Many editors neglect to understand some of the basic fundamentals of audio editing and mixing, which ultimately hurts the quality level of their projects. Here are three audio issues to look out for when cutting your next project.
Audio quality is as important (arguably, more important) than video quality when it comes to overall production value, yet so many editors place very little emphasis on the audio editing and mixing stages of the process. While it may be true that post-audio should be left to a ProTools artist, unfortunately there are many budget-conscious scenarios that will call for a picture editor to act as their own sound editor too.
In these situations it’s quite common for editors to neglect elements of the audio process, completely unknowingly. Here are three of the most common audio issues that you may encounter if you’re not paying close enough attention to sound:
1. Poor Mixing
If you aren’t at least making basic levels adjustments to your audio tracks, you’re going to have major issues right out of the gate. Nothing sounds more amateur than a film project with mismatched dialogue levels or an overbearing soundtrack, so always make time to perform at least a basic mix to move your project in the right direction.
Typically I like to start by mixing dialogue tracks, and adjusting the volume/gain as needed to get the overall levels as equal as possible. Doing so is easiest when the dialogue tracks are soloed, so always make sure to isolate the right tracks before going ahead with any adjustments.
Also, don’t be afraid to keyframe your levels. There will be times when an audio track might need a +3db boost for instance, but then a louder part of the track will clip. Taking the time to keyframe your levels will make a big difference in the overall quality of your final product.
Once your dialogue is properly mixed, you can move on to your effects and music with the same approach.
2. Forgotten Crossfades
Unlike video tracks that really only need crossfades when creating a stylistic transition, audio tracks should have crossfades on them more often than not. When a new audio track is introduced, a crossfade (or alternatively a keyframe) should always be used to help transition the sound in, ultimately avoiding an abrupt audio cut.
Similarly, when cutting from one dialogue take to another, crossfades should always be used to blend together the different audio tracks. Even if your source audio was recorded with the exact same microphone in the same location, there will be differences in audio from take to take (room tone, background noise, angle of the mic, etc.), so adding a crossfade in post will add a lot more fluidity to your sound.
3. Too Much Audio Sweetening
So far we’ve gone over two very common issues that are a result of overlooking audio editing entirely, but some editors will get themselves into trouble when taking things too far in the other direction too.
Adding too many effects, filters, and other sweetening tools like reverb can have just as detrimental of an effect as neglecting your audio edit entirely. You wouldn’t load up your video tracks with unnecessary filters and effects, so why do it with your audio? A shocking amount of low-budget projects sound like audio effects and filters were just thrown on the clips haphazardly, ultimately bringing down the overall quality of the entire piece.
There’s certainly a time and a place for audio filters, and specifically audio sweetening. But if you plan to add reverb, voiceover enhancement, or use any other tool that’s bundled with your NLE, take the time to truly understand what it does first and then move ahead with it. Never use any filter blindly or your audio will sound amateur at best.
For those of you that are very new to this, I highly recommend checking out the video below from Adobe. This clip will walk you through a lot of the basic 101 fundamentals of audio editing within Adobe Premiere: