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I looked for a previous thread about this and I'm surprised that I didn't find anything—if I missed it let me know.

As a relative newcomer to freelance film sound design, I often find myself holding the title of supervising sound editor, dialog editor, foley recordist, SFX designer ... yadda yadda. I'm sure many of you have been in situations where you are the lone-wolf post-sound figure, it seems to be the thing to do for newer directors and indies where the budget can't cover a sound team.

Even when I'm working alone, I like to provide a mix that has comparable attention to detail as a team of dubbing editors would have provided—it's a somewhat unrealistic-but-motivational goal, even with a time limit.

I'm currently working on a 70-minute comedy which is fairly dialog-heavy with a couple large FX sequences. My organization is:

  • a dialog session where each scene is a different set of tracks into a bus
  • an atmospherics session
  • a different session for each hard FX sequence (6 sessions)
  • a session for the narrator's voiceovers

... we don't have time to create a foley mix for this draft of the film. Now that the dialog is mostly edited, I've been jumping from one session to another just adding detail. I find myself exhausted after a couple hours and moving somewhat slowly.

I'm curious if any of you have advice or stories about this type of situation, from keeping your editing sessions consistent to keeping yourself sane. Do you organize your workflow and files in the same way that you would have a team do the same? How do you keep yourself productive while still maintaining creative clarity and grounded perspective on what's important/what's not? I'm thirsty for some different approaches.

Thanks,
~Matt

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

Hi Matt,

sounds like you have a pretty tall order in front of you.

I think that you're absolutely correct to break the parts of the production up into different sessions. Being free to open whatever plugs you want in whatever situation you need is a big benefit of that approach.

I'd also advise coming up with an order of priority and a rough milestone schedule for the work. That way the work you do at one step will be able to carry through to the next step, and you'll feel the progress that you're making as you reach each milestone.

For example, you could probably prioritize your parts as follows:

  • dialogue edit
  • bgfx edit
  • music edit
  • foley record and edit
  • sfx edit
  • premix
  • final mix

at the end of each part you'd print out a stem, import that stem in to the session of the next step, and work the next step in the context of the previous work. This also forces you to live with the previous work as the project moves along, which may allow you to discover errors or alternate choices you could make as you hear that work over and over again.

executing the dialogue first means that you're living with that dialogue edit the longest, and you're able to work all of the rest of your editorial in the context of the dialogue edit.

one other piece of advice that I'd give would be to be fearless about making decisions. This generally translates to printing effects instead of automating them. The more decisive you are early in the process the less there will be to juggle as all of the parts come together in the end - so own those choices by printing them and moving them forward in a concrete form.

finally - seek out ears that you trust and try to inject as much collaboration as you can into the process. An impartial observer can restore perspective that you may lose as you wade through the minutia of the edit. this kind of work is supposed to be collaborative, and it benefits from collaboration so much that it really is worth the effort to inject that kind of perspective into the process.

If there's any part that you can farm out or outsource, do so while retaining the responsibility for the final product. This can alleviate some of the deadline stress while adding a fresh perspective to the project.

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@Rene Interesting, I happen to follow the same priorities as well. –  Stavrosound Sep 8 '12 at 23:24
    
@Rene @Stavrosound - ditto. –  Shaun Farley Sep 8 '12 at 23:36
    
@Rene Thanks so much, this resonates very well with me. –  Matt Glenn Sep 9 '12 at 6:23
    
Info/ideas well worth the up-vote. –  Steve Urban Sep 9 '12 at 18:19
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