WRITTEN BY BRAD MEYER
SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR, BOOM BOX POST
As described in a blog post a few weeks ago, our amazing Supervising Sound Editor and Co-owner Kate Finan has recently welcomed a beautiful new baby into the world! While she is enjoying her much-deserved time off, I have the privilege of filling in for her, and while I do sound work almost every day, I’ve gained a new perspective and appreciation for the sound process along the way. From editing sound effects and foley to overseeing the entire post-production sound process, here are some useful takeaways and tips from my time as a Lead Sound Editor.
Communication Is Key
It’s quite common that there are multiple people working on a project at once. From the Dialogue Editor and Foley Editor, to multiple Sound Effects Editors and Mixers, there’s a lot that can get lost in translation when working with a large team. It’s easy to confuse who is covering what and what direction the soundscape is going in, so it’s really important to communicate not only with your fellow sound artists but your clients as well. Any good project starts with a thorough watch down with your clients. It’s crucial to ask in-depth questions about the project you’re about to start and to have an open dialogue regarding the creative direction of the show. Once you know what your clients are looking for, the discussion with the sound team begins. Is the project pretty straightforward? Maybe you can divide the editorial by time. Is there a ton going on in this project? Maybe one editor takes care of a particular car chase scene while another takes care of the big fight scene at the end. Are there reoccurrences of a particular moment in multiple editors’ sections? If so, who is establishing it, and who is going to borrow it later on down the line? There is a lot to work out in terms of who is doing what on a project, so be sure to keep the line of communication open during the entire process.
Organization Is Key
As illustrated above, there can be a lot of people working on a project at once, and when a project is being passed back and forth multiple times throughout the process, it’s really beneficial to keep things organized. Color-coding, clear labeling, and markers or notes in your session are all great ways to keep things clear and organized. If you are working on the first half of a project and then pass it along to another person to finish, they need to be able to glance at your session and immediately know what they are looking at amongst thousand of clips and sound effects. Additionally, if you were to get hit by a bus tomorrow (I really hope not!) or there was an emergency and you had to take time off, the next person to pick up the project needs to be able to start where you left off, and that is made much easier by being organized. You may not always be available to explain what is going on in a session, so oftentimes your session needs to speak for itself.
Do The Hard Work Up Front
I’m a big proponent of making the life of my future self much easier by doing the hard work up front. Sometimes I’ll edit multiple versions of things so the clients have options to choose from when it comes time to mix. I’ll also often export or record down larger sound builds, the backgrounds of spaces I think characters may show up at again in the future, and dialogue lines that clients may want to be pulled for future use. All of these things are initially more work, but will save a ton of time down the line and ultimately make your editorial go faster. It will also make the mixer’s job easier, as well as other editors working on the project after you.
Know How To Give Feedback
Serving as the liaison between the editors and the clients, I do everything I can to lead the editors in the right direction based on what the clients are looking for. It is part of my job to critique their work and view their sound design through a big-picture lens. That being said, criticism won’t serve much of a purpose if it isn’t constructive. It is easy to leave your editors feeling discouraged without offering up solutions or support, and that is a lose-lose situation for everybody. You are all working towards the same goal, so be as constructive as you can. On the flip side of that, don’t be afraid to cheer your team on! We all get really busy, and it’s easy to forget to offer kudos and support when your team is doing well. A simple “Great job!” can go a long way.
Additionally, it is no secret that sound editors and their respective styles come in all shapes and sizes, and oftentimes there is no single correct way to do something. Each person has their own unique approach to the sound editing process, and just because something might not necessarily be done the way you would do it, it does not mean it is wrong or bad. In fact, a lot of the time it is even better or cut in a way that you wouldn’t have thought of. Therefore, be open to different approaches and techniques. Having a team with different backgrounds and styles often results in a better final product, and shouldn’t always draw immediate criticism for being different.
Be Okay With Distancing Yourself From Your Art
I’m sure artists of all kinds can agree with me when I say it’s tough to separate the art from the artist, especially when the artist is you. The film and television industry is particularly collaborative, so it is often necessary to separate yourself from your art for the sake of being a team player. On most of our shows, we are given a lot of freedom with the direction that we want to take our sound design; however, we do want to do justice to the hundreds of people and years of work that came before us. It’s important to remember that this particular project isn’t yours; it is a lot of peoples’. Sometimes that means surrendering your creative vision to satisfy someone else’s. And that is totally okay.