Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
Audio Always strive for the best quality but this goal may be mediated by several factors:  
• Time required to achieve best quality,   
• Resources available,   
• Production climate,   
• Priorities of production,   
• Media, etc.
Priorities In dramatic projects, generally the dialogue (intelligibility, clarity, quality, etc.) is of highest concern followed other elements. Audio recording is by nature selective so many decisions are needed as there are many possible approaches.
Features Perspective, synchronization, source, fidelity, context, perception (from obvious to subliminal)
An Accumulation of Errors
Location Environment Camera noise, other noises, wind, etc.
Transducer Quality Microphone noise, noise from boom, etc.
Recorder Tape hiss, preamplifier noise, digital distortion, calibration errors
Transfer Level mismatches, impedance mismatches, noise in transfer system
Modify/Edit/Mix System noise & accumulation, process artifacts (various), level changes
Presentation Calibration off, levels wrong, noise in system, etc.
requires a (1) constant rate for capture devices or a means to recover a constant rate (Nagra- Pilot tone) and (2) a means of locating material. 
The simplest system requires the use of a "slate" to locate the sound of a slate's clapper to the frame where that sound was created.  Sprockets (physical or electronic) may also synchronize via constant rate and with  time code provide exact location information.
Synchronization Issues:
  • What do we mean when we say something is in or out of sync
  • Culturally based notions of synchronization
  • When is it noticable, when is it not
    Synchronization Types
    Synchronization Type Mechanics Issues 
    Wild Camera and recorder operate independently. Synchronization achieved by matching slate noise with slate frame (head & tail) If either device changes rate then synchronization will be lost - even if both recordings are exactly the same length. May work with short takes.
    Crystal Sync As above with the addition of a crystal to lock camera speed and an internal reference tone for the analogue recorder (Nagra) or a digital clock (DAT).  Slate still required to locate start and confirm sync at end. Nagra requires "resolver" to correct any speed changes. Problematic in post because of a lack of location information.
    Time Code As above with addition of a time code reference. Camera may generate time code (video & film) or time code may be recorded on DAT/Nagra only. Slate may generate and display code. Now material is tagged with information which permits easier synchronization in post.
    Sprockets Both audio and film are recorded/played on sprocketed media. Sprockets keep material in sync by a physical means. No location information. Sprocket friction may cause wow and flutter. Editing is slow and sometimes changes are practically irrecoverable. Multiple audio tracks problematic.
    Internal Digital Both image and sound are captured in digital form (digital camera) or transferred to digital form from analogue.  Work is done in general purpose or special design computer system (Non-Linear Editor).  Easiest system for editor - picture quality may be poor in certain systems. All systems moving towards this.
    Video Both image and sound are captured on same medium - sync is not an issue.  Editing for sound may simply use video system: commonly found in Electronic News Gathering (ENG) systems. Generally lacks flexibility and scope of other systems.
    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    Location Recording
    Requires robust recorder • ideally 2+ tracks • time code or other location system in addition to synchronization/rate system • portable • off-mains capability (not always required) • accurate metering and monitoring • variety of microphones*, most designed for voice and selectivity • wind abatement system • wireless options • discrete systems (small), boom operator and communication systems for boom operator and director.
    *shot gun (highly directional), lavalier (body mic), pressure zone (PZM), cardioid/hyper cardioid 
    Dialogue • For flexibility in post (montage), foreign language release, ADR, etc. 
       • Must be separated from background 
       • Must not overlap (flexibility of montage) 
    • Must be intelligible 
    • Requires some rehearsal to determine if mic (boom operated) in frame, actor's movement, etc. 
    • Lense and microphone perspective issues: does the lense perspective match? Should it? Can it? etc. 
    • ADR likely 
    • Special issues: movement, off screen sources, ambiance context (if characters are in a supposedly loud club then perhaps they need to shout, etc.) 
    • Politics of boom operator being on the "front lines" with continuity, script, camera operator and director, etc.)
    Ambiance Specific to location and equipment/personnel surrounding.  Required to fill holes in dialogue during post editing. May needed as background. 
    Playback Required for sceens with source music that characters hear/react to such as dancing, singing, etc. Also off screen sound events such as telephones, amnnouncements, explosions, weather, etc.
    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    Screen Music
    Source Music
    Coming from digesis or story space: 
    • dialogue 
    • off screen voices 
    • sound effects (sfx) 
    • ambiance 
    • music with a source implied or visible 
    • off screen sounds (weather, etc.)
    Pit Music
    Score (Music)
    Coming from outside the story space; characters don't hear it, etc. 
    • Conventional music score 
    • Narration (may be considered quasi - diegetic) 
    • Other transition sound devices
    Heterogeniety of Post Production Sound 
    • Must be separated from background 
    • Must not overlap (flexibility of montage) 
    • Must be intelligible 
    • Perspective may be independent of camera (lense) 
    • Replaced? (noisy location, inappropriate reflections, poor performance, script changes, changes required because of editing, etc.) 
    • Modified - time altered, pitch altered, mistakes corrected, takes mixed, spacial qualities added (reflections, reverberation, etc.)
    • Production sources 
    • Captured or synthesized for production 
    • Library sources
    • As in SFX
    SFX created in the studio. Generally: 
    • Relating to action by characters and requiring performance (footsteps, clothing rustle, object manipulation noise, etc.) 
    • Sounds chosen to 
      • Support action 
      • Imbue action with emotional or psychological quality 
      • Indicates degree of intimacy 
      • May support perspective 
      • Support of narrative
    • May be created for project (score) or pre-existing ("needle-drop", "temp tracks", songs, etc.)  
    • May be written to action (conventional score) or not (song).  
    • May provide structure (music videos, animations, etc.,) or follow it. 
    • Whether score is diegetic or non-diegetic greatly influences how it is read by audience; that is,  how it may function.
    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    Transfer (xsfer) 

