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Feature Film Sound Design - Pre-production
Old 24th January 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Feature Film Sound Design - Pre-production

Hey Everyone!

So I'm a student, finishing up my senior year in college, and trying to get some experience before I head out into the job market. I'm currently involved in a super-low-budget feature film project, for which I will be doing location audio and post-production sound design, and re-recording mixing. I'm doing the location gig for free, because I will receive school credit for it. As for whether or not the post-production part will be pro bono as well, I don't know. The budget is nearly non-existent, but if I can convince the director on set that I'm "worth it" then hell, maybe I will get paid!

The thing is, I've never done sound design for a feature before. I've done plenty of student films, and I feel like I have a real grasp on how to develop a sound design for a runtime of 20ish minutes. But thinking about 80+ pages of sound effects, foley, and meta-physical elements (it's a horror film), is a whole new challenge for me.

My question is: Are there any routines that you have in place that help you stay organized throughout the process of sound design for a feature film?

And if you have any other tips about the process, please feel to share those as well.

This is an awesome community, and I'm really happy I can ask this kind of question and (hopefully) get some intelligent and genuinely thoughtful comments. That's a rare thing, these days.



-Isaac
Old 24th January 2013
  #2
Gear Nut
 
t_young's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I've been in the same boat, not all that long ago. So the advice I have is one from a guy who was a student, now doing ok work wise a couple years out of school.

First things first... Get good production audio. You have no idea how important that will be until you're editing dialog and realize that even though you have the perfect bg sfx, foley, whatever-- it doesn't matter because your dialog sucks. So it's actually good that you'll be on set! In my experience, you can get away with a lot in the sfx edit if your dialog plays back smoothly. It can very nearly carry things sound wise, so if you do end up getting a little overwhelmed with the sfx edit and there ends up being holes, it won't seem like it as much. Holes in dialog are way more noticeable to me than holes in sfx. Also, if you're always ready to go with the boom on set, no matter what the scene, you may get some production foley/fx for free! Which always helps add another layer of realism for me, and of course saves valuable time and money for no-budget projects.

As far as keeping on track and focused in the edit... Everyone has their own way that works best for them, so I can only tell you what works well for me. I'll be starting a feature next week, and the first thing I'll do is do watch the reels, do spotting, and make a cue sheet (incorporating notes from the supervising sound editor). So in Pro Tools, I'll actually spot in dummy regions, and give them some kind of description of sounds that I think I want or things that absolutely have to be there for certain events on screen. I'll also go through each reel and drop markers in for every scene change. Then I can export the Pro Tools session data and create a PDF with a program called agent orange, which gives me a nice little sfx cue sheet. This cue sheet is by no means the end all be all, and obviously I'm not going to spot every single little thing, but I find its often nice to have a guide and list of things I can check off, because when I'm in the middle of the edit, it's easy to forget or lose track of things you originally wanted to do.
Also, I would suggest having someone around whose opinion you trust to check out your edit every once in a while. A second set of eyes and ears can be invaluable, because when you're in the thick of it, fresh perspective is hard to have. "Hey, why didn't you hear her close the door after she left the room?". Often that kinda thing.
Anyway, hope there's something in there that helps you! Like I said, if I were you, I'd focus hard in making you dialog smooth and stellar, and then sound design after. I think you'll find it will make for a better mix and final print.
Cheers
Old 24th January 2013
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
Murasamee's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Everyone has their own workflow that works for them, but as long as stuff gets delivered on time, then it doesn't matter how you get there. Being organized is the key to getting there relatively stress free though. This is how I approach a new feature:

I watch the reels to get an idea what I am going to be dealing with and to take notes on key sections of the movie that are going to need special attention. I open up all the OMFs, make copies and start cleaning up the sessions. Now is where the organization is key, if I am working by myself or with some assistants, this next part is always the same. After the dialogue edit and cutting atmos, I (or we) start with a foley pass of the movie, and we catch every little thing, in a set order (cloths, footsteps, doors, "other"). If the time and budget allow, this is a great way to keep yourself in one mindset ("Ok, on this pass, I am JUST looking at doors...etc) at a time, which is key in productivity and efficiency. I (or we) then follow the same mindset when doing the bigger hard effects scenes. Once you start filling these out, you can see what else you can creatively do with special sound design in scenes. This is my normal flow for a feature, and slightly varies depending on team size and schedules (and budget!).

The mix is a whole other beast.
Old 24th January 2013
  #4
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks for the replies so far. It seems like the most important thing is to make sure that I've got a solid dialogue edit and to spot the reels ahead of time so that I can anticipate the scenes which will have a lot of FX work to do.

