Well good morning.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on any form of social media. The truth is I’ve been busy filming Mountain Cult Ep 5 and in fact only have 1 scene left to shoot. Beside wordpress, I was making a habit of posting “film journals” to my youtube channel. Believe it or not I recorded a new episode of FJ about a month ago – I just haven’t gotten around to editing it.
As a matter of fact I have so much material I’m hoping to edit that it overwhelms me at times ( I want to remaster former episodes by fixing audio issues, send each actor from mountain cult a 1 minute clip for their acting reels, film a youtube “short” everyday, and – unrelated – but I’d also like to try my hand at singing to see if the vocals would improve the songs I’ve put together). The important thing is that I’ve edited much of Episode 5 already. However, it’s been a unique experience after learning so much about audio this year – I never thought that sound mixing would be more time consuming than coloring.
I’ll give you an example – imagine you film a scene on your porch where all that you’re doing is speaking on the phone to an offscreen character. Sounds simple, right? Well that all depends on how involved you’d like to get. If I were to go all out this is what I would do –
- A clean take with mic focused on character speaking
- A full minute recording of ambient noise with nothing else
- A full take that focuses only on the rustling cloth and movements of the character
- Focus the mic on any distinct sounds – phone placed on table, phone picked up
- Sound of the voice coming through the other end of the phone (an easy improvisation in post, but always sounds better when played in the actual environment)
I think those are enough pertinent tracks to make the scene. When I get to the editing room, I’ll isolate each sound on a separate track – ie, dialogue, sound effects, foley, background noise, special (like editing a normal voice to sound like its coming through a telephone… or cellphone since nobody uses the word telephone anymore)
So now each layer is on a separate track. From here I’ll place audio effects to each track – EQ, highpass filter, dehummer, deesser, and finally mastering. The less effects needed the better. Often Dialogue needs the most. (the better the recording, the less I have to do in the editing room).
Once the sounds are placed I’ll add cross fades and some quiet audio to the start and beginning of dialogue bits. This prevents those sharp, millisecond blips that you hear when an audio level changes dramatically in an instant.
After all the audio is placed, I would import the tracks into ableton. Here I can design a score that is specific to the scene I am editing. It is important during every step of the process to level your clips appropriately – dialogue should always be the loudest, most distinguishable track. I like loud, crisps sound effects (the phone being picked up and placed down). Foley, or the cloth movements, should fit the scene appropriately. In others words the common viewer should not even know that track exists. Ambient noise should also be at a low level, but consistently present. The music volume depends on how important it is to the scene. For something such as this I would keep it at a low volume. I might even sidechain it to dialogue so that it lowers in volume during each moment a character speaks.
After all this is finished, I would focus on panning – or speaker assignment for each layer. Dialogue will be front and center, but the other sounds and noises can be panned to the side speakers. Panning audio is something I still have a lot more to learn about. For example, I am uncertain if it is better to pan most sounds far left and far right, or to settle them closer to the center.
The cool thing about making my own score is that I can pan each instrument separately along the speakers. I am also unsure of where sound effects should be placed – I enjoy panning them according to the object creating them in relation to the visual scene.
My biggest question when it comes to panning is how it effects surround sound. I believe that exporting in 5.1 means that each track will go directly to the speaker it is assigned even if it is not panned. What I am curious about is whether a hard right/left pan makes any change to the speaker it is assigned to. 5.1, for those that don’t know, means that your audio set up includes 1 center speaker, a front left and right speaker, and rear left and right speaker, and 1 subwoofer that plays the low frequency waves (explosions are popular).
The final step for audio would involve leveling it once again. Where will the clip be posted? Youtube, broadcast television, and film festivals each have different leveling specifications. Youtube requires audio that is much louder than the other platforms. The other consideration for this is surround sound – cable and youtube will not support surround sound audio. I believe most film festivals will.
The other major concern for me has to do with kickstarter – I desperately want to offer episode 5 of mountain cult on a DVD. I want it to supply 4k video with surround sound. I’m sure it’s just a few web searches away, but I have some big questions before I can promise this. #1 – can basic DVD-R support 4k and surround sound? #2 – Do I need a special DVD writing drive, or is a simple CD Rom drive capable of writing these specs to a DVD? #3 – Do I export 2.1, 5.1, and 7.1/7.2 to the same disc? Or do I write the most advanced surround sound tracks to the DVD and allow the AV receiver to fold the surround sound according to the viewers audio setup? For example, you can upload a surround sound clip to youtube, but youtube will fold the rear left & rear right speakers so that it is incorporated into the stereo track and plays through front left and right speakers. I believe Youtube supports 2.1 audio, but I could be mistaken.
Anyways, thank you for listening to all this audio gibberish. Definitely not what I intended to write about when I sat down here but I’m glad I got it off my chest. I hope to begin posting stills from my footage soon I’m just too lazy to press the upload button now.