Continuing from yesterday’s post, here are some more great answers from Brian Armstrong’s reddit AMA regarding his work on the new A&E show Bates Motel.
How did you get the gig for finishing audio?
I’m not sure what you mean by finishing audio, but I worked with one of the post production supervisors awhile back on HBO’s digital series “The Boring Life of Jacqueline”. When she started this show, I just happened to have sent her an email saying I was approaching the end of a gig and looking for another.
Typical, “who you know” story in Hollywood.
How long have you been in the industry? I just started in high school and I love it! Granted its just for the local animation class and some school commercials, but still enjoy it!
I joined the union in 2007 to work on the film Seven Pounds with Will Smith, but have played around with audio since I was helping with sound design for my community theater in middle school (early 90s).
I’m envious that you’ve figured out this is what you want to do so early. You’ll have twice the amount of credits I do in about half the time I’m sure.
My husband is currently enrolled at CRAS here in Phoenix and will be doing an internship in L A for three months this summer. Any advice for him?
Stay humble, but not to the point of degradation.
I’m graduating in a month from a audio post program up here in Canada. Is interning in a production house a viable route to go through? I’m always a little wary about interning at standard recording studios because so much of the jobs have dried up in music and I hear a lot about interns being exploited. What would be some good advice about obtaining a good internship at the right place?
Are you going to be looking for an intership in post production or the music industry? The best thing you should look for in your internship is hands on experience. Internships are rarely paid, so no matter how you look it, there’s some sort of exploitation going on. May as well make the best of it. I would say aim as high as you can when applying for internships. Also, don’t limit yourself to official internship programs. Many larger studios don’t even offer them or they’re extremely difficult to get into. Find some studios you like as well as people (mixers/editors) and contact them directly saying you’re very interested in learning about the business and getting some first hand experience, even if it means sitting quietly out of the way and observing for awhile.
Be persistent, but not obnoxious. A genuine desire to help out and learn is easily detectable and is great to have around.
A lot of people will tell you you should be prepared to empty the trash and clean toilets in your internship and I suppose they’re right to an extent. But I don’t 100% believe that. I wouldn’t rule it out, but there are people out there who love what they do enough to share it with others who are passionate about the same thing.
How much, on average, of the dialogue in a finished episode is location sound, and how much of it is ADR?
For this show there is very little ADR. I think the most lines I’ve had to edit around in any given episode is maybe… 10-15 total? The production sound crew did a great job.
How do you have your Kensington keys setup? Do you use QuicKeys? I love QuicKeys.
My mouse is pretty much standard. I’m so used to quick keys that I can’t think of what I would actually use the mouse keys for as a shortcut. I’ve tried various things, but its never stuck.
QuickKeys are where its at!
My Kensington is always setup like this, for Pro Tools:
Bottom left button: Normal mouse click
Bottom Right Button: F6 (Trim tool)
Top Left Button: F7 (I-beam/selection tool)
Top Right Button: F8 (hand/grabber tool)
Once you get used to it, it is insanely fast to edit with.
I’m a smart tool editor. Otherwise I can see how those would be ideal. I’ll have to try it. Give the other mouse keys some attention.
It may be different for someone mainly doing dialogue editing – but I cannot STAND the smart tool. I have waaaay too many tracks to want to deal with mousing to the precise location that a tool becomes available. Having the three main tools on the mouse keys just ends up being a thousand times faster. I’ll admit, it can take some getting used to, but on the odd day that I have an intern looking over my shoulder, I have to forcefully slow down so that they can tell what I’m doing.
It’s the difference between say, .6 seconds and .3 seconds, but .3 seconds adds up FAST when it’s basically all you’re doing all day.
This gave me the idea that maybe I’ll try using them to switch between grid and slip mode. I have no need to toggle thru SPOT (I have shuffle locked… ain’t nobody got time fo dat.)
This reminds me of a story from school. When I was learning Pro Tools, some idiot from another class said he could do ANYTHING in Pro Tools with a mouse faster than any of us could with quick keys.
I don’t even think I acknowledged his mouth moving because he was so full of s***. ANYTHING?! What a d***.
I was wondering how you split your lines across dialog tracks for the mixer? Do you try to keep one character to a set of tracks, or do you try to consolidate for space so the mixer doesn’t have upwards of 12 tracks?
And if you edit between a boom to a lav then back to the boom, where the lav has little to no room tone and the boom has a steady room tone; you’ll do a bridge for the room tone. Where is an appropriate place to put this?
Also, when you use audio suite plugins, are you keeping your initial edits somewhere on an alternate track?
I explained it in one of my other answers, but how I edit my dialogue differs from mixer to mixer. They are the ultimate end point for everything I do, so if I like to keep working, I need to make sure they get what they want. So the rest of this response will be made with a big “GENERALLY SPEAKING” in front of it all. Good communication is what makes a project run smoothly and the dialogue editor and the mixer NEED TO COMMUNICATE… clearly and often. Every episode, I’ll send either the mixer or the supervisor a text just to make sure everything is running smoothly. If it’s not, I want to know why and figure out how I can avoid it again.
I have never carried more than 8 dialogue tracks in a session. I think it definitely gets too wide if you go beyond that. Mainly because these 8 do not include a few FUTZ tracks (for dialogue coming thru a phone, tv, radio, etc.), a few PFX tracks and as many X tracks as I need. X tracks are either muted or inactivated tracks where all the original edits go before I Audiosuite them as well as original takes if I replace any lines with ALTs. I try to keep the alts in the top tracks and the original edits that have been Audiosuited in the bottom.
