Reflective Summary

We set out to handle the audio services for 5 films. We have done the location recording for 4 of them, and the post-production and composition for all 5 of them. We have indeed achieved that part of our goal.

However, we had to manage all of this, and create soundtracks all of the same high-standard. I believe we did this also. We have all seen each of the films, all worked on each of the films, and all delivered each of the films.

It has been a very long, difficult and a times laborious process. But I for one have loved it every step of the way. My opinions towards certain aspects of film sound have been changed along the way, and whilst I may have started out on this project really wanting to get stuck into location recording, by the time all the shoots had finished, I can honestly say I wanted nothing more to do with it. It is fun at times, and I do feel that I have developed my skills for location recording, and in fact – created – my skills for location recording since I’ve never done it before, but it’s not for me. I’m much more at home getting stuck in in the studio.

So, my original objectives were as follows:

(Shortened for the sake of this post)

Learning objectives:

  • To successfully manage the company‚Äôs interaction with Remember’s film team and deliver work on time and to a good standard. [LO1]
  • Main consistency of the overall tone of our audio and make sure this fits with the directors vision. [LO2]
  • To develop a better understanding of what is required when mixing a film. In particular, drama. [LO3]
  • To further my knowledge of the use of original compositions in film. [LO4]

Personal objectives:

  • To be able to describe how a post-production company functions within the film industry. [PO1]
  • To describe how the role of the composer fits into such a company, and how this can be applied to finding work in the real-world. [PO2]
  • To research and employ techniques for location recording, as well as post-production processes, particularly mixing multiple elements such as dialogue and sound design. [PO3]
  • To be able to create music compositions that successfully accompany my client’s film and also illustrate a development from my earlier work. [PO4]

Starting with the learning objectives, I have tried my absolute best to meet these as I feel these were more important to the project whilst being part of a group, rather than individually.

LO1 has been achieved because of my constant dialogue with the director of Remember, and the audio we delivered was of as high a quality we could manage with their sudden changes limiting the time we could spend on it. Our final mix that has been handed in is of a better quality, and will be delivered to the director at a later stage.

LO2 has been achieved through our weekly meetings to ensure that everybody understand what needs to be done, and by checking that the work completed matches that which has already been completed. Working on this film together, as well as all attending meetings with the director has meant that we all understand what has been required of the sound.

LO3 has perhaps not been fully achieved as more research into mixing film could have been done. Whilst I have done some mixing in the past, the feedback gained then was used to inform the decisions I made this time around. Making sure things are panned correctly, and that most importantly there is a good balance between all the elements was key and I did my best to make sure that this is the case.

LO4 has been achieved as I have now had first hand experience working with a director to produce original music for the film. Whilst the process I went through differs greatly from the other composers in the group, I have created the music he wanted and delivered it on time. This is totally different to how I have delivered before, as I usually pull pieces from my own library of compositions and allow for their use in, and only in the particular film they’re delivered for.

My personal objectives reflect the group objectives, and I have still tried my best to meet these.

PO1 arguably hasn’t been met directly. There is a bit of a lacking in my blog research in terms of how a company such as the one we ran fits into the industry. A lot of what I know has been informed from our R&D module where we visited a post-production facility and experienced firsthand how to deal with clients, how studio sessions operate and how that particular company was created and developed.

PO2 has been achieved as I have posted previously about my experience of composing for film compared to others within the group. As we ran this project as a company, and I am an in-house composer, I feel I have an understanding of how I could potentially fit into a real company in the future.

PO3 has definitely been achieved, as this is a very hands-on objective. I have helped to provide the location sound for two of the five films, both recording/mixing as well as boom operation. I have researched and developed techniques to ensure I did this to the best of my ability. I have also researched (albeit only a little) how to mix to R128 and feel I have an understanding of the basics. The overall mix for Remember is balanced very well, and to me this is the most important thing.

