Intro to film sound? Anyone?



I'm doing an independent film project this spring as a freebie (cuz I'm interested in the project). The end product will be an MPEG video clip with stereo audio track. The images are a series of stills (300-400). No audio will be recorded until "post", then it'll use voiceovers, flown-in ambient sound and "foley" type fx.

I'm going to use an Akai DR-8 for dialogue, sound fx, and ambience. I could use Pro Tools Free on a newish G4, or Pro Tools 3 on a Nubus mac, but I'm thinking the Akai might be simpler. The akai syncs to MTC or SMPTE, but I doubt the machine the MPEG will be coming from has outputs for any timecode.

Maybe I can stripe the audio track of the MPEG with SMPTE, have the Akai chase that in production. Mix to a stereo track then manually position that to replace the SMPTE? Sounds plausible?

We're in the planning stages, so I'm looking for BROAD advice on how to maybe proceed. This is a no-budget project, and I expect the phrase "work around" to crop up a lot once we're in production.

Thought I'd post this in the "beginners" forum because I know nothing about film sound. Last related thing I did was music for an indie flick, and I just handed off the audio on a CD to the guy who was doing the editing.

Eric Agner

Greg Malcangi

Well-Known Member
Oct 12, 2000
Hi Eagner,

What you're asking for isn't really anything to do with film sound. Film sound is based on surround mixing for playback in movie theaters. You are talking about the creation of a stereo mix for an MPEG, a format that is essentially foreign to the film industry.

There are countless ways to do what you are asking about, each one of them different depending on the equipment you are using.

The advantage of using PT, Cubase or one of the other DAW systems is that most of them will allow you to import a movie and play it back along with your audio. This should in your case pretty much eliminate the need to play around with time-code.



Originally posted by Greg Malcangi:
Hi Eagner,

"What you're asking for isn't really anything to do with film sound. Film sound is based on surround mixing for playback in movie theaters." [Greg]

Well, to me it appears similar to a film sound problem. I have to synchronize audio events to a moving picture. This is what film sound is all about, surround or not, playback in theaters or not.

My two modest DAW's are set up for stereo input only and I mostly use them for 2-track editing. I have no plugs. That's the appeal of the DR-8, I can use it with my existing (cheap) console and outboard equipment.

I guess I could record and "process" all the sound with the DR8, then transfer stuff to Pro Tools to position the audio relative to the MPEG. Hell, maybe that's the answer. Anyone else?


Heh, as long as it got a moving picture on it, it's a film in my book. And some still mix in mono for the heck of it. But anyway, back to the original question.

Frankly, though I have used (not extensively) DR-8s for film work, I wouldn't want to work on them for a more complex sound mix. The editor is akward, slow (imho) and basically 8 tracks are not enough if you want to overlay Foley, voice-over, ambience and music.

First thing you need to consider is how complex your final mix will get and how much downmixing and premixing you and the director are able to handle as you edit the sound of the film. If you are going for a more Hollywoodish type of soundtrack (lotsa layers of sound), you'll have a lot of work cut out for you on that DR-8. Even a cheap DAW will be faster in that situation.

As for the SMPTE solution, it certainly is doable the way you described it, only problem that might crop up will be that of word-clock, that you'll be able to serve to the DR-8, but not to the MPEG playing machine, could provide for some rather annoying jitter and sync problems.

Consider what type of MPEG streams you are dealing with. If it's MPEG II, then probably not even common DAWs will import it or export to it properly, so you'll need to convert. It would be handy to have access to a powerful MPEG stream management program, because you would be able to add audio to the video track without reconverting.

Hope this helped a bit,
Andrei Mihailescu