Today’s post will be a reflection of the work I have completed over the last four weeks as part of my advanced post production training (Wyatt & Amyes, 2005). My team and I were tasked with the job of completing a real world post production audio assignment, from the initial transfer of the locked off visuals, to the delivery of a completed mix (Orlowski, 2015). We chose to work on a short film by writer/directer Max Gundy called Junk Male. I personally was keen to work on this particular piece for two main reasons; one was that I hadn’t had much experience with film, as my previous post production work has consisted largely of documentary and advertising projects, the second being that Junk Male has a unique style in that there is not much dialogue, which meant a greater opportunity for sound design and to be a bit more creative with attempts to enhance the narrative. The team consisted of myself, Elysha Halstead, Tabatha Crawley and Joel Davies, all of whom are practitioners I have worked with in the past and greatly admire and respect. Having said that, it is no secret that I am not a fan of group work on jobs such as this, as I find it can slow things down drastically and complicate already difficult tasks, especially in the mixing and final stages, and also I am a perfectionist and do not like relinquishing control, so I knew I would have to work around my preferences on this occasion.
We started with a spotting session. Already, just four weeks later, I feel as though I have learnt so much that I will conduct my spot sessions very differently in the future. It’s hard, but there is so much else to concentrate on during those initial viewings. I was either distracted by checking the sync sound (Orlowski, 2015), the production audio prepared and synced to the images before delivery to us, or distracted by the feel or emotion of the piece, or one hundred other things other than spotting. This is all important to consider, but I have learnt now that all of these considerations should be made at an intentional and appropriate time, rather than trying to do it all at once. The deadline and time constraints did play largely on my mind, but I would have saved a lot of time further along had I taken the time to just breath and give these initial stages the attention and care they deserve.
It was great to be able to use and expand on some of the techniques and skills we picked up during previous post production jobs and our earlier sessions with Tristan Meredith ("Tristan Meredith", n.d.). I feel as though I really sharpened my critical listening during this process especially ("Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening", 2014). I had to learn to hear so much at once, and to discern between different elements so quickly, much quicker than with music. Getting to learn the AVID S6 console was also incredibly helpful ("AES 2013: Avid S6", 2013), but not nearly as helpful or eye opening as working in the new lecture theatre setup with the 8-track D-command (Audiotechnology.com.au, 2005). This allowed us to hear and feel things you just can’t do in the smaller studios. It made me realise some mistakes I was consistently making and not catching before. For example, I found I was not being careful enough with my atmos sounds (Chattopadhyay, 2017), assuming that because the are incidental and at such a low volume, that I would not need to give them the same TLC as the spot effects and dialogue. The new D-command sorted that out right away. It bought the tiniest of mishaps to the surface, sometimes costing me minutes of time searching for the offending pop, blow or rustle. Another skill that I was able to sharpen during this process, was working with 5:1 surround sound (Holman, 2014). I hadn’t done any mixing in surround up until this point, and it was always something that confused and scared me a little. Now, I will never look back. I’m addicted to what it can add, the feeling it provides, and the control it gives us as designers. It is a tool I look forward to working more with and perfecting more in the future.
Above all else, there are two major lessons I learnt completing this job that will stay with me for the rest of my career. Firstly, I learnt to pay attention to perspective. I have tended, so far, to consider visuals and sounds as two seperate components of the same thing, but I found I was over looking them as a single entity. I’ve now learnt to include my eyes in my critical listening process, because when it comes to film, the ears can not ignore what the eyes are seeing, and if there is any inconsistency at all, the audience will spot it straight away. Secondly, I learnt to trust my ears. Far too often I have relied on metering and plugins to gauge the quality of my levelling. Tristan has stressed to us the importance of trusting our ears, he always says, “You all know how movies sound”, and he’s right. It just took some trust and a little patience. I’m feeling much more relaxed about believing my ears now.
There is one aspect of my process that I would especially like to improve quite a bit on, and that is speed. I watched this film so many times I could not even possibly count, and every time I watched it, including the last time, I noticed more and more issues I wanted to fix. I would like to be able to do this without having to view it over and over again. I’m sure it will come with time and practice, but for now I feel it’s something I really need to work on. Being a perfectionist is all well and good, but not if it means going over budget or missing deadlines.
AES 2013: Avid S6. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.soundonsound.com/news/aes-2013-avid-s6
Chattopadhyay, B. (2017). Reconstructing atmospheres: Ambient sound in film and media production. Communication And The Public, 2(4), 352-364. doi: 10.1177/2057047317742171
Critical Listening VS. Analytical Listening. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.jmcacademy.edu.au/news/critical-listening-vs-analytical-listening
Digidesign D-Command. (2005). Retrieved from http://www.audiotechnology.com.au/wp/index.php/digidesign-d-command/
Holman, T. (2014). Surround Sound (2nd ed.). MA: CRC Press.
Orlowski, M. (2015). What Is Audio Post Production. Retrieved from http://www.mpse.org/what-is-audio-post-production
Tristan Meredith. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1881048/
Wyatt, H., & Amyes, T. (2005). Audio post production for television and film. Amsterdam: Focal Press.