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  • Writer's pictureJake Fielding

Delivery from Offline Edits to Sound Design

Updated: May 15, 2023

What you should receive from your editor in order to start a sound edit


As a sound editor, you rely heavily on the material provided by your editor to complete your work. Without the right assets, your job can become a time-consuming, if not impossible, task. In this blog, we will discuss the essential elements that you should receive from your offline editor to complete a sound edit that meets the client's expectations. Making sure you are prepared in this way, avoids you asking for things halfway through a sound edit.


This checklist provides the minimum assets that should be provided to you, anything the editor does not deliver may complicate the sound edit process for you, so make sure you have yourself covered.


#1 - Audio Rushes


The audio rushes are the recordings captured on location during the shoot. These recordings are the raw material that will allow you to complete the sound edit. You should receive the audio rushes in their original format, with no modifications or processing applied, before the editor ingests them. This will ensure not only that you have access to the highest quality recordings, but ensure the file naming will be accurate (assuming the production sound mixer has named correctly) by slate and scene number.


Typically, dialogue and character sounds are what is most commonly used in post-production, but rushes can also include wild tracks which can be useful to use directly, or as a reference to the sound of a location.


An audio wild track is an audio recording that is captured separately from the main dialogue or other sounds in a film or video production. It is recorded in the same location as the production audio but is typically captured before or after the principal photography.

Wild tracks are often used to provide additional or alternative audio options during the post-production process, such as in the dialogue editing stages. For example, if the production audio has issues such as background noise, dialogue overlap, or distortion, the audio wild track can be used as a replacement or to supplement the problematic audio.

In addition to serving as a backup for production audio, wild tracks can also be used to capture additional sound effects or ambience to add depth to the audio mix. This can include sounds of the environment, such as traffic, birds, crowd noise, or other sounds that are not captured during the principal photography.


You should also receive a Sound Report, usually a PDF, that lists all the recordings and details things such as file name, scene and take information, start and end timecode, ISO's (each channel), and any notes from the mixer.


#2 - Picture File


The video file is an essential asset to start a sound edit, as of course, you'll need to see the picture you are working too. But it's important to receive the right picture format with the right information embedded into it.


Format: Mov files will work fine, but Quicktime DNXHD will work even better with ProTools and its video engine. You can use 'Shutter Encoder' to convert any picture file to DNXHD for free. The picture file should be named with Project Name, Date & Version so that you can stay organised for re-cuts if they occur. A frame rate of either 24fps or 25fps and audio 48kHz 24bit is most common.


Burnt-In Timecode: (BITC) is a timecode that is burned into the video file, which should give you information regarding the scene/slate & take the source timecode, and master. This is crucial for re-cutting and conforming, as well as proving very useful for dialogue editing. Having BITC combined with correctly named audio rushes makes it easy to swap out specific lines of dialogue if necessary.


Sync Plop: A sync plop is a short, sharp audio signal, typically 1 frame, that syncs with a cue, flash, or clock on the picture file. It's useful to get a picture file with a sync plop both at the start and the end of a project (10 - 30 seconds before or after the start of the film), as this is confirmation that the audio and video start and end in sync. It should form part of the master picture file, not as a separate entity.


#3 - AAF


AAF, Advanced Authoring Format, is a type of file format used in post-production, that transfers the relevant information from the picture edit to the sound edit. It contains the location sound used in the edit, typically the mix or guide track, and any sound effects the editor has used to help the picture edit. The AAF provides the basis for the sound edit to start, so getting one is vital.


You should receive an AAF named in the same format as the picture file, with the Project Name, Date, and Version. It needs to be an embedded AAF, which means the audio is embedded within the file, and you should ask for handles of 300 - 600 frames, to allow access to audio on either side of the cuts made during the edit. Tick the AAF edit protocol option for better compatibility.


AAFs work well between Avid Media Composer and Avid ProTools, but other editing systems combined with different DAWs can prove difficult, and the editor may have to change a few settings for it to work, but perseverance is key in this situation, as I have experienced.


#4 - EDL


EDL stands for Edit Decision list, which is a list of instructions & steps taken in the picture edit stage, for comforming and re-comforming. A sound EDL will assist in comforming, and a picture EDL will help when re-conforming.


Conforming is the process of matching the edited sound, with the raw audio rushes, to allow access to the separate ISO's, a vital step for dialogue editing. It allows you to access the various channels from the location sound so you can choose between the boom or clip/lav microphones for each scene. Software such as ediLoad allows this to happen quickly.


Re-conforming, or re-cutting, is the process of adapting the sound edit, whatever stage it is at, to a new picture file. It is common for edits to change after 'picture lock', scenes being added, removed, lengthened, or shortened, which will naturally affect the sound edit. Re-cuts can be done manually, or with software such as Matchbox. Re-conforming can be a complex process, especially in projects with a lot of audio, complex sound editing, or automation, EDLs can help in this process so you must ask for them.



In Conclusion


These are the essential elements you should receive from your editor to complete a professional sound edit. Whilst you may get by at first with only some of what is listed here, once other factors are at play such as re-cuts, you'll wish you asked for everything.



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