Planning for Audio Part 1 – The Script & Pre-Production
Now that we have established what makes up and who performs the audio post process, let’s take a look at how to plan for a great sounding film. Please note, that some of the examples below may contain spoilers.
There are several stages of the filmmaking process for which a film’s soundtrack can and should be developed. So when should we start planning?
Stage 1: The script
A good screenwriter will write audio cues into their script to help story development and pace, whether it is as simple as a telephone ring or something as subtle as an eerie drone. Horror screenwriters often reference ‘creaky doors’ and ‘howling wind’ but all genres of film can benefit from writing audio into scripts. It helps build the world around the characters, adds depth and guides the reader - as well as the Director and Supervising Sound Editor later in the process. For a great example of using sound in a script see the screenplay for 'A Quiet Place' written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. The sound in this film is integral to the story and in their script, they have underlined moments that are related to sound.
So now we know why we need sound design - who makes up the sound team? Below is a full list of audio personnel needed for a film. On larger budget projects, some departments may contain several people for each role with a supervisor overseeing them. In smaller budgets projects, many of the roles will be combined into a few roles of a smaller group of people, or even just 1 person.
Each role has been grouped into 2 of the 3 production stages of a film – the production phase and the post-production phase, however, as we will see in future articles, it is extremely beneficial to a film to involve a couple of key individuals during the pre-production phase – specifically the production sound mixer and the supervising sound editor.
Production Sound Mixer
The Production Sound Mixer is responsible for all the sound recorded on set. They source the correct equipment, direct their assistant sound team and record all the audio. In order to get the best recordings, they will choose microphones and work with other departments (costume/set design etc.) to ensure the cleanest possible audio is recorded. They will also provide a mixed version of all the microphones on set, which can be used for monitoring on set, viewing rushes and editing. They may also, with the rest of their sound team, provide audio playback on set for actors to sing or move to such as during club/dance scenes or for actors to sing along to musical numbers.
Welcome to a monthly series explaining the ins and outs of audio post-production. The series will cover all aspects of the filmmaking process related to audio - from script to screen.
This is intended as a brief overview to help filmmakers understand the process for audio in film and television. It will focus mainly on film work but the concepts will apply to short and long-form work such as corporate animations, film trailers, adverts, and TV drama, documentary and entertainment.
By the end of the series, I hope you will have gained better understanding of the audio post process, as well as more insight into the terminology and concepts.
In the first part of this series we will look at a couple of fundamental questions: