Filmmakers: Get Ready for Audio Post

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you prepare your raw tracks from your video shoot for advanced soundtrack mixing in an audio sequencer.

First, achieve final cut (not including end credits). We can only mix audio for pictures that have all their edits locked.

'Save As' a new (duplicate) session. This keeps your original session intact. Name the new session "session name_for-audio-post"

Bring in all extra audio tracks to your session for ROOM TONE, WILD FX (non-sync), WILD DIALOGUE, AMBIENCES, TEMP MUSIC, and any other special tracks you would like to provide. Label these as 'EXTRA' tracks and what they contain.

Check audio quality. Ensure all audio tracks are the best possible versions of their source recordings. Otherwise the audio engineer will be polishing dirt! Be sure ALL audio tracks are at the same sample rate (e.g.48kHz).

Organize audio tracks. Concatenate dialogue for each actor, recorded with the same mic, onto the same track. Use a new track for every new mic or new voice. Place sound effects, room tone, and ambiences on their own tracks. Do not combine with dialogue tracks.

Delete duplicate and unnecessary audio tracks. Your video sequencer may need 2 copies of a mono track for left/right, but we need only ONE. Please tidy your session accordingly to avoid confusion and keep file size down. Ignore all left-right panning, this will be recreated in post.

Concatenate music tracks onto as few tracks as possible. Bounce down L&R stereo separates to unified stereo tracks if your sequencer supports them.

Remove all fades & crossfades unless there is a specific effect you need. Your audio engineer will recreate these in post.

Remove all audio plug-ins from all tracks (EQ, compression, etc). If there is a unique audio effect you need, print the effected track and provide the original too. Label as: Tom lav, Tom lav_echo

Label all audio tracks in a way that makes sense to a stranger. e.g. main boom, Tom lav, Mary lav, ambience 1, music 1, music 2, etc.

Create a simple sync reference. Place a 1-frame, 1kHz, 2-pop (audio blip tone) on EVERY audio track exactly 2 seconds before picture start. Be sure it syncs with a white flash-frame in the video. This syncs each audio track to a specific point in the picture.

...and another. Place ANOTHER 2-pop near the END of every audio track, that syncs with another white flash-frame in the video. This is our speed reference and assures we haven't lost sync by the end of the picture. Genius, right?

Output a smaller (reference) video file. Create a medium-quality 800x600 or larger MP4 or MOV video output (including an uncompressed audio mix) for our reference. Quality does not have to be perfect, but we should be able to clearly see lips moving (for accurate dialogue sync). Burn SMPTE timecode into the video.

Prepare the OMF export. File->Export the project to OMF (version 2). Specify 3-second handles and do NOT include crossfades. If prompted to "Embed Audio" or "Include Media" choose Yes. If your sequencer offers other choices, ask your audio engineer what they want. [Alternative to OMF is WAV files, see below]



Which is preferred? If your session has lots of small segments then use an OMF export. If your session has a handful of segments that are not dialogue, then work from continuous WAV files that all start at zero.

To export WAV, prepare tracks as above with 2-pops on every track as instructed, but instead of exporting OMF, set your left & right project locator points to encompass all audio segments, then export discrete 24-bit WAV files for every track (and double check the sample rate). These tracks must line up vertically when we bring them into our sequence.

Be EXTRA CLEAR in labeling tracks and getting the session ORGANIZED. YOU are familiar with your sequence, but WE are seeing it for the first time. Missing or wrong tracks, or extra time trying to decipher unorganized sessions will incur extra costs.

Re-check your WORK ORDER carefully. Have you provided us the correct SAMPLE RATE (e.g. 48k) and FRAME RATE (eg. 29.97 non-drop) on your work order? Have you given us plenty of artistic direction? Have you included any additional needed services?

Finally, ZIP and upload your movie & audio files for transfer.