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EMBS Audio Post Production Video & Audio Export Guide

1 Jan

This guide is to help EMBS clients properly export film projects from their editing software in preparation for audio post production work in our studio. Performing this step properly is essential to a workflow with the goal of a trouble-free round trip of audio media from your edit suit to our audio edit suite and back again.

EMBS is a ProTools-based audio post production facility.  We can ingest audio and video files from all the major film editing software, though the steps outlined here are specific to Final Cut Pro.  If you are exporting your film project from another editing tool, follow the same basic parameters outlined here.

The result of following these steps will be two files:
1. Quicktime movie of your project with timecode windowburn in NTSC DV
format (note: DV Stream format is not compatible with our system).
2. OMF file of the audio tracks in your sequence.

The steps are as follows:
1) Prepare the sequence for export with Window Burn
a) It is recommended, though not required that you render all video and audio effects in  your project sequence before you export.
b) Create  a new sequence named yourproject-TC
c) IF your project is widescreen (16:9, or 1.78:1), change the sequence settings of yourproject-TC to be 4:3.
i) Open your project-TC and select it.
ii) Click the command SEQUENCE>SETTINGS.
iii) In the GENERAL Tab, change the PIXEL ASPECT RATIO to “NTSC – CCIR 601 / DV(720×480)”.  The following example         shows a project which is DVCProHD (960×720) where the settings have been properly set for the yourproject-TC sequence.
iv) Click OK on the SQUENCE SETTINGS panel
d) Nest your project sequence into this new sequence.  IF prompted to “CHANGE SEQUENCE SETTINGS TO MATCH CLIP SETTINGS?”, click NO.
e) Apply the TIMECODE READER filter (found in the following effects folder: VIDEO FILTERS/VIDEO) to your nested project sequence.

2) Export the new sequence yourproject-TC  
a) Select yourproject-TC and export with the command: FILE>EXPORT>QUICKTIME MOVIE…
b) Click the SETTINGS dropdown and select “DV NTSC 48kHz” for the base framerate of your project.  Also make sure the checkbox for MAKE MOVIE SELF-CONTAINED is checked.    Then click SAVE and your sequence will start rendering.
This example has the settings for an HD sequence with a frame rate of 23.98

3) Export the audio from your project sequence to an OMF File
a) Select your project sequence, and export with the command: FILE>EXPORT>AUDIO TO OMF…
b) Set the dialog box as follows and click OK

4) Bring both rendered files to the studio for import into our ProTools system:
b) yourproject.OMF

Audio Post-Production

1 Jan

Here’s an excerpt from a class I used to teach at the Pyramind Media & Music Production School in San Francisco.

Audio Post-Production refers to the massaging of the soundtrack once the picture editor has assembled the final cut (called “picture lock”). The term applies to feature films, documentaries, broadcast shows, music videos, or commercials/advertising spots,
& encompasses the editing, enhancing, processing, mixing, & mastering of the soundtrack.

In terms of its creative contributions to the project, Audio Post enhances the
• storyline
• illusion of reality
• illusion of unreality
• spatial depth & width
• continuity btw scenes
• production audio tracks by editing, processing, & ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement, where  actors re-perform their lines in the studio, in sync with their original performance, because of unusable location sound).

1. Spotting session (this is where the sound dept. in the presence of the director &/or the producer determines the sound quality of the production tracks; the amount of ADR &/or VO [voiceover, or narration] needed; the amount & placement of foley; & the style, amount, & placement of sound design)
2. tracklaying (separating the production tracks into dialog, ambience, & effects tracks)
3. dialog editing (separating dialog tracks per main actors, fading across tracks, initial volume automation, editing out unwanted sounds, finding & placing lines from alternate takes)
4. processing (equalization, compression, noise reduction)
5. ADR (& aligning sync via VocAlign plug-in, or manually by sound & picture)
6. Foley (in-studio performance-to-picture of practical sound effects such as footsteps, fabric noise, etc)
7. sound design (helps create the illusion of reality–or unreality–& helps tell the story in terms of dramatic tension & release, along with the score)
8. music/score (see above)
9. mixing (putting all the elements together)
10. stems (DME, i.e. Dialog, Music, Effects)
11. mastering (outputting to target format for final release)

Recommended Reading
Audio Post Production for Television and Film
by Hilary Wyatt & Tim Amyes
3rd Ed., Focal Press


1 Jan

Wow, it’s been a busy two weeks!

