Post-production sound is a crucial element for every film and television project, and it requires just as much planning and attention as script writing, cinematography, or editing.
It is a multi-layered process, which results in the soundtrack: the combination of the dialogue, sound effects, and Foley. It should also be noted that music, whether it be score or needle drop, is typically not handled by the supervising sound editor. The re-recording mixer is responsible for incorporating all the elements, including the music into its final format for presentation.
Dialogue for live-action projects is recorded on set during shooting. However, before the production dialogue can be integrated into the soundtrack it needs to be edited. This is a labor-intensive process in which the editor works to aurally mask all picture edits and reinforce the illusion of linear continuity.
Sometimes production dialogue is unsalvageable. In these scenarios the supervising sound editor requests the implementation of automated dialogue replacement (ADR) to supplement the production dialogue.
The spotting session is an all-important meeting between the supervising sound editor and director. They examine the film in detail to address all special or specific sound related needs to ensure that the sound team can help communicate the director’s intended message. The sound supervisor decides what elements will be covered by Foley, what can be cut from a library, and if custom field recordings are necessary or desirable.
The sound effects edit involves cutting in backgrounds, hard effects, and soft effects. Backgrounds are the general ambiance of a scene. Hard effects are elements that are seen and need to be visually synced. Soft effects are sounds that need to be present but do not need to be in sync with anything visible on screen.
Foley is sound that is performed and recorded in sync to picture, and it is the element of the sound stem that grounds the image to make you believe what you hear is what happened on set. Sounds typically covered by Foley include: footsteps, cloth movement, prop handling, foliage manipulation, eating, cooking, gore, and doorknobs. Good Foley can make the difference between a film that sounds shoddy and a film that sounds professional.
Once all the elements of the film's soundtrack have been designed, composed, recorded, and edited, it is the re-recording mixer’s job to take those separate elements and combine them into a single cohesive mix. The mixer achieves this by making every sound fit into the framework of the film through spectral management, spatial manipulation, and spatial resonance.