sound mixing 101 in a crunch
April 25, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I need help learning the very basics of sound mixing by Monday

I'm a beginning filmmaker, and I'm in the midst of editing a short film I made in Final Cut 7. I will be showing somebody a rough cut on Monday and everything right now is looking good except for the sound.

I have good raw material to work with -- the sound guy used three high-quality lavaliers (Tram TR-50) and recorded pretty clean dialogue as far as I can tell -- but I don't have a sound mixer. I may bring someone on later to do the mixing but in the meantime I'd like to fix anything that I can on my own before next week.

What are the basic things I can/should do to fix the raw audio? I guess the problem is I don't know exactly what to fix or what I should be looking for because I don't have an understanding of what professional sound sounds like. Ha. Basically I'm totally out of my depth.

Is there an easy to use guide that could help me in a crunch?

One thing I notice is that some of the audio sounds farther away or closer -- I guess depending on where the lavs were positioned on the actors. Do I just adjust the levels to fix this or is there a better way?

There's also an important line that is sort of ruined at the beginning by someone tapping their foot against a piece of furniture for a millisecond? Is this something a beginner could fix on their own?

My last question is about foley. I'd like to add some foley to the film (mostly door opening/closing and footsteps), and have been looking on the site, but all the clips I've downloaded from there sound pretty fake and I'm not sure why.

Thanks in advance for the help!
posted by timsneezed to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *
posted by timsneezed at 3:09 PM on April 25, 2012

To address the foley bit, is an amazing amazing resource for professional sounds. Not free, but very cheap with a "student" license.

For whatever reason they've buried their sound effects library, but it's here. It's also a great site for score music.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:27 PM on April 25, 2012

Oops sorry, the SFX are here.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:28 PM on April 25, 2012

I wouldn’t waste time, I’d spend that time getting someone to help you. Your question is not much different than me asking "how do I learn to make a film by monday?". It’s not that you couldn’t learn it, it’s the "by monday" part that is completely out in left field. There wouldn’t really be any reason why people spent years studying if it could be learned in a few days.
posted by bongo_x at 5:40 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you able to and/or willing to pay for sound editing? I know someone, but she's not a charity.
posted by Mad_Carew at 5:54 PM on April 25, 2012

you'll either have it easy finding help on this or it will be impossible, since the Tribeca Film Festival is happening now...
posted by Mad_Carew at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2012

If you were just concerned about basic volume levels...having them level and uniform among various scenes, that's something you can easily do with 7's audio editor. On the other hand correcting for distance and making that uniform among scenes really takes some know-how and I don't think that 7's audio editing even has that capability.
posted by snsranch at 6:15 PM on April 25, 2012

Best answer: I'm a fan of a bit of software called Levelator for this purpose. It was made with podcasting in mind, but the editors I've recommended it to have loved it. Basically, it will adjust the levels and compress the audio for you automagically, and it's free. To use it, export your timeline as a wav file, drag that file into Levelator, then drag the resulting wav back into final cut. Stick it on a new track and mute your other audio tracks.
posted by stephennelson at 6:30 AM on April 26, 2012

Best answer: The "farther away" thing is probably the natural reverb or reflections of a noisy room, there isn't really a good way to fix that, I'd imagine that's the #1 reason people end up re-dubbing live audio. If you still have all the individual tracks you could check to see if one mic is picking up another person's reflections and mute that during certain parts.

Throw some quick compressor/limiter type effects on the tracks, basically so light talking and shouting is at least comfortably audible. And you could drop an EQ on the dialogue that cuts out anything below, say 80hz (though, the dude recording might have already done this), to cut out any low rumble. I don't know much about final cut's audio capabilities, but this tutorial seemed alright.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:37 AM on April 26, 2012

bongo_x is right. These sounds like things that anybody with some experience with sound mixing can do for you pretty quickly and inexpensively, but that are going take you hours to figure out if you can figure it out at all. Just ask around your film school and you should be able to find someone.
posted by empath at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2012

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