Earlier this week the APA held the Audio Post Production Workshop, a half-day workshop which aimed to give both agency and production producers a better understanding of the audio post-production process. The workshop included speakers from APA member companies Factory, GCRS, Angell Sound, Wave, Soho Sq Studios & Clearcut Sound Studios all providing insights to and demystifying the process of audio post.
We’ve rounded up the Top Takeaways from each of the talks for you below:
Sound Design – OMG!
Anthony Moore – Factory Studios
Anthony is Creative Director at Factory and has over 25 years experience creating award-winning sound design for the likes of Honda, Apple, John Lewis and Nike. Anthony’s talk focussed on the craft of sound design and why it is such an important creative tool:
- Great sound design is all about story-telling. Every sound should have a meaning and every sound should be enhancing the narrative.
- Experiment with sound. Play with it, have fun with it. Never be afraid of getting things wrong, to get it right. The journey is all part of the craft.
- Music and sound design should always look to work together and complement each other. They share the same space, so take the time to think about this from an early stage and make room for them both to play their part.
- Immersive audio has masses of potential and getting these experiences into communal areas such as theatres, nightclubs, cinemas and even our livings rooms; is where things can really come alive creatively.
What is Audio Post Production?
Chris Wrigglesworth – Clearcut Sound
Chris discussed audio post-production from the point of view of a sound engineer, and broke down the elements of audio post into three categories to help explain what exactly it is and what’s needed:
- Audio needs to be clear to be able to deliver the message to an audience. Therefore, it’s very important that any recorded audio delivered to the audio post house is as clear as possible. Audio can be edited and tools can be used to clean up the audio. Its noted that quality cannot be added after the recording of the sound, or at least it’s very difficult to do so.
- If we are unable to clean up the audio or if the quality is beyond repair ADR can be used, which is where the voice performer comes in to re-record their lines.
- An audio piece also needs to be able to immerse the viewer/listener and there are different ways audio can enhance that. Elements such as track-laying SFX and foley recording can all help bring a scene to life.
- This is the most creative part of the audio post process, where sound design and music is used to enhance the storytelling. Sound design can be used to create completely original sounds for things not even in existence whereas ambiences and tonal textures can be used to heighten an emotional response. A good example of this being the horror genre where certain sounds may make the viewer feel on edge.
Money, Money, Money!
Rebecca Boswell – Wave Studios
After an extensive career in production, Rebecca later switched to the world of post-production. Now EP at Wave Studios, Rebecca shared her insights on how to budget for sound:
- The world of sound design and audio post is changing all the time with new technologies and different types of media, this is why every quote has to be handled slightly differently.
- If your unsure on anything in relation to sound on your project, then call your audio house – these guys are experts! You can talk to them about your project, and as long as you provide them with the right information e.g. the script and deliverables, then their advice can make a world of difference.
- A quote will usually be broken down into seven different aspects:
- Voice over
- Final Mix
- Agency/client changes
- Stock & transfers
- But as well as this, it’s a good idea to a contingency pot too for unplanned expenses i.e dialogue re-records or changes to the mix.
What Does That Button Do?
Tom Mackewn – Soho Square Studios
Studio Manager at Soho Square Studios, Tom has worked over many different formats in audio production during his 10 year experience, working as an engineer, producer and manager. So he helped explain to us some of the technical terms and phrases used in the audio post-production process:
- People in audio post houses often use interchangeable terms to describe the same thing. If there’s a concept that seems unfamiliar to a producer, it’s best just to ask for clarification, because the chances are it’s just the terminology that’s unknown.
- Sounds cannot be taken out of a single source. This is why we need AAFs and OMFs and try and make sure the AAF or OMF contain .wav files at 48Khz/24 bit.
- Loudness specs are the way that most audio is now measured. These try and emulate how humans hear, by taking an average of the energy in a mix. If you need a creatively quiet piece be prepared that it might need some discussion with the broadcaster.
Steve Lane & Raja Sehgal – Grand Central Recording Studios
Both Steve and Raja have a wealth of experience working on new and emerging sound design technologies at GCRS, as part of the company’s GCVRS division. They both joined us to give us a look into what these technologies do and to show how you can use them in your work:
- Immersive 3D audio has huge creative potential for new and more traditional media formats. It has the power to create incredibly realistic audio environments for the likes of podcasts, online radio commercials and immersive new media such as 360º film and virtual-reality experiences. Sound can be used to further engage listeners and even direct them to particular parts of the visual content.
- Dolby Atmos is another new major audio technology, which uses multiple speakers to create an immersive cinema experience. This gives the creatives and sound designer the ability to place sound in a 3 – dimensional space, leading to a more engaged audience.
- Using Dolby Atmos is actually not much more expensive than using traditional 5.1 or 7.1 audio. Typically, it takes around one hour or two more of studio to mix a commercial or film trailer in the ATMOS format.
Casting & Directing Your Lovely Artistes
Nick Angell – Angell Sound
The technology is not the only aspect you should focus on in the audio post world, the voice actor is equally, if not more important. Nick Angell, Managing Director of Angell Sound, discussed the best ways to approach this process:
- The pool of actors potentially available to get behind a mic and lend their dulcet tones to your campaign is almost bottomless, which is a fantastic thing when casting. The key points to consider is the style and characteristic of the voice, such as male, female, approximate age, dialect, received pronunciation, serious ‘voice over’ or colloquial and characterful, quirky, ironic, animated and so on. The more information up front will reap better casting returns.
- When your artiste or artistes come to the studio, provide an insight to the style of voice that’s required and some background to the product that’s being advertised. Who is your target audience and what is the general attitude you feel will engage that audience? Also, agree whether the actor is going to sit or stand and if there’s any physicality required with the performance.
- Try and decide how best to channel directorial notes to the actor/actors before you start recording. Allow him/her to get familiar with the script and settle into a style they feel suitable. Don’t overload the directing notes, but find concise ways of providing direction that your voice over can understand and act on. This is particularly pertinent with well known, experienced actors who may feel they’ve given you exactly what’s required within a couple of takes. In my experience you can always push on with loads of takes providing the notes you’re expressing have a meaningful reason that might not have been considered or explored. Don’t forget, actors are often great improvisers, so tap into that skill if the part requires, as this can give a more believable performance.
Williams v Gaye and What It Means for Music in Commercials
Peter Oxendale – Musicologist
Although strictly not part of the audio post-production process, we decided to add an extra session regarding the recent US Court of Appeals decision on the Williams v Gaye case. We were joined by Peter Oxendale, the UK’s leading musicologist, to discuss what this case means and how it might affect work being made in the future:
- It’s key to understand why this decision was made. So Peter began by making the point that when listening to both ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up’ they may appear to sound similar, but they are objectively different songs with different structures, chord sequences, melodies and lyrics. It’s the vibe of the song that make them both seem similar, particularly with the use of elements such as the repetitive cowbell patterns together with the ambient party noises. As a result of this verdict, people now seem to be confusing inspiration with appropriation.
- Reference tracks have always been used in the industry for a client or agency to describe what kind of track they want for their ad, but you now need to avoid being track specific. Instead, use multi-reference tracks with different examples. Then when referring to them, you should never use the word “copy” and instead use words such as “inspired by”, “feel” and “style”.
- Production companies now need to be clear with the agency from the outset that they most likely can’t get as close to reference tracks as they want to.
- For more guidance, please refer to our full Williams v Gaye advice document.