Since I last wrote, I started audio post on Falling Uphill, a fabulous mumblecore indie feature for which I did production sound as well. Being already familiar with the script and the director’s vision, it came as no surprise that he wanted to keep to a documentary-type soundtrack in keeping with the genre’s style, something he reiterated during our spotting session. That means that as much production sound as possible is going to get used in the film, rather than replacing the production ambience with new, specially-recorded ambience or with something taken from a sound library, both of which are common practice.

Why is this common practice? There are a number of reasons:

  1. during production, “picture is king,” i.e. the focus is on capturing the action on camera, which in and of itself requires actors, good acting, sets, wardrobe, make-up, lights, extras, continuity, etc etc etc. Plenty to worry about even without sound.
  2. production sound focus is on dialog, but even under the best conditions, getting clean sound is challenging because you can’t completely (if at all) control the sound in most locations. Problems to contend with are traffic, airplanes, wind, rain, ocean, air conditioning, wireless interference, fabric noise, dolly noise, light or monitor buzz, etc.
  3. in the world of film sound, dialog is king, so the more you can control the ambience, the better. In big budget films, almost everything gets re-recorded in a studio, including the dialog (which is called ADR, for Automatic or Actor Dialog Replacement). Of course this is true for all animated films as well, where there is no production sound to begin with.

In keeping with the mumblecore approach, we wanted to do as little ADR as possible for Falling Uphill, but a few scenes needed fixing for various reasons:

  • two of the scenes were supposed to be rather intimate & quiet, but the production ambience was distracting.
  • two scenes had airplane noise & no line matches in alternate takes.
  • two lines had radio interference.
  • two scenes had off-camera lines that were changed in the script, & therefore had to be re-recorded.

We’ve already done ADR with 3 out of 4 actors, and I’ve integrated those recordings into the mix after ensuring sync (with a ProTools plug-in called VocAlign), and matching tone (via equalization), ambience (via reverb), and volume.

To begin with, you really should use the same mic(s) for ADR that were used during production, so the re-recorded lines will match the original in tone as much as possible. It’s also important not to impart any ambience into the re-recording that won’t match the production sound. So either the recording room has to be acoustically neutral (or “dead”-sounding), or sound the same as the original location.

The ADR process itself is pretty easy (for the engineer anyway;->). After setting up a picture monitor and microphone in the vocal booth, I select a region of one or more lines in the timeline, something that’s reasonable for the actor to re-perform. I’ll place a 3-beep (3 short, 1kHz beeps) before the start of the line(s) as a count-down, and include that in the whole region to be looped. After selecting “record-loop” in ProTools, the section will play until I stop playback/recording. The actor will usually need a few loops to “get up to speed,” and I’ll stop when I or the director like a particular take. I repeat that process for at least two more takes (to have some alternates; sometimes it’s many more takes), and then move on to the next section.

The beauty of VocAlign is that the actor’s performance only has to match the original by about 80%, and the plug-in will align the rest. A big time saver! Of course, this only applies to phrasing, not diction.

I’ve made multiple passes addressing the dialog & ambiences, and I’m very happy with how things are sounding. Sundance, here we come:)

Location Sound Guidelines & Lingo

1 Jan

I thought I’d share a few items of interest from my location sound seminar & audio post classes. Let’s start with recording sound on set, since that’s where it starts in the real world as well.

Tips & Tricks
◦ Read script to plan for special sound events that might be needed.
◦ Always plan ahead as much as possible.
◦ Always be present for blocking (see Lingo below), so you can figure out your next set-up.
◦ Always set up as early as possible & relax later (while waiting for relight, wardrobe, make-up, talent). “Waiting for sound” is the call of death.
◦ Always record at least 30 seconds of room tone for every new INT (interior) location.
◦ Make sure to get all the wild tracks/ambience the film might needs.
◦ Wild track talent to compensate for noisy sets (the inside of a car can double as an isolation/vocal booth if it’s parked in a quiet location).
◦ Always use double system if you can (i.e. sound to camera as well as sound to recorder)
◦ Verify camera return after every reset.
◦ Use a location sound checklist until you know it backwards & forwards.
◦ Double & triple check all connections & settings.
◦ Mobility & fast response is key.
◦ Use batteries instead of AC when you can. AC introduces noise problems.
◦ Run audio cables separately from AC cables.