    General issues: (1) maintaining synchronization information, (2) fidelity (audio levels, noise, wow & flutter, etc.), and (3) library/cataloguing/access

    Format Media Issues
    Nagra (with Pilot tone)  
    wild source (cassette)
    magnetic film • low fidelity system (wow & flutter, noise)  
    • slow editing; not easily altered nor are previous edits easily recovered  
    • editors are simple to use and reliable  
    • traditional method  
    • media is relatively expensive  
    • limited availability now of support services (mixing facilities, etc.)
    computer files • File management:  
      •Format decisions 
      •Storage and back-ups 


    non-linear editiors As above


    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    The Work
    Scene by scene determination of sound track needs (support of action, psychological and emotional issues, transitions, narrative, etc.) for all sound track elements.  Of critical importance is sound effects and music and in particular any coordination issues which may arise in complex scenes (dialogue/music conflicts, etc.) 
    Dialogue • Editing 
    • Evaluation for ADR 
    • Manipulation/Modification 
    • Preparing for the mix  
      • splitting tracks 
      • removing location background 
      • filling in holes in background 
      • balance/timbre 
      • perspective
    • Overall coordination of sound track: Sound Design
    Foley • Recording 
    • Editing
    • Recording 
    • Synthesising 
    • Sourcing 
    • Editing 
    • Modifying
    ADR • Recording 
    • Cutting in (see dialogue editor) 
    • May be for poor location quality, script changes, performance changes, off screen sources, additional dialogue, etc.
    Music • Composed 
         • Selected 
         • Composed 
         • Recorded 
    • Edited 
    • Sourced and rights negotiated (Music Supervisor) 
    • Cut in to sound track (Music Editor)
    The Mix Preparation of all materials as well as a cue sheet for the mixing date(s).
    Includes • streamers,  • punches, etc to sync media (film work print or video).
    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    The Mix
    General issues: 
    (1) Maintaining flexibility while keeping costs down with work completed before the mix 
    (2) requirements for different formats (from mono to surround; analogue or digital, etc.)
    (3) domestic and foreign releases
    (4) Cue Sheets
    (5) Protocol
    Film Sound:  From Production to Presentation
    General issues: 
    (1) Distribution medium - quality, suitability
    (2) Requirements of different media
    (3) Requirements of differenet venues