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Post house protocol?


Joe Riggs
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What is the standard protocol when working with a post house after you deliver the sound materials from the client end? I'm assuming, general cleanup and dialogue are done with them but at one point is the director brought in to give feedback/notes? Is this during the mixing stage or before? Can stuff be changed during the mixing stage?

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Is this question for a film?

On a typical film, the very first thing you do is sit down with the Director and the Composer and spot the film.  This takes 6-8 hours, where you talk about major themes, and individual scenes.  This way the music and sound departments are on the same page, and each has a go direction to start in.  

Then we need several weeks to go through the dialogue cutting the boom onto main DX tracks, and the LAV's on support tracks underneath.  Any spots that are rough, we scour the alternate takes to try to save the scene from needing ADR.  Once we believe we have exhausted that possibility, we bring in the Director to go through everything needing ADR.  Once spotted, we schedule ADR.

Meanwhile, foley break-down and shooting go on along with BG & FX cutting. At significant stages along the way we either bring in the Director to go over the editorial, or post clips.

Then, I bring in the Director for mixing after I have had a chance to put it all together, incorporated final music and begun to weave the story.  On a small budget film, this is still a minimum of 3 days with the Director.

 

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And, just for reference - on "the other end of the spectrum";

 

If this was say an hour long sports show or maybe lifestyle or even lower budget docs, then you'd probably be looking at a single engineer doing the whole show in anywhere from a day to about three, approval session and rendering files included. The process would likely be to deliver media, and once it's confirmed that it all imports and lines up fine the mix engineer is left alone. He'll do all the editing necessary to accommodate stems as well as just making dialog and music edits sound ok, and then proceed to mixing the show. I've found that it is generally counterproductive to have a director in during the first stages of this process because they tend to see things and hear things that aren't focused on at that time, and bringing them up just slows down the process and frustrates people.

 

Since budgets are tighter on this end it's actually typically best to find a good engineer that has done that type of content before, state how you want it to sound by giving a reference (i.e. a pretty "hot" and "aggressive" sports show versus a more "bland" lifestyle home decoration show), and then let him do his thing until it's time to approve it. The director then comes in, sits down to have a listen, and give notes which the engineer typically addresses on the spot unless they're significant issues. Mind you, if this was a series one should budget extra time for the first two episodes to account for both hiccups and everyone getting used to the type of mix that's desired. I'd also say that if there are concerns about how "hot" the mix would be for example, it's entirely possible to mix a segment of the show, or an act of the film, and have the director watch that to make sure it's in the ballpark. Again, this isn't for features mixed on a stage, but for lower budget content in "studios".

 

There's a further end of the spectrum too, but I don't think that's what you're talking about. So I'd say between what I just wrote and the above, written by "minister", you'll find your situation.

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Great info, thanks. 

When it comes time for the mix, I'm assuming most of that time is spent putting elements at their desired audio level, panning, placing sounds within a 5.1 space. However, what flexibility is there during the mix for adjusting content? Such as adding sounds (ambiance, sfx, etc...).     

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Yes, Mattias outlines lower budget stuff as well.  I have done a fair share of low budget TV and corporate pieces .... mostly the Director, or Producer (depending on if it is a commercial project or not) comes in at the end.  or, not at all, and I post a Vimeo link for them to sign-off on. 

Great info, thanks. 

When it comes time for the mix, I'm assuming most of that time is spent putting elements at their desired audio level, panning, placing sounds within a 5.1 space. However, what flexibility is there during the mix for adjusting content? Such as adding sounds (ambiance, sfx, etc...).     

It depends.... Is the mixer also an editor?  Was the mixer setup to also be an editor, or was editorial supposed to be done before hand?  How much money does the client have?  How much time is there?

I certainly have changed and added sounds during the mix with the client if they are unhappy.  But on a higher end movie with 2-3 mixers, they usually don't spend time cutting in FX, and editor does it on another rig.  But only lower budget 1-person shows yes.

Why are you asking?  What is your situation? You will get a better answer for your situation if you are more specific.  Because, it depends......................

Edited by minister
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Again i agree with Tom, the minister ;-)

 

I'd add that a lot of times I'm guessing it's better to go to a "specialist" to get maximum efficiency at the task at hand. In other words, if you want to work on sfx then a sound designer / sfx editor is probably where you get good bang for the buck. That's my hunch at least. Also, in some cases while you're in the mix it can slow down the flow of the review/mix by engaging in sound design. It might not sound like a big deal, but it's easy to lose perspective on the mix if one ends up stopping and starting a fair amount and for quite some time.

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What is the standard protocol when working with a post house after you deliver the sound materials from the client end? I'm assuming, general cleanup and dialogue are done with them but at one point is the director brought in to give feedback/notes? Is this during the mixing stage or before? Can stuff be changed during the mixing stage?

I'd say yes, sometimes, and yes would be the general answers. But a lot is "it depends."

If the post crew has a dialogue editor, then the dialogue would be handled after the picture editor locks each reel (or segment) of the project. Once it gets to the re-recording mixer(s), it's up to them to take the original dialogue, the cleaned-up dialogue, or the ADR... or even choose between the boom and lavs, depending on the nature of the project. Some mixers give the dialogue editors lots of leeway, and others might overrule the dialogue editors and meticulously check different tracks for the final mix. 

If they only have a couple of days to finish (say) an entire 1-hour drama, then I think the mixer has to have a lot of trust in the dialogue editor's work and know their judgement will dovetail correctly with the intents of the show. I have been present during mixes where I was sure a line was ADR'd, but the mixer told me, "nope, that's the original production track run through Cedar DNR." So they were often able to salvage stuff that we expected would not work well -- and they made that decision right there on the dub stage. The track layout from the sound editor fits a known template used by the re-recording mixer so they know where to find the alts and the other versions just in case one doesn't work, particularly in cases of lots of noise problems.

What's more problematic -- particularly with quick-turnaround reality shows -- is that the picture editor is also the sound editor, and they have to make quick decisions in less-than-optimal rooms about dialogue intelligibility, noise levels, compression, and so on. Far, far too many reality shows and low-budget documentaries suffer from these problems. One wishes that they would spend at least a couple of days on a proper mixing stage and really listen to what's going out, but often there's just no time and money left to do it properly.

Edited by Marc Wielage
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What's more problematic -- particularly with quick-turnaround reality shows -- is that the picture editor is also the sound editor, and they have to make quick decisions in less-than-optimal rooms about dialogue intelligibility, noise levels, compression, and so on. Far, far too many reality shows and low-budget documentaries suffer from these problems.

And this is way workflow on the field has to be adjusted assuming what you get is what will air:

Using limiters and post fader.

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