Set Protocol
◦ Always be respectful of crew & talent, & never talk shit about anyone.
◦ Call for “cut” if sound is going to be compromised during a take.
◦ Bring up any potential or actual sound problems to the director, AD, or line
◦ Wait to set up new sound/mic positions until camera position is established.
◦ Always collect lavs/transmitters from talent before they leave the set.
◦ Leatherman
◦ small flashlight
◦ binder for sound reports/location sound checklist
◦ Sticky tape/hairpiece tape for lavs
◦ gaffer, medical (also good for lavs), & paper tape
◦ sunglasses
◦ floppy hat or baseball cap (so you can still wear headphones)
◦ sun screen
◦ Sharpies
◦ AA & 9V Battery meters
◦ notepad
◦ Soldering kit
◦ business cards
◦ EZ-Up
◦ Sound blankets (aka furniture pads)
◦ 6-step ladder
◦ boom stands
◦ Cartellinis                                                                                                                                                 ◦ dolly or sound cart
◦ clamps

◦ “Action”
The most often heard term on a film set along with “cut. ” It signifies the
beginning of the camera’s recording (immediately following “speed” of both sound & picture) of a dialog or action sequence from the script.
Stands for Automatic Dialog Replacement, sometimes called looping. When
an actor in a studio replaces dialog that was improperly recorded or
distorted (by airplanes, traffic noises, etc.) during location filming.
◦ Audio Post-production
The editing, looping, music recording, etc., that is completed after the film
has been shot.                                                                                                                                  

◦ Best Boy
The gaffer’s (electrician’s) first assistant.
◦ Blocking
The movement of actors and/or action on a film set, usually the director or
assistant director’s job.
◦ Continuity
The matching of an actor’s movement and/or props usage so that a scene
shot from various camera angles can be edited together without noticeable
◦ “Cut”
The second most often heard term on a film set. It signifies a halt in the
filming of a scripted scene.
◦ Cutting Room Floor
Where most of an actor’s best scenes wind up; just ask them.
◦ Dailies/Rushes
The unedited “raw ” footage from the previous day’s shooting that the crew
“rushes ” to see on a “daily ” basis.
◦ Dolly Shot/Tracking Shot
A term referring to a moving camera shot. The camera is usually mounted
on a vehicle set on wheels or tracks in order to produce a smooth
◦ Foley
Recording sound effects (foot steps, fabric noise, etc.) in synchronization
with the film (post-production).
◦ Gaffer
Set electrician, responsible for providing safe electrical power to all the
◦ Gaffer Tape
Wide grey, white, or black tape that literally holds the film industry
together. Not to be confused with duct tape. Gaffer tape leaves no sticky
residue on film equipment.
◦ Grip
Responsible for moving production equipment around a film set.
◦ Gopher
Basically a (PA) production assistant asked to “go for this or go for that. ”
◦ Hitting the Mark
When an actor stops at the correct spot in a scene for framing and focusing.
The actual mark is usually a piece of gaffer tape placed on the floor.
◦ Martini Shot
The last shot of the day or of the whole shoot.

◦ Master Shot
The term for an entire scene shot from one camera angle involving all the
actors in the scene and with no editing. Usually the first shot in the filmed
A term from the birth of the sound era in Hollywood referring to a scene
shot silently or “without sound. ” Since many German directors were
working in the business at that time and the German word for with is “mit, ”
the acronym became “MOS ” rather than “WOS. ”
◦ Pick Ups/Pick-Up Shots
Shots needed to complete the storytelling that were initially missed or left
out and are “picked up ” at a later time.
◦ Room Tone
Sound recorded without dialog on the location or set to be used to bridge
gaps in the soundtrack. Each location has a distinctive ambient sound that
can sometimes be difficult to match in the post-production studio.
◦ Set Ups
The number of times the camera is moved in order to correctly film the
◦ Second Unit
The crew that shoots stunt scenes, crowd scenes, car driving scenes, etc.,
that do not involve the principal actors.
◦ Slate
The identifying marker at the beginning of each filmed scene. It is
sometimes “clapped ” to provide a synchronization point for the picture and
sound for post-production.
◦ “Speed”
Recordist’s response to AD’s call to “roll sound.”
◦ Wild Tracks
Dialog or ambient tracks not recorded to picture
◦ Wrap
The third most often heard word on a film set. And the one the entire cast
and crew looks forward to: the end of the day’s shooting, or the end of the
entire shoot.