10 Tips For Preparing the Sound Mix of Your Film for Festival Screening
With notifications from Sundance and other film festivals on the horizon, we thought we’d share a few tips on preparing your documentary or indie film for a successful audio post experience. Here are a few tips to get your thought process started:
- Turn off your video monitor and listen to your film without watching the image. You may notice awkward edits or spots that need extra attention.
- Clean up your dialog edits. Don’t worry about that fade on the music or nat sound. The most expensive part of the mixing process is editing and cleaning dialog. Provide ’room tone’ for any scene that has gaps in the dialog or needs special attention. There are incredible tools available for noise reduction and correcting problems, by not needing them you will save time and money.
- Organize your track allocation. Consistency is most import. For instance, Use channels 1-6 for dialog 7-10 for nat sounds and B roll audio. 11-14 for music. 15 -18 room tone.
- Frame rates and codecs matter. Read and understand the festival’s deliverables. Make contact with your post house to make sure you are delivering your project correctly to meet the deliverables. Don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance if you are new to the process.
- Stereo or Surround? If you feel your film needs a surround mix, understand that you will likely need to prepare discrete audio to be placed in the surround speakers. It is not advisable to use processing to ‘spread’ the sound to all of the speakers. Fewer than 1 percent of households have a surround sound playback. So you have to decide if your film could benefit from the extra expense of mixing in surround. You should also be aware that improper 5.1 mixes can sound like a mistake when played back on conventional stereo systems. The point here is, don’t go halfway with a surround mix.
- Make sure you have proper licensing for all of your music. Be wary of ‘fair use’. Provide a list of music tracks with Composer, Publisher and PRO affiliations. Most post houses will make a proper ‘music cue’ sheet for you. You don’t want to find out about music problems after your film has been released.
- Make a time coded list of any places you feel need special audio attention. Any noises that bother you or places that need extra sound effects added.
- Preparing AAF, OMF and video reference files often take much more time than planned. Go through the process at least once before you send your final project in to the post house.
- Use a “2 pop” and make sure your film starts at 01:00:00:00. Send the color corrected master to the post facility for mix so that any sync issues can be addressed.
- If your film will be shown in a theater, it is essential that your final sound review happen in a theater setting. Most professional post facilities will have a proper mix stage or have a relationship with a theater for test playback. Your film will look and sound different in a theater, don’t be surprised on opening night.
- Get audio “stems” from the post facility. This is individual layers of the sound track. Dialog, Sound Effects and Music all as separate audio files. These will be very useful if you need to edit alternate version of your film for broadcast for instance.