The following article is a summary of a few processes that are executed in creating a soundtrack for a film or other video. These techniques include ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), sound effects/Foley, Sound Design, and music scoring. In larger productions today each of these procedures are taken care of by an individual or small team that specializes in a certain field. For example, there will be one person who runs an ADR session, edits the content, and sends the final track down the production line for mixing or there might be an ADR recording engineer that runs the session and a dialogue editor that edits the content. Before reading this article there are a few basic concepts to be understood.
There are three main portions of producing a film. The first is pre-production, which is where directors, producers, and other higher-ups meet and discuss how they want the film to look, sound, feel, etc. They also discuss logistics and expenses. Next comes the production stage. This is where the acting takes place in a studio, a remote location, or where a voice talent comes in and records their lines to give an animated character its voice. The third and final stage is known as post-production. It starts out with a spotting session for the audio team. In this session it is decided what dialogue needs to be replaced, where and what kind of sound effects need to be added, where music needs to be placed, and anything else the director wants to sound different. This is generally where most work happens for these four parts that build up the sound track for a video. After all sections of the sound track are completed they are combined and mixed (usually in stems).
ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement)
ADR is the process of replacing unusable dialogue from the production process because it either had background noise in the signal, was not executed the way the director wanted it to be, or for any other reason that would hinder the quality of the sound track.
Tips On How To Record: Generally, ADR sessions are recorded in “dead” sounding rooms so that a certain room sound or ambiance can be added later to keep the actors voice in perspective with what is happening on screen.
Sound effects can be anything from giving explosions their chest-thumping boom to replacing the sound of a door closing. These sounds can be made up from scratch or taken from a library of sounds that can be purchased. Foley sound effects are sounds that are added by a Foley-Artist or a “Foley-Walker”. This person literally acts sounds out to on screen events and records it. Sometimes to make something sound bigger and more emphasized engineers or Foley-Walkers will layer sounds. For example, a punch to the face might be someone punching a piece of meat with a leather glove for a snappy sound and on another recording pass breaking a piece of celery to simulate bones cracking. Foley artists have to be creative when making sound effects for films. Their studios are full of odds and ends that are used to make sounds for things that would not make sense if you see them.
Tips On How To Add/Record: Have lots of stuff! Seriously, Foley artists keep bins “junk” in their studio so they can make a sound for anything that comes up on screen. You would be surprised how you could make someone sound like they are walking in snow with some cornstarch or in grass with some tape from old cassettes.
Sound Design is the process of collecting sounds or generating them and then manipulating the audio in a certain a way to create entirely new sounds. The new sounds can give something in a movie its voice or a weapon its sound. What about when a character needs a voice that has not been heard or simply does not exist? This is where a skilled Sound Designer comes in. A perfect example of this is the creation of the dinosaur sounds for Jurassic Park. For this a Sound Designer collected sounds of countless animals, brought the audio back to a studio, and manipulated them in different ways creating things like the mighty roar of the T-Rex or the ear piercing call of the Raptor.
Tips On How To Execute: Try slowing down sounds to make them deeper or speeding up sounds to make them higher pitched. It is interesting how many different sounds you can create by using these two techniques. The Sound Designer for Jurassic Park pitched down the sound of his dog playing with its chew toy to make the growl the T-Rex makes while attacking its prey.
Music is an integral part of the soundtrack, especially for movies. It can be used to make the viewer feel more connected to what is happening on screen. For example, screeching strings can be used to create suspense or light piano music can be played in the background to enhance a romantic scene. Obviously, there are many options for scoring a sound track, but these are some basics.
Tips For Music: Only use music to embellish things and make sure that it is not competing for space in the mix with the dialog. If you are creating compositions for a low budget film compose with programs like Logic Pro 9, which has many composing capabilities.
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