The postproduction phase essentially allows the different sound stems—
narration and dialogue, music, and sound effects (see pages 112–24)—
to be drawn conclusively together. Discussions about how the sound will support and enhance the audience’s enjoyment and appreciation of the production fall to the director, postproduction supervisor, and sound editor and team. They recommend and schedule a workfl ow that will allow a soundtrack to be fi nalized.
Producing a soundtrack
To create an integrated soundtrack, the director needs to conduct a series of further spotting sessions. The director views the fi nal fi lm print with the sound editor, together with possibly a conductor, sound designer, and sound-effects designer, depending on the scale and nature of the production, to determine where the stems that will constitute the soundtrack will be placed and plotted.
These sessions may happen individually or collectively, depending on the production. The resulting conversations generate detailed spotting notes that
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form layered accounts of every aspect of the soundtrack, from dialogue, narration, and music to special effects, creating an agreed workfl ow for the synchronization of postproduction.
Each element of a stem is fi rst mixed to create a premix. This allows the number of individual audio fi le assets to be reduced into, typically, eight-channel premixes, which are more streamlined, manageable chunks of audio information, illustrating where cleaning or re-recording is required.
For example, dialogue, and narration are synchronized to specifi c characters and objects. Meanwhile, music premixes divide the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic music recordings from the orchestral or man-made, while specifi cally designed recorded sound effects, and accompanying foley sound effects, are premixed together at this point.
When the fi nished premixes are complete, they are played together with images for the fi rst time in the fi nal mix. Here, the director and sound editor make decisions regarding the specifi c balance and panning of the sound, matching them with the sequencing of images to create a pleasing fl ow, free of jumps and technical glitches. It is now important to condense the number of fi les down to a manageable amount, and this is achieved by “mixing down”
each music, dialogue, and sound-effect stem to a six-channel output to enable clean mastering through global compression compliant with the technical output requirements of the destination of the fi nal production.
For example, mono mixes are used widely for 16mm fi lms, while stereo mixes are sometimes prepared for festival screenings, compatible with the sound technology capability at most auditoriums. Increasingly, the standard for most output is Dolby 5.1, which is used for release on DVD, supported in
The fi nal mix enables the director and sound designer the opportunity to place and shape sound in screen with the synchronized visuals.
most larger auditoriums and used for surround-sound experience in the home. The fi nal mix allows the sound to be placed (panned) to different parts of the auditorium, enhancing the viewing experience by shaping the sound in synchronicity with the visual content.
In the fi nal mix, it is possible to separate or blend sound to create
different characteristics and amplify the sonic experience for the audience.
A two-channel mix essentially creates fi elds of sound on the left and right sides of the auditorium and, as they merge in the center, a stereo sensation is achieved. Adding further channels deepens and intensifi es the
soundscape, panning sound to specifi c areas of the auditorium to maximize impacts, provide ambient sensations, or impart deliberate sonic information.
An example is the lower-frequency effects channel that is used to convey sounds such as tremors that build intensity and suspense.
In this example of a traditional stereo mixing, dialogue is anchored in the center of the mix with accompanying music panned equally left and right. Sound and foley effects are dotted into the mix at specifi c intervals to echo the actions taking place on screen.
off -screen sound off -screen
The fi nal mix also offers the opportunity to pan sounds in synergy with the visuals on screen. This process is important as it helps establish a seamless link between the sounds and visuals by smoothing out any jarring. Two types of panning are used in animation postproduction. A “static” pan can be used to emphasize fi xed sounds to a static shot. A “moving” pan supports on-screen action. For continuity, dialogue is usually panned centrally, while music and special effects benefi t from being more spatially panned, linking them to specifi c visual objects to evoke certain atmospheric moods and conditions, and to support transitions.
The sound equivalent to color correction, mastering processes the fi nal soundtrack by equalizing the sound and compressing it ready for release.
Equalization effectively fi lters fi nal mixed sounds to a frequency that will be comfortable for the audience, and supports the format in which the production will be shown. Compression is applied to lower-frequency sounds to limit irritating sounds like clipping, where editing may not be completely smooth.
The process of formatting prepares the production for its release format.
Traditionally, mono formats were prepared, and occasionally exist today, for television and 16mm fi lm, but the limited bandwidth and narrow frequency ranges, plus the desire for digital broadcast, have paved the way for stereo and multichannel formatting. The most commonly available stereo format is DigiBeta, a form of digital video, which is used for showreels and at festivals.
Dolby SR (spectral recording) is also a popular format for festivals, since it can be used with both stereo and multichannel mixes, and is characterized by noise reduction applied on optical tracks to boost frequency. Digital video is used for DVD releases played with a surround-sound system.
This delightful animated short by Steve Small for the charity Sing Up uses minimal sound panning to create maximum impact.