Have you ever wondered why your favorite films or TV shows sound so good? Or why TV ads and commercials are sometimes so much louder than other films and TV series? Or why that internet video that you like the sound so bad?
In this mini-guide, we want to go through the intricacies commonly associated with the creation of sound, audio, and soundtracks for both video and film. Crafting and mixing audio for film and video is a rather profound issue; covering all the basics would take hundreds of pages, due to the constantly changing nature of this business and the technology involved.
This first part covers basic aspects, a bit of background, some terms and terminology, and hopefully, will serve as a clear guide to understanding what mixing audio for video and moving images is about.
The World Of Audio For Video
Way back in the ages of the past century, recording engineers would often face a daunting dichotomy: they often had to make a career choice between either producing music or producing sound and audio for visuals and moving images, such as TV series, Ads, Films, etc. Since the aforementioned career choices were considered specialized assignments, they demanded specialized tools get everything done.
The inclusion of computerized digital audio systems in the late 80s made it possible, and definitely much easier, to use the exact same recording tools to produce and edit both music and soundtracks. Perhaps, if you’ve had any experience with audio post-production, tools, and systems such as AVID, NED PostPro and the early pro tools might ring a bell. That era marked the beginning of a new dynamism where terms such as convergence —where the lines of both worlds of audio and video production intertwine— started to become popular. As a result, the vast majority of engineers had to learn to do audio post-production sessions during the day and music sessions at night.
Be that as it may, the process has undoubtedly evolved throughout the years, and the modern and contemporary process of audio post-production has changed more than ever before.
Types Of Audio Post Production
In order for us to discuss the types of audio post-production, we need to start by making a necessary distinction between what is commonly referred to as audio and other types of soundtracks like radio commercials, audiobooks or the well-known podcast. Though a lot falls under the umbrella of audio post-production, we commonly mean by audio post-production as the audio especially crafter for a moving image or a visual component. Here are the most traditional forms:
TV shows can be practically any length, but the vast majority of US TV programs are intended to last between 30 to 60 minutes. Many are produced by highly qualified and experienced TV studios in Los Angeles. As for Reality Shows, although these can be shot and recorded anywhere, they also require a good and experienced audio post-production team to mix both audio and video in a professional fashion.
Films vary in their nature. Short films can span just a few minutes, whereas longer films can last several hours. This category includes today’s production for Netflix, HBO, and Amazon, as well as the famous traditional major studios. When talking about a film, it is also important to mention the financial aspect: independent filmmakers, known for producing small to no-budget projects still require an important dose of audio post-production. In fact, many sound engineers are fond of taking on these projects as it serves as the perfect opportunity to get some training prior to taking the big leap.
Commercials include several types of visual projects. The term “commercials” often refers to TV commercials, infomercials, ads, promos, political ads, etc. The nature of the aforementioned types of commercials is basically known for its rather short format —today, it is possible to come across commercials ranging from 5 to 60 seconds in length. There are of course much longer commercials; however, it is rather expensive pretending to buy airtime for something longer than sixty seconds.
Video games are extremely fun. And crafting audio for video games is even funnier. The vast majority of top-quality games, also known as AAA games, have behind a dedicated audio post-production team responsible for creating and capturing the sounds that will be included in the game. This, of course, is absolutely unique to every single game, and certainly demands a daunting amount of work, requiring hundreds of audio files, as the game will demand soundtracks in different languages, which ultimately increases the number of files the audio team will need to manage.
The process through which a piece of audio work completes initiation to completion is known as a workflow. And although we will get into more detail in a subsequent post, a traditional audio workflow is comprised of the following stages: pre-production, production, video editing, data import, spotting, dialogue, ADR, ambiance, sound effects, music, mixing, delivery, summary.