PO4 has also definitely been achieved, however I am not a fan of the music that I have created. This however was not the point, as the music needed only to fit the picture, and in the eyes, (or ears?) of the director, it does. I personally feel as though I haven’t been able to create the music that I think the film needed, however as I was employed to create the music the director wanted, this is irrelevant.

On the whole, the objectives have been met. If I were to undergo this process again, there are a couple of things that I think should be done differently. Firstly, I think it needed to be clear exactly who was doing what for each film. Whilst we have all had plenty of a hand in each others films, at times it has felt as though it has been five people working on the films by themselves. I think that a more objective position should have been taken from each of the supervisors, having less input in the actual production and post-production of the film that we supervised. This would allow for more concentration on the other films, ensuring more so that you don’t just end up working solely on the film you’re in charge of.

I also think we should have been more clear to the film groups what we are providing, and whilst in some cases contracts were created, I think they should have been essential from us to ensure that the film groups know exactly what they have to deliver and when by. This should hopefully eliminate the chance of any changes down the line after picture lock.

Other that that, the project has been an absolute success in my eyes as we were all able to work together efficiently and professionally and were able to deliver exactly what we said we would.

Feedback

As part of this project, we created a survey to give to our film groups to gather feedback based on our services given to them.

The overall results are very positive, which goes to show that we achieved what we set out to, deliver 5 films at a high quality.

The results for Remember are as follows:

On the scaled questions, the order is ‘very poor’; ‘poor’; ‘okay’; ‘good’; ‘exceptional’.

The director said that he was satisfied with our services. Rating us ‘okay’ for pre-production communication when it came to understanding their requirements. Rating us ‘exceptional’ for our location recording services. And then rating us good for the music composition, Foley/SFX and the final mix/delivery.

I think that this feedback is more than fair. This film was always going to be one of the most demanding and most difficult films to work on, especially once we moved into post. As the supervisor of this film, I am a little disappointed that we weren’t rated at least ‘good’ on all services. However, the only time we were rated lower was during pre-production, which we didn’t have a great deal of involvement in as at this stage, the idea of working on 5 films together had not even been thought of, and I was very unsure if I would even be taking on just this film alone.

The comments given suggested that the music composition was the favoured part of the overall soundtrack, which is very pleasing considering how difficult this process was. However, noting issues with missing lines of dialogue, (which I am yet to actually find) as well as issues with some of the atmos being too loud meant that we didn’t quite get it right with this film. Whilst two different mixes were produced, one delivered to the director for him to re-sync after making changes, and one delivered for our hand-in, it can be said that the former is of a lower standard.

The plan is to deliver the new mix, however this has yet to be discussed with the film team.

I am pleased to note that the director says he would work with us again, and would recommend our services to others. Success!

Feedback is absolutely essential to make sure we are doing the right job, and we have been constantly asking for it from our film groups throughout the entire project, ensuring that we have always been on track and producing what the director wants. It’s very easy to go off and produce the soundtrack you think the film needs, but not what the director wants. In the real world, the director is always going to have the final say, so we made sure throughout this process that we always delivered, whilst still trying to work in some creativity of our own.

[LO1] [LO2] [PO2]

How not to handle sync-up

Most of the experiences discussed throughout this blog have been based on the work we have done for Remember. This is because I think it provides the best example of how a film can quite easily go wrong. Not that you can fault anybody for trying, but the end result is certainly not what was expected.

This particular film, as mentioned, has had a few difficulties. This time I’ll discuss sync-sound. When Remember went into its edit after shooting, the editor did none of the dialogue sync. Okay, no big deal, right? Well, it actually is. It is the editors job to sync the dialogue. See Film Underground – http://www.filmunderground.com/13/Article/NWFS/Dialogue.htm

This then meant that the dialogue sync fell to us, more specifically, me. Not something I wanted to spend an entire day doing, only made possible by begging the editor to create me a list of shots used, not that it was all that easy to follow. I was then able to sync up the dialogue as best as I could, without any marker board getting things absolutely in-sync is pretty much impossible.