In general, I don’t split tracks for characters unless there’s a dramatic volume change between them. Keep in mind, your job as a dialogue editor is to make the mixer’s job as easy as possible. Quick, dramatic volume changes are not easy and they’re not a clean way to get from line to line so its rare a mixer will prefer to have to do that. I do split for dramatic perspective changes. Wide shots to close ups… indoors to outdoors, etc. I will also split for each new take. If the first line is from take 3 and the next line is from take 4, I will split them and create enough fill to fade in and out of each line smoothly. I spend 90% of my time editing creating fill. It’s annoying but its what makes the dialogue world go round. By the time I’m done, my session looks like a bunch of staircases.
Same goes for switching from mic to mic. Definitely bridge the lines with clean fill and if its from the same take (which ideally it should be), keep it in the same track.
I also do this when using two iso mics… if, for instance, I hear Norma in Norman’s lav, I’ll cover that bleed with clean fill from Norman’s side and vice versa. FILL FILL FILL. Or as I call it… Phil.
Organization and technobable, two of my favorite parts!
I think I misunderstood your response about the bridged fill. How do you keep that on the same track if the lav is taking that real estate? Are you doing a print of the two tracks together?
Lets say you have the boom mic on DIAL_A and the iso mic on DIAL_B….
The first line happens on the boom, the second line happens on the iso and the third line is back on the boom (all from same take)…
I’d keep the first and third lines (boom) on DIAL_A, put the 2nd line (iso) on DIAL_B and create a piece of fill from the boom to bridge the first and third lines on DIAL_A. This way that noise from the boom carries over the ISO and will hide the fact that they’re two different sources.
What advice would you give to filmmakers who either don’t have the budget or technical know-how to improve their audio editing/dialogue editing?
For example, I hate Pro Tools and generally any audio editing program, my brain can’t process that kind of information. What can I do just in Final Cut/Premiere?
That’s a tough question. Once it hits Final Cut, its too late for this, but I cannot stress enough the importance of quality production recording. Its the golden rule… s*** in = s*** out… you can’t polish a turd.
If you know you don’t have the budget for a proper sound edit (or any edit for that matter) GET . A . GOOD . PRODUCTION . RECORDING!!
Unfortunately, I know nothing about Final Cut/Premiere/Avid or any of those picture editing suites. Even within Pro Tools, each show I work, hell… each EPISODE I work on presents new challenges and dynamics. I guess you just have to trust your ears. If it sounds good, if you can hear everything people are saying… hopefully the details are, at the very least, forgivable.
What do you do when there’s an awful lot of noise and background sounds, but there’s no way to ADR or get audio from a different take?
Also, what movie file formats do you prefer working with?
What do you monitor on?
Do you use PT just because it’s the standard or do you enjoy working on it? Do you use any other DAWs?
As far as background sounds and other noise, if I can at least understand what the characters are saying, I’ll build as long of a fill track as I can into and out of the line in hopes that the mixer can do something better than I can. Again, as long as the characters can be understood, the only way those background noises will jump out and be a nuisance is if they suddenly start or suddenly stop. If its consistently shitty, its at least less noticeable. If they can’t be understood, its a problem no one can fix really. There are some really amazing audio restoration tools, but I am a master of none of them and even with thousands of dollars of plug ins at one’s disposal… sometimes it just can’t be salvaged.
I have a spec sheet I send out when I’m doing independent features, but here’s the full list:
SPECS FOR DV QTs
• Channel 1 – Production
• Channel 2–MX&FX
• Time code window burned in
• upper left hand corner.
o Reel = Hour
o Start mark at HR:00:00:00 (first fr of action @ HR:00:08:00)
• Feet and Frame Window Burn
• upper right corner.
o Start mark at 0000+00 (first fr of action @ 12ft)
• Video Scene & Take Burn on bottom of frame
QUICKTIME PIX FILE SHOULD BE DV (720×480, 23.98 or 29.97) and should include audio tracks (ch1. DIAL ch2. FX/MX)
I’m not really a video guy, so I stole those specs from another company and use them because they always worked there.
I work mostly in headphones for dialogue editing. Occasionally I’ll listen in whatever speakers are hooked up to my system (varies from studio to studio, room to room) to give my ears a break and hear the whole show/reel/whatever differently.
PT is a standard and because of this, its what I’m most fluent in. I get frustrated when in other DAWs because the keyboard shortcuts are all different. I can slowly make my way thru other systems, but PT is my choice 100% of the time.
I wanted to ask about revisions when working freelance. Do you still work freelance on the side? How many revisions would you do for a client before telling them to “pick one”?
Yes, I still do freelance stuff on the side when the project is right and when it fits in with my work/home schedule. (I have two kids, the oldest isn’t even 3 yet…)
As far as revisions go… that’s a tough one. Just depends on what the revisions are and what’s involved in the mixing process.
Generally, I think its best to set a day or two aside where you can go through the movie with whoever has deciding power and suss all those things out. Include those two days in the budget breakdown so if they come back to you after then, you have every right to say, “well, this is now going outside the budget, so lets talk about how much this is going to cost.” They usually become quite happy with the mix at that point.
I did a movie a few years ago and the director got in touch recently and wanted to switch out “one or two music cues” because they couldn’t get clearance. Turned out we had to replace every single music cue but because I didn’t have access to the stage where we mixed the movie, we were limited to using just the stems. Still took an entire day plus a day of my own prepping everything which the director paid for.
ALWAYS include an end date and time for yourself when agreeing to do freelance shows. I also would steer clear from anything they can approve when you’re not there watching it with them.
Congrats on your success Brian! Thanks for all the great responses and kind words of advice you passed along. You can browse through the thread, read other responses or post your own at the original post found here.