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How do you cut / delineate a jump in time within the same space? Is there a standard way to handle this? For example, setting = interior, home office, day. Character A is sitting at their desk when character B enters the room. Character A stands to greet B, they shake and deliver a few lines. Cut to both sitting in arm chairs, chatting about war stories within the same room. Clearly some small amount of time has passed, be it 45 seconds or 45 minutes.

My thought is to continue the int room tone, but perhaps change an element or three of what's happening outside the room. So, if I'm in a residential house I might lay in kids at play up top, then change to a distant lawnmower at the cut. Or perhaps add in some sounds of washing dishes off in the kitchen, etc.

Probably a very simple question with a straightforward answer, but thought I'd bring it up anyway.

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4 Answers

I've done both splitting and not splitting. It depends on what the end product is. If it's a TV show that I know doesn't feature BG's, I won't split but will add distinguishing elements to differentiate between the cut (Like you mentioned, lawn mower, kids playing etc) I'll even spot a car by or bus by that cut's off on the cut or starts mid by on the B side (If it's relevant and feels right) This all depends too on what else is playing during the time cut. Is there music that transitions and hit's the cut? Is Dialogue pre-lapping the cut to sell the transition? Like so much of our job, it's rarely ever a "yes or no" call. It's more about what ever helps support and communicate the story.

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My rule of thumb is to always split that, even if its the same BG we're continuing. I always split BG 'sides' by location and time cuts (and sometimes POV depending on what's going on). Better to slightly over-split it then to not split at all and make it an issue for the stage if they want to mess with the BG.

A great example is two simultaneous interrogations going on - both rooms are heavy roomtone rumbles (and there's an implied time dilation). Both rooms are the same room, but for each back and forth it gets split, and some (but not all) of the tones are pitched up or down by about 1-2 semi's just to make the rooms bump ever so slightly.

In my opinion, it's better to have the entire BG split if you're introducing new elements or taking others away on the time cut. Otherwise I feel it looks sloppy and unprofessional, and could confuse a mixer.

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Great points, thanks @Stavrosound! –  Steve Urban Sep 3 '12 at 4:06
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I would not split the tracks, but, as you suggested add an appropriate element to sell the time jump. If there is music you will need something a litte more recognizable than a split. I like your suggestions. Also a car by just as it's passing, distant refrigerator hum or a different AC ambience.

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I think you're going in the right direction. Sound is part of the storytelling process. And as such, I usually handle these situations in a way that's subtle, but not subliminal. For example, by adding a distant dog bark you are bringing a new character into the environment and that's OK as long as there is purpose and you lock in within a timeframe (don't use it again when it's supposed to be much later). If the scene is a business office, it will be an implied weekday so kids on the street would suggest it's afternoon as they would be back from school. As long as we hear the before and after, we'll know time has passed. A subtle difference in the outside traffic that leaks in can be useful to refresh POVs. Even if we don't see a window, you can suggest the existence of there being one closer to Character A than to Character B. When you cut to Character B, then maybe you have more interior-ish sounds leaking in. I once had to do this with a single character who stays up all night. No music, no dialog. About 20 seconds at 11PM, then 1AM, then 3AM, then 6AM, then 8AM. So as you can imagine, traffic diminishes, then it becomes sparse, very subtle crickets, a cat, the city rumbling, then as the city wakes up we hear a distant garbage truck, later kids before going to school + rush hour in the distance, then more controlled day ambience at 8AM. If dialog drives the scene let it take the wheel and don't force it, but suggest changes using your imagination. Sometimes you'll want these changes to be noticeable, and some other times you'll have to be subtle. Play with it and after a while the scene will ask for what it needs. That's just my 2 cents.

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