Sound Gun Episode #4: Sound Mixing

Taught By:

Kevin Senzaki

Description:

For the final installment of the Sound Gun series, Kevin Senzaki talks about what goes into creating a decent final mix, while Joey and Cherish argue over their new Sound Mix Battle Station.

Lesson Plan

Haven't seen the Sound Gun short film yet? Watch it here!

Good sound editing and mixing are essential to presenting your story in a way that is clean, crisp and exciting– and most importantly, not distracting.

In this lesson, we'll introduce two of the most useful tools for sound editing a mixing: fades and volume level.

Fades

Fades are audio transitions, and they can be any length you want. There are three basic kinds of fades:

  1. FADE IN (No sound, to full volume): When you bring in a sound from not being there at all, up to full volume.
  2. FADE OUT (Full volume, to no sound): When you take a sound down from full volume to no sound at all.
  3. CROSS FADE (Sound to sound): When you blend one sound into another.

Very short fades (one frame or less!) can be used at the beginning and end of a sound clip to get rid of any unwanted clicks and pops. This can smooth out the audio not just at the beginning and end of your clips, but between cuts.

The worst place to hide those fades is directly on the picture cut, in between dialogue or during silence. The visual edit can often make the sound edit more noticeable, and the combination can be jarring.

However, if you hide the fade right before or after a line of dialogue, at a different moment than the visual cut, the audience will be paying more attention to what the characters are saying, rather than any shifts in the background.

You also want to make sure you have enough room to extend your fades, without running into other audio clips on your timeline. This can be done by a process called checkerboarding.

Checkerboarding just means alternating your audio regions on different tracks in a checkerboard pattern, leaving room on either side of each clip to fade as much or as little as you need.

You can also use fades to adjust the length of your sound effects, making them longer or shorter depending on what your picture needs.

Levels

The level (or volume) of your sound has a huge impact on how the sound affects the audience, both for individual sounds, as well as your overall mix.

For example, the background city noises at the start of Sound Gun are mixed very high, to show how noisy and distracting the environment is. But when Lauren and Eli start arguing, the background dips down to a lower level so you can notice their argument, which is what advances the story.

Most editing programs have a meter that shows your sound level, and it's very important to keep an eye on it when you're finishing off your mix.

If your sounds are too loud, a little red light usually goes off, and that means your sound is clipping (basically: your sound is overloading!)

Remember not to have your sounds maxed out (at a high level) for the entire time, because that doesn't leave you any room to go louder when you have a big moment. Simply making your sound as loud as possible the entire time will often lead to clipping and distortion–-and by then it doesn't sound any louder, it just sounds terrible.

Lord Fader says: "Don't underestimate the power of a properly done mix."

Dean Lauren says: "Get back to work."

So! Some extra credit!

Here is the link to download the last scene from Sound Gun, along with the separated audio files. Play around with the different levels and see how it can change your perception of the scene. Then remember to show us what you've done by posting it to the forum by clicking on the "discuss" button above!

(MAY THE MIX BE WITH YOU)

Discussion