Sound editing refers to the crucial work that sound engineers do in post-production for film, TV, commercials, videos or podcasts. Without sound editors we wouldn’t know the signature sound of Luke Skywalker’s light saber, understand what the E-Trade baby is communicating crib side or feel the rumble of an emerging English army in Braveheart. Sound Editing brings the video and audio elements together, and is vital to a projects success. This is how The Sound Jack breaks down sound editing: what it is, how it’s done, and why media professionals need it.
Sound editing is the process of recording, organizing, and syncing audio after a production. The different elements included in this process are generally handled in this workflow:
- Production dialogue editing
- ADR (automated dialogue replacement)
- Sound effects editing and design
- Foley recording
- Music editing
Sound editors use a combination of recording environments, editing bays, and software programs to accomplish each step of the process. Sound Editing is like making a pizza. First you collect all of the ingredients (the production recordings), then you perfectly place all of the additional toppings (sound editing) and finally you have a delicious deep-dish sausage pizza from Lou Malnati’s (the perfect movie).
Sound Stages or recording booths are used to record ADR. Foley rooms are used to record the sounds of human’s and animal’s physical interaction with the world – like footsteps for a horse or the sound of a sword being withdrawn. After recording these additional sweeteners for the project they are taken to an editing bay that usually contains a 12-24 channel mixer, 5.1 surround sound speakers, and a DAW (digital audio workstation).
Pro Tools is the professional grade DAW. This program allows you to manipulate sound in every way imaginable. Within Pro Tools’ linear timeline you can take sound and chop it, reverse it, speed it up, organize it or place it at the perfect moment down to a millisecond. When sound engineers discovered the power of Pro Tools it was like Neo discovering he was “The One”.
A sound editor’s job is to enhance visuals and bring the sound of a story to life. When the sound is done well, the audience won’t notice and will believe everything. Sound editors are the audio ninjas that make sure every sonic detail is clean and correct. Each of the different steps in the sound editor’s workflow carries a level of importance.
Production Dialogue Editing: The dialogue is the most important sound element in the storytelling process. A sound editor will go through the entire movie’s recorded dialogue and remove excess noise of planes or trains and bring the dialogue to the forefront. This eliminates distractions and allows the audience to focus on the content of the story.
ADR: Sometimes a scene is filled with explosions, gunshots, or loud sounds on set that drown out an actor’s vocal performance. Other times a director wants to change the tone of an actor’s voice in post-production. These are great times to record ADR or additional lines that sync up with a movie and help enhance the story.
Sound Effects Editing and Sound Design: Do you know what a Tyrannosaurus Rex sounds like? You’re thinking yes, but really the answer is no. No living human has ever heard the sound of a real T-Rex. We all think we know because of the sound designer Gary Rydstrom’s work in Jurassic Park. The key to movies that take place in a different time period or on a different planet is to get the audience fully immersed. For a movie like this to be successful, the audience must be engaged with their ears and eyes and truly believe this world can exist. This can be achieved with sound effects and proper sound design.
Foley: Picture a chase scene in a horror movie. Often times there is a woman running for her life in her own home. She runs upstairs and hides in a closet. The whole audience knows the chaser will find her, and directors use sound to build the anticipation. She sits in the closet and loud booming footsteps creep down the hallway – this monster must be enormous. You grip the movie theater chair’s armrest and try not to jump next to your date so you seem cool; but as always she is found, you scream like a little girl, and we all know how that ends. The point of focus here are the big booming footsteps created by the Foley team. With something as simple as a footstep, the Foley team has made the audience feel scared and described the monster’s size. Foley can really help an audience understand human emotion and movement.
The Sound Jack offers sound editing, sound mixing, sound restoration and sound design for all video, film, and podcasts. If you like this article please share it or leave us a comment. For more sound help, check out our other articles on sound mixing, sound restoration and sound design.