SOUND POST PRODUCTION: HOW TO SET UP AND ORGANIZE YOUR SESSION. THE PRACTICALITY BEHIND IT!
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
An introduction to sound post production and the structure of the soundtrack in motion pictures. A 'How To' Guide to session organization and sound post workflow.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.
When it comes to productivity and collaboration during the post-production process of a film between various departments or individuals like sound effects editor, dialogue editor and re-recording mixer, organizing your session in a way that will make sense to the next person who needs to work on it after you is essential. Otherwise, lots of energy, money and time could be wasted, and even worst you could be blacklisted and never work with a team again. But even if you are working alone on a project, organizing your track-lay and use the same methodology consistently in every project will only benefit you and make you faster, efficient and more reliable to work with.
The concept of committing to a specific way of working within a department is nothing new and it is implemented universally. The goal is to keep things neat, properly named, and easy to the eye to navigate through. Lets say, you are doing the sound editing or design for a film and at the end you need to send your session to the re-recording mixer for the final mix. If your session is all over the place, unorganized and gives a hard time to the mixer to navigate through it and do his/her job, that will cost the production precious time and possibly money as well.
The principle behind having an organized session that is easy navigable, is to help us when collaborating with each other to concentrate more on the actual work and creativity rather than wasting time going back and forwards to figure out what's what.
WHY ALL THIS FUZZ?
In this industry, time costs money. One hour in a dubbing stage with a mixer can cost a lot. Moreover, when you work with creatives and producers in the studio, you must be able to play the whole session at your fingers easily without making them wait too much. Imagine you are sitting with the Director for the final edit or mix adjustments and going through the whole session from start to finish. What kills the creativity in moments like this is, making the Director to wait too long till you find something in the session, or till you recall the previous edit which he/she wants compare with the last one. Bad workflow kills productivity and creativity and those two things are invaluable. And part of our jobs as sound editors, sound mixers, designers or dubbing mixers is to make things happen, keep the flow going and be the creative tool that helps others to flourish and create.
Bad workflow kills productivity and creativity and those two things are invaluable in this industry.
The way to organize a session for sound post-production within a Digital Audio Workstation is simple and its done pretty much in the same way (more or less) by most of the professionals within the industry. But to understand better WHY we do work and organize the session in a certain way, we must start from the basics, which is to understand the way a motion picture soundtrack is constructed. (To avoid any confusion, when I say soundtrack, I always refer to the whole sound of the film and not just the music).
A film is a composition of sequences, and sequences are composed of scenes, and scenes are composed of shots. To reverse that, we film multiple shots which then the editor puts together and constructs a scene. Then we have one scene after another which compose a sequence of events, and these sequences of events are our story, the movie we are watching. So, in sound post-production we work shot by shot creating smooth sounding scenes, and scene by scene creating interesting and dynamic sequences. And because films can have lots of scenes, and we need to navigate from scene to scene easily and fast without wasting any time, we organize our tracks in a way that makes our life easier.
A soundtrack has 6 major elements, and every single one of them has an important role to play in regards how a story is conveyed to the audience. These elements are dialogue, sound effects, foley, atmospheres, sound design, and music and we find them in almost every single scene in a film. So, when we set up a session we have groups of tracks for every one of these elements and we organize and divide them by name, and color to make the session easily navigable.
CUT IT TO THE CHASE.
In this video I talk about the track-lay of a sound post session, and the structure of the soundtrack. How to organize a session like a professional and the post production workflow.
This is a guide for someone who is just starting and wants to learn the basics from the bottom and understand how we work withing the D.A.W. on a film project. Or even someone who is already familiar with sound post-production and wants to adopt a more professional workflow.
Here you can download my pro tools template for sound post production you may find useful as a starting point for your next project.