mikerophonics - the art of sound

mikerophonics - the art of sound

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Musings of a freelance dubbing mixer/sound designer/sound editor & independent studio owner

short films - some SOUND advice

Post Production SoundPosted by mike aiton Tue, May 08, 2012 16:22:25
Today's rantlet is aimed at independent and short film makers.

I like to start a conversation with any new Director/Producer by putting a few cards down on the table and making a few things clear to manage any expectations and avoid disappointment, and I also often have to remind them of some good universal rules.

So filmmakers, some food for thought:

The post production triangle:

pick two. The three do not occur concurrently.

I am not a charity and do not work for free - I have been successfully earning my living this way for nearly 25 years (as I am very good at it). I have a family to feed and a mortgage to pay and I like skiing! Please don't ask otherwise and risk offence.

I will not LOAN you my time and experience and skills while you try to earn money selling your completed film. Ask your bank for money, that is what they do.

If you want a great deal, then you have to be very patient! Good people are busy - and they are worth waiting for!

Please do not try the cliche about "when I get my first feature, it will be you, I promise". Often production and post productions deals are out of your hands when you hit "the big time" and your hands will be tied.

Why do you have no budget for sound post production? Would you buy a Ferrari if you can't afford the petrol? If you have no budget, please go ask a school leaver to mix your film (and then change your career). You should be allowing as very rough rule of thumb a bare minimum of at least 30% of your budget for picture & sound post.

Make sound your friend and "think sound". Have another look at your script and have a think about the sound - have you missed a creative dimension? Sound without picture is radio, but picture without sound is just surveillance!

Get your recordist and picture editor to talk with the sound editor / dubbing mixer BEFORE you shoot and arrange a workflow and communication. Film and TV is easy if you get it right, and tortuous if you don't.

PLEASE make your composer and dubbing mixer talk, 128kb MP3s in mono from your neighbours iPod are not a good idea.... and yes i have been sent them many times before!

Don't think you can "do the boom thing" yourself - you can't and your film will sound like a dog's dinner. Don't put a trainee's hand on the recording by doing this.

It is pointless shooting on sparkly 35mm if you have no budget for post or sound. A well made video will reach more people than mute sparkly film!

Be realistic about what you can achieve in post. Do you really want a theatrical mix - it costs extra to printmaster in a Dolby approved stage. Who is really going to watch/buy your film? Ids it for TV, DVD? Most people try and cover all bases and spend money innefectively.

Think about and budget for foley. You will need it for foreign language sales and a full M&E (filled Music and FX mix). It also allows a lot more detail in your sound mix.

The sound edit and mix are fun - find trustworthy people who inspire you and sound will be your friend for life. The old cliche rings very true that pictures tell the story, but sound tells the emotion....

No I will not give you my Pro Tools session at the end. I will give you stems, and mixes as agreed before hand. Your friend who thinks he can load my mix on his laptop in his garage for a few tweaks will be in for a sorry surprise. I use VERY expensive plug-ins that you won't have - so it won't work. You do not have the right to my sfx, just the mix of them that I give you. Please don't ask otherwise unless you can offer me at least six figures.

Nor will I show you how to do it all so that next time you can do it yourself (you are not THAT quick a learner, trust me. I learned from some of the best at the BBC and in Soho and my experience has been amassed over years, and just being able to push the buttons will make you a computer operator, not a dubbing mixer. It takes a long time to learn not to sit on your ears!

Often post production sound involves experimentation to get it right, which is why it is not quick. Randy Thom makes mistakes to get it perfect...it's part of the creative process.

As one last thing, watch this quick youtube video on client vendor relationships, I have seen ALL this behaviour from production companies many times and it is not funny to be on the other end of it.

So now we have got that all straight, let's make some great films...

  • Comments(5)

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Posted by Tim Mon, May 14, 2012 21:52:23

Good start Mike.

Doesn't mean anything to me, not being in the industry.

You're still THE BEST!!!!!

Posted by mike aiton Wed, May 09, 2012 11:47:08

no - not 30% for sound, 30% for POST (Audio and Video/Film) - its only a very rough ball park. Taking heads films need less, Transformers (and other LOUD FILMS) need more etc

Posted by Wolfgang S. Wed, May 09, 2012 11:15:34

Hi Mike,

True words - great article - thanks! Keep them coming.

Posted by hans Wed, May 09, 2012 09:18:54

30% of the budget for sound?! Even on the biggest blockbuster films I've worked of the budget for sound was rather in the area of 1-3%.

Posted by John Tue, May 08, 2012 23:39:18

Wow