The second sync-related issue with this particular film came when we were surprised with a new cut, on the same day that the film was due to go into its final mix. Picture lock was in early March, so this should not have happened. Changes can be dealt with, and they’re to be expected, but not the day before we expect to deliver them the audio. This meant we had to rush a mix that was of an acceptable quality and deliver it to them in stem form so that the editor could sync things back up himself. There would have been no way we could have re-synced everything ourselves and delivered a final mix on-time.

After explaining this to the film group, they realised just how much work a small change creates, however they were able to sync the sound themselves for their hand-in, however we will be handing in the previous cut of the film.

[LO3] [PO3]

Dialogue Editing

The dialogue edit is arguably one of the most important, if not the most important element of the overall soundtrack. Making sure it is audible, balanced with the atmos and SFX and in sync is absolutely crucial.

I took on the dialogue edit for Remember largely by myself, after having made sure prior to this that everything was in-sync with the picture.

There were two tools I used to complete the dialogue edit. The first in Izotope RX , and the second is Pro Tools built in 7-band EQ.

RX grants access to some incredible tools. The most important being the de-noise. By routing audio into de-noise, you are able to adjust the threshold and amount of reduction to eliminate any background noise. This means that your original recordings from location can be “rescued”, meaning that any ADR shouldn’t be required.

https://www.izotope.com/en/solutions/repair-and-edit/rx/features.html
https://www.izotope.com/en/solutions/repair-and-edit/rx/features.html

You can however push things too far, and totally destroy the original audio. To ensure we always had a copy just in case, the original dialogue recordings were left at the top of the session, and copied down into place before editing. That way, if we did use too much of the de-noise, we could delete the track and start again.

The second tool is the 7-band EQ. This was used almost globally, as a few mistakes whilst on location, be it not pointing the boom quite right, slightly off-mic speaking of talking straight down into the radio mic often meant that some of the dialogue takes had either a lot of low end or sometimes too much mid-range frequencies. The EQ meant that I could notch out certain frequencies to tidy up the dialogue. In most cases, a high-pass filter was enough to clean things up. In some cases though, more detailed EQ was required.

Another really useful tool for dialogue editing is RX Ambience Match. his is a really useful plugin to analyse a piece of audio, and return just the background noise. In some scenes of Remember, the de-noise couldn’t remove enough of the background noise before the dialogue started to become broken up. This meant that it was easier to add back in the background noise as an Atmos track to hide the noise in the location recordings.

[LO2] [LO3] [PO3]

Mixing Research

When it comes to final mixing our films, I am in charge of completing the final of Remember. As such, I have done some research into mixing for film, as well as some of the standards that films ought to be mixed to.

As of late 2010, European broadcasters are beginning to encourage the EBU R 128 recommendation, which stands a chance of becoming a de-facto standard for Europe. France and some other countries have started using R 128 since Jan 1st 2012.

R128 is creeping its way up to becoming the absolute standard for mixing. It involves making sure that you normalise your audio to -23 LUFS. R128 measures an average loudness of the entirety of the audio, meaning that whilst you should try and maintain a consistent level all the way through, you do have room for quieter sections and louder sections, meaning you don’t have to completely squash all of the dynamic range out of your audio. Remember has some quite loud sections, particularly its street scene, where there is a lot of shouting, however since most of the film is set in a hospital, the characters tend to speak in quite hushed tones. Whilst it’s easy to turn up the quiet bits, and turn down the louder bits, this makes the film feel very unbalanced as we are constantly hopping back and forth between the hospital location and the other flashback locations.

When it comes to final mixing, I want to attempt to comply with R128, however for the sake of this audio project, it is not absolutely essential. As long as the audio is balanced, isn’t peaking and hits around -3db throughout I will be happy.

[LO2] [LO3] [PO3]