I like the idea that the more subtle design stuff should come after a lot of the heavy lifting, I'll definitely proceed with that in mind.

Yes, the mix is a whole different beast, and I'm actually more familiar with that process than the editing process when it comes to features, oddly enough.

Murasamee, here's a question for you. I don't have a foley stage, and since I'm a student living in an apartment complex, my only recording space is my living room. Should I even attempt to do footsteps? Cloths are fine because they don't make any mess, but in terms of bringing concrete, dirt, and gravel into my living room... Might it be more efficient and less risky to use one of these new MIDI controlled footstep generators? Or should I suck it up and do it the old-school way?

Thanks again for the help. Anyone else have some wisdom they'd like to impart? So far this has been super helpful!

Old 24th January 2013 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
Murasamee's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundGuyIC ➑️
Murasamee, here's a question for you. I don't have a foley stage, and since I'm a student living in an apartment complex, my only recording space is my living room. Should I even attempt to do footsteps? Cloths are fine because they don't make any mess, but in terms of bringing concrete, dirt, and gravel into my living room... Might it be more efficient and less risky to use one of these new MIDI controlled footstep generators? Or should I suck it up and do it the old-school way?
The MIDI controlled footstep stuff is AMAZING (IMO). Depending on the budget, sometimes I do a good chunk of movement foley with Kontakt libraries that I have made from my own samples mapped out to a MIDI controller. Works amazingly well in a pinch. I would suggest going that route for footsteps if you can't get a good foley pit going.
Old 25th January 2013
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
I think I'll do the MIDI stuff, then. Do you have know of any particularly good programs that you could suggest? I vaguely remember a thread here on gearslutz about the topic but I cant' seem to find it now...
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
Murasamee's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundGuyIC ➑️
I think I'll do the MIDI stuff, then. Do you have know of any particularly good programs that you could suggest? I vaguely remember a thread here on gearslutz about the topic but I cant' seem to find it now...
http://www.signo-sfx-instruments.com/

Solid stuff.
Old 25th January 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
nzl62's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
The most important aspect that I believe is often getting overlooked is listing what you will do. Take detailed tc notes and assign sfx/foley and dialogue notes beside them.
Then work from your backgrounds forward. Don't fret, stick to your plan

Once you have a solid base it is amazing what you can get away with foley wise with some simple location pickups. If you are determined to establish yourself in the industry then a few key investments will help. I assume pro tools as a minimum (you may be on another daw but I regard PT as a prerequisite) then something inexpensive like a zoom h4, and pick up a specific sound effect lib for the project rather than generic. Add to that the incredibly cheap libraries floating around, awesome sound creation tips on designing sound and designing sound tv and you are well on your way.

List the film,
Block it out starting with back grounds
leave the sexy stuff till last - make sure all the meat and potatoes stuff is covered

That will leave you with the list of sounds that are critical to the narrative
Old 25th January 2013
  #9
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
'Leave the sexy stuff still last' - that's one that I'll definitely remember. When I do student films I can get away with leaving the meat and potatoes till last because there's not that much of it. But on a feature that kind of plan will get you into trouble, I assume, and you'll miss a lot of obvious, necessary sounds.

I've got PT10, good monitors, and a control surface along with production sound equipment as well, so in terms of gear I'm covered for the most part.

I like the idea of getting a specific library for the film. Since its a horror flick, I was thinking about Hiss and a Roar Entropy and Tortured Cymbals as the basis for my design elements.
Old 25th January 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
 
nzl62's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Tortured vegetables, the horror stuff from affordable audio.
Check out a free app call dehumaniser for creature sounds.
Old 25th January 2013 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
nzl62's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoundGuyIC ➑️
'Leave the sexy stuff still last' - that's one that I'll definitely remember. When I do student films I can get away with leaving the meat and potatoes till last because there's not that much of it. But on a feature that kind of plan will get you into trouble, I assume, and you'll miss a lot of obvious, necessary sounds.

I've got PT10, good monitors, and a control surface along with production sound equipment as well, so in terms of gear I'm covered for the most part.

I like the idea of getting a specific library for the film. Since its a horror flick, I was thinking about Hiss and a Roar Entropy and Tortured Cymbals as the basis for my design elements.
I know sound designers that have done awesome jobs but have blown it buy either forgetting a specific note from the director and/or missing really obvious stuff.
Old 26th January 2013
  #12
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
nzl62 - I myself have fallen victim such errors. Thanks for mentioning it explicitly, it'll be at the forefront of my mind on this project. Tortured vegetables is an awesome idea.

Thanks for the help everyone!
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