• Sean LaFollette

AUDIO EDITING FOR FILM - 101


The words The Sounds Build The Experience
Film Audio

In the midst of working on post production, I decided to take a moment and educate myself on audio editing. It’s not that I don’t know how to edit audio or haven’t done it before, it’s that I wanted to learn more and become more proficient in the art.


After watching over 15 hours of content on the subject, I wanted to pass along a few high level tidbits that can help you take your audio to the next level.


NLE VS DAW

What the fuck do these terms mean? To be honest, I hate acronyms. Even worse, I hate people that use them, assuming everyone knows what they mean. We don’t all speak that language, turd.


Anyway, off my soap box for a minute, let me explain in simple terms what this means.


NLE - Non Linear Editing - This is the program you use to edit your movie. I use Adobe Premiere Pro. This system is designed to edit video, NOT audio, which I wasn’t really aware of.


DAW - Digital Audio Workstation - This is the program you use to edit and mix your audio. I use Adobe Audition.


Historically, I would just edit my audio in Premiere and export directly from there. However, now that I see the benefit of using Audition, I will be exporting my audio from Premiere, mixing in Audition and re importing in Premiere. Send me a message if you need more information on how that's done.


CLEAN DIALOGUE

Your dialogue shouldn’t contain any sound effects. To clean this up, you can use a function in your Digital Audio Workstation called Denoise. With this tool, you can take a sample of the background noise in your audio clip and then remove similar audio frequencies from the entire clip.


I’ve known about Denoise and have used it unsuccessfully in the past. Just know, the more you Denoise, the more “Artifacts” will show up in the file. Typically, your dialogue will start to sound a little robotic.


With that said, less is more with Denoise. If a clip has a TON of issues, you may want to do ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) or looping.


LOOPING

In your digital audio workstation, you can highlight the audio that needs to be replaced, put your player on repeat and press play. It will LOOP through the clip repeatedly.


Get your actor, put the headphones on him/her and let them listen over and over again. Now you can set up your audio recorder and microphone to record a pretty damn close recreation to what was done on set. This might be a WAY better option than Denoise, in some instances.


AMBIANCE IS NOT ROOM TONE

On set, you should capture what is called room tone. It’s a minute long audio clip that is used in post production to fill the blank gaps between dialogue. You should NOT run your room tone under a dialogue clip, then sound will be different due to the fact that you doubled up your room tone. It should only bridge the gaps between dialogue.


Ambiance is the underlying noise in the background. If you’re filming at a park, you would have kids running around, people talking, maybe some traffic, etc. This is ambiance. It actually plays UNDER everything in the scene and should be hardly audible.


FOLEY AND SOUND EFFECTS

All of the sound in a film is added in post, not captured on set. A gunshot, a car driving, the whirl of a fan...When I say all of it, I mean all of it.


Foley is any sound that a person can make. For instance, the rustling of clothes from an actors movement. The jingle of car keys.


Sound Effects are any sounds not created by the person. A great example would be the sound of a gunshot.


Your actor pulls the trigger causing the action of the gun to move and the bullet to come out. There’s a lot of sounds associated with this. The sound the trigger makes would be considered Foley, due to the fact that it was caused by human interaction. However, the sound of the slide moving on the gun, and the loud boom to follow, would be all sound effects.


EXPORTING DIALOGUE

Your dialogue should be exported at approximately -20 decibels. Room tone will fill the gaps, thus it would be under that. Ambiance would be even less...Just food for thought.


CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, do what sounds best to you. When you get into the weeds, there’s a lot more to audio editing than I ever expected. It’s a fun new world to dive into, though it comes with a lot of work. If you have any specific questions, please reach out as I’m happy to provide answers.


- The Failed Filmmaker

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