Audio Post-Production Process: Namibia Nine, Part I

Thoughts on the process, input and output of audio post-production. This will cover sound design, edit and mix.

Introduction

Project: The Namibia Nine

Director: Andrea K M Capere

Story: In the 1980s, with Namibia crippled by political persecutions and economic depression, nine Namibians escape to the United States to study at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle, Washington. This is their story.

Style: Documentary

File delivery: Zip folder featuring:

Initial Comments: I’ve worked with Andrea on a few projects now, and it’s great to work with an intelligent director like her. This is the largest project we’ve collaborated on. This is an important story to tell and I hope to do it justice. Bob McHenry is editing this one and has done a great job with this cut.

Notes for audio folk: If working with Pro Tools (which I am), always ask for video output in .mov format. I was able to convert the video over to a format Pro Tools recnogises although I wouldn’t recommend this, for as audio editors, we can miss details in the conversion process (simple things like frame rate, trust me). Always best to ping the editor and specify the format you need it in. Another important thing to remember to ask for from the editor is to export the OMF with 2 second handles if possible. That extra bit of audio can be crucial for getting the right fade between cuts.

Always ask for as much location audio recorded by the production team as possible. With a documentary, you want to be ‘honest’ in your soundscape and you don’t want to colour the sound too much with library tracks.

Timecode burned into the pictue is also essential for locking in the audio. Too many problems occur when this doesn’t happen.

Direction for sound design: Andrea usually gives me a bit of free reign in terms of building the sound for her films, though if there are any elements she would like to me to pay attention to in particular scenes, direction is provided. Documentaries seem straight forward but the more you work on them, the more you realise how manipulative their sound can be.

I’ll wait until I receive the score to work in any creative sound design.

When looking for inspiration you have to look to the best. In this instance I’m listening to:

Setting Up Pro Tools

The OMF log sequence will give you all the information you need to setup your Pro Tools file. In this case, the frame rate is 23.976 and the audio provided by the production team had a sampel rate of 48kHZ (film audio standard) and 16 bit depth (a bit depth of 24 is standard for film).

For my track layout I usually start with the following. I like this initially as it’s quite comprehensive and easy to add to.

Master Video Track Video Audio (keep for reference to OMF audio) Dialogue 1 Dialogue 2 Dialogue 3 Dialogue MST (aux track) SFX Mono 1 SFX Mono 2 SFX Stereo 1 SFX Stereo 2 SFX MST (aux track) ATMOS 1 ATMOS 2 ATMOS 3 ATMOS 3 Mono ATMOS 4 ATMOS 5 ATMOS 6 ATMOS 6 Mono ATMOS MST (aux track) Music 1 Music 2 Music 3 Music MST

I like to colour code my tracks so you end up with something like this:

alt

A few things — I have 6 dialogue tracks as the production crew have recorded direct and room recordings for the dialogue. It’s nice to have a natural reverb to work with.

I haven’t allowed for many SFX tracks, as the style of documentary doesn’t lend itself to it. You will find out why I have 6 ATMOSPHERE tracks in the coming entries.

I send individual track groups to a mix bus. I work this way because I usually do group mixes and when it comes time to mix all of the elements, I can work with 4 mix buses as opposed to trying to mix 24 tracks at once.

Next…

I’ll be discussing effectively spotting your session (long, time-consuming, but completely necessary), picking up errors and how to build out your atmosphere tracks.

Written by Daniel Dewar.