc., all of them leaned towards filmmaking, not to mention that such development also allowed filmmakers to explore other genres such as sci-fi, 3D animation, fantasy, etc.

walt disney sound effects.jpeg

It would be fair to assert that the evolution of sound was determined by social changes as well, not only the pace at which technology allowed the industry to develop. Music, as a key element of film sound, will certainly get to new shores —new instruments, new technologies, new composers, new ways of recording and merging music with moving images, and, why not, maybe new genres. And although films are considered essentially a visual experience and a visual medium —that is, more sight and sound—, the fundamental importance of the latter as a part of the storytelling process of any film plays a pivotal role from the beginning till the end. It definitely changed the way filmmakers used to think about the nature of cinema.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

An Introduction To Film Sound

An Introduction To Film Sound

When it comes to film, we might actually think it is basically and essentially a visual experience; however, a film is much more than that. We really cannot simply disregard and underestimate the importance of sound within the film biome: a well-crafted soundtrack is often as powerful —and sometimes complicated— as the image on the screen. So, in order for us to understand the complexity of today’s modern film, there are several aspects that traditionally go unnoticed by the audience, but that is as important as the image being projected.

Soundtracks are entirely a different universe. And they involve three different aspects: the human voice, music and sound effects. In fact, each component is a soundtrack on its own, and they need to coexist seamlessly. These three soundtracks must be balanced and mixed in a way so they produce the desired effect and the desired emphasis throughout the film.


The Human Voice

When it comes to the human voice, we are basically talking about dialogues. Dialogues are used to authenticate the speaker as a real individual rather than a product or a concept of imaginary storytelling. For example, with stage drama, the dialogue is used to convey the story, and it ultimately expresses the motivations and feelings of the characters during the play.

Oftentimes, within the film ecosystem, audiences perceive little or practically no difference between the character being portrayed and the actor portraying the character. Think of Humphrey Bogart and Sam Spade or Jim Carrey and Stanley Ipkiss: we could assert to some extent that both film personality and Mr. Bogart’s and Carrey’s own personality merge in a rather high level since their voices complement both characters.

Additionally, when voice texture seems to fit the actor’s of the performer’s aspect and appearance, a wholly different yet realistic character, called persona, is born. The audience does not see a performer working on the character, but another individual struggling through all kinds of situations. On another note, it is also worth mentioning that dialogues are introduced within films in a unique way, and its use varies widely among the nature of the film. Sometimes films include little to no dialogue, and the narrative depends a lot on the visuals, and sometimes audiences are faced with non-stop dialogues, bouncing from conversations to a conversation in a frenetic, comedic way.

Sound Effects

Sound effects have two major components, so to speak. First, when talking about sound effects, we also talk about synchronous sounds —those sounds that match what the audience is watching. For example, if a character is playing a musical instrument, then the sounds of the instruments are projected. This type of sounds also contribute to the realism of a visual project or a film and are also used to create a desired or particular atmosphere. For example, when a door is being opened and we hear the door handle make its particular “click”, we are fully convinced that the image being portrayed is real.

However, if the door handle clicks during an action sequence like a robbery, the sound mixer may emphasize differently the “click” with a totally different volume level to create suspense.

The other main component of sound effects are the asynchronous sounds —those that don’t match what the audience is watching on the screen. These are used to introduce emotional nuances in the project and add a bit more realism. Think of ambulances as background sounds during a car chase, for example. The noise of the siren adds to the realism of the film by elaborating on the project’s city set. Or the noise of birds, dogs, and bystanders while a couple is arguing about something in the park during autumn. Both scenarios are real to us simply because we associate the background sounds we hear with what we are used to. We know ambulances move across city streets, and we know parks are often full of people with their pets.

Music

Background music plays a pivotal role in every visual project. Music is often used to add nuances and emotions as well as rhythm to the film. Traditionally, music is not meant for the audience to note it, as it is rather used to provide a specific tone or emotional nuance to the story. Additionally, music also emphasizes all types of changes throughout a visual project; it foretells changes in mood, in pace, in sequences, etc.

music post production process.jpeg

Film sound is often comprised of both innovations and conventions. During a car chase, for example, the audience always subconsciously expect an acceleration of the music; however, it is important to mention that music and sound are most of the times brilliantly conceived and written. The effects of sound remain largely subtle and are noted only by our subconscious, but they play a key role in our capacity to appreciate and understand what we call today the modern film.

*The images used on this post are taken from Pexels.com

Interview with Alfred Hitchcock

Interview with Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock was a pioneer director most known for directing Psycho. In this interview from 1972 (his death was in 1980) he discusses his career working with actors, story telling, and decision making in regards to directing.

Watch the full interview in the video below:

Apple Hires Steven Spielberg For Original TV Content

Apple Hires Steven Spielberg For Original TV Content

Apple has been selling TV shows and movies for a long time now. They have finally announced original content to take on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon. Being a bit late to the game theysure are coming out strong. Apple has signed a deal with Steven Spielberg to develop Amazing Stories, a reboot of a 1980s sci-fi show of the same name.

This really shakes up the new industry. With lots of money at Apple's disposal they could be an industry game changer. Considering that most of the big players in video now have nothing to do with Hollywood, the next few years will be very interesting as streaming becomes the only way people watch content outside of reality tv, sports, and news. Read more about this deal at this location.