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Posts Tagged ‘Audio’

The Process of Audio Post Production for Film

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

When making a movie, whether it’s a big budget picture or a small independent film, audio production is to a film like ambience is to a room. A sound track is one of the most important aspects to making a great movie. The post production phase is often thought of in terms of video editing and computer graphics alone.  Shaping the audio to match what is happening on the screen is critical to making the full experience work. Post production of audio (or audio post as it is referred to in the film industry) includes ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) or “dubbing”, sound effects, mixing and mastering, and music. The film’s sound track must be genuine and carefully crafted to support the film and to enhance the overall experience.

Automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) is the process of replacing dialogue that was recorded while filming each scene. During the filming, it is often difficult to get clean, balanced dialogue recorded due to movement and background noises. Recording new dialogue in a studio gives the sound engineers higher quality audio and more control on how the dialogue will sound in the final product. Studios will have a special vocal recording room set up with both a screen to play back scenes from the movie, headphones for the actor or actress to hear what dialogue was recorded, and a high-quality microphone to record the new and better quality dialogue.

The actor or actress will typically watch and listen to the scene a few times to get a sense of pacing and tone for the dialogue. They will then recite the dialogue with the scene as it visually plays back, trying to closely match their original performance. Multiple takes are often done so the sound engineer has more to pick from in the final stages. Studios also often have plugins that can warp the audio to more closely match the original so that the new dialogue matches what we see on screen. In many movies, almost all the dialogue is replaced during the post production phase to make sure that every line is clean and clear. Though it takes time, it ensures that the final audio is free of any extraneous noise and other sound issues.

Sound effects, also referred to as ‘Foley’, are added to match events and actions on screen as well as enhance the overall experience. Explosions, lasers, gun shots, and cars are often the first things we think about when it comes to sound effects because they are loud and present in the movie. But a good sound engineer also pays attention to the subtle sounds too. Because ADR is often implemented, the original audio from the filming set with all the background sound is scrapped. Sounds like doors shutting, keys jingling, and even footsteps must be added during the post production phase to make a scene more genuine and authentic. While these seem like small details that go unnoticed, they can be glaringly apparent when missing from a movie.

The process of adding these sounds can often be one of the most creative parts of audio post-production. Some sounds are recorded out in the field and then shaped in the studio to match the scene. Others are done in the studio in a process similar to recording ADR. The in-studio recording is done in a room where the engineers can watch the scenes of the movie that need Foley (sound effects) added. The engineers will have various objects in the room to make the sounds and will ‘play’ the objects along with the scene. Some sounds can be made by recreating the same action, while some creative methods can be used to create others.

One famous sound often thought of when discussing Foley is the Star Wars blaster, which was created by striking a high-tension wire with a hammer. Many of the sounds created in audio post production then go through a lot of effects processing so they more closely match the action on screen.

Once all the necessary dialogue and Foley has been recorded, the sound engineers must mix everything together so it sounds balanced and crisp. Dialogue is often compressed and equalized so it sounds natural and consistent. Reverb will often be added so that the voice matches the location in the movie. Though these may seem like subtle changes, they can drastically affect the viewing experience. If the setting and sound do not match, viewers can immediately tell that something is off. If the scene takes place in a small room, but we hear reverb consistent with a large cathedral hall, the sound will feel disconnected from the picture. Foley is often mixed at lower volume levels than the dialogue so it sounds organic and doesn’t overpower the rest of the sound.

The audio must also match current standards set in the film industry. 5.1 surround sound mixes are done differently than stereo, with the dialogue typically being the only sound on the center channel. Both mixes are often prepared for large releases. Standards for the level of film sound have also been set by various organizations, with the International Telecommunications Union having one of the more global standards set. Loudness meters have to be employed during the final mixing phase to make sure the movie meets these standards.

Primeau Productions has experience with audio post production in the film and television commercial arena. We understand that sound effects may need to be created and are experienced with the process.

Budgets for audio post production should be set in advance and strictly followed because too much time can be spent on this aspect of the post production process. Give our studios a call to discuss how we can help you design an award winning audio track.

The Importance of Audio for Video Production

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

audio-mixer-console-1315787We’ve discussed how important professional video quality can be when creating a video that represents your company. It often determines a possible client’s first impression of your business. When you’re watching another company’s video, or even your own video, what are you paying attention to most? Probably the quality of the picture, how professional the talent looks and how the overall production is. People are much more visually inclined; it’s the sense we rely on the most. That being said, there are some other parts of professional videos we often take for granted.

The most overlooked? Good sound. When sound is good, it usually goes unnoticed because it matches what we expect to hear. But when the sound quality is bad, it is obvious. Not only is it distracting, but it cheapens the quality of what could have been a great promotional video. Also think about how you get your message across. You may look great on the screen, but you still need your words to get across what your company is about and why clients should hire you.

We’ve worked with some clients who knew their fair share about making videos, but didn’t think about recording really high quality audio. When they came to us with what they had shot, you could barely understand what they were saying! Even if the video quality looks pristine, people can’t get the full message without you explaining it. People often go by the old “fix it in post” standard. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that it only works if the original recording was done well enough in the first place.

The best way to get clear and high quality audio is by using a standalone microphone instead of the camera’s built in mic. The quality is almost guaranteed to be better, and you can move the mic around to find the best spot to pick up sound. Microphones are a lot more sensitive than a lot of people think. Even aiming some microphones in different directions can drastically change the amount of sound you are picking up. Usually having a microphone, like a lavalier mic, right on your person will pick up the most direct and clear sound.

Even with a good microphone, great sound isn’t guaranteed. As I mentioned above, microphones can be extremely sensitive to small level changes. While we might not think much of someone getting really loud and then really quiet while talking, that can usually be too much for a microphone to handle. Sudden loud sounds might cause distortion, while some very quiet sounds might not even be picked up. Speaking at a balanced and uniform level can be difficult, but the end result always sounds better.

Our sound perception also often makes us unaware of background noise. Imagine sitting in a room with an air conditioner on. After a little while, you don’t even notice it anymore. All of a sudden it turns off, and now the room seems extra quiet! This is because our brain and hearing adjust to our environment pretty quickly, but they do notice sudden changes. Unfortunately, microphones don’t act the same way. A microphone will pick up all that extra noise the whole time, and when you listen back it will be very obvious. It can be easy to overlook background noises because of our perception, which is why it is always important to check your audio before shooting a whole day’s worth of footage.

To sum it all up, audio is a crucial part of making a professional video. It can be tricky, but with the right equipment and the right knowledge, it can be done. At Primeau Productions, we always make our videos with a designated ‘sound guy’ to make sure that every time we get great video, we get great audio. If you need help getting your company’s videos to the next level, give us a call. We would be happy to help!

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