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Hi

I am a university student currently writing my dissertation on the audio post production process for television ( and specifically drama). I was just wondering if anyone answer any of the following questions?

What is the overall workflow of audio post for TV work? i.e which editors start first and what happens overall?

and

What is the workflow of each individual process of SFX, Dialogue, Foley and the Mix? i.e what tracks are laid/recorded first for SFX and Foley or what order are the element mixed?

Any response would be greatly valued

Stuart Mannell

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3 Answers

This is one heck of a mine field you asked here. lol

Like film, this really depends on the budget of the piece/series. In my personal case, the production company I work for has two audio engineers. My coworker composes music for the shows. That's all he does. I do everything else. For the most part, I try to treat each episode or one off that we do similar to a film mix.

I always start with dialogue. For television, as with most other mediums, the dialogue is the most important element. So, that has to be done first; and in a manner that gives it the attention it requires. From there, I typically move on to ambiences. These help to smooth out and settle the dialogue into the picture. So, once again, here the dialogue is king.

After those two elements have been done, I'm usually starting to see the back end of the project approaching. Now it's a war of attrition. What can I get done in the amount of time left? This usually means that I'll make two passes at sound effects. I will spot all critical sound effects required for the story, on screen actions, etc...get those edited and placed. Then I will devote whatever time I have left prior to the start of the mix filling out the effects tracks, trying to imbue a greater sense of perspective to the story, augmenting scenes beyond just the critical needs of the shot.

This is about the time that I get the music from the other audio engineer. My mixes always begin with the dialogue. In television, unlike music (and to a certain degree, film) there are rules as to where the dialogue levels should be. This "Dialnorm" varies depending on the network you're producing for. I get the dialog even and smooth, and try to impose as much dynamic range as is allowed within the network spec. Once I'm happy with the levels, it's on to the ambiences and backgrounds, which are much easier to set once the dialog premix is done. I'll move on to mixing the effects then, but really, the levels you've already set tend to dictate where the effects will sit in the mix. You get a good sense of where they should be when mixing the dialogue and ambiences; it's just a matter of getting them to the proper spot in the mix.

Music comes to me pre-mixed basically in reference to the dialog. My coworker knows essentially where the dialog is going to be level-wise (because of network specs), and has the raw dialog as reference. I bring all of these premixes into a new session, and do my final mix there. From there, it's just approvals/tweaks/etc. as necessary or until we hit deadline. Then layback is done and it's on to the next.

This is just our procedure, but I imagine it's similar to a lot of other peoples'. No matter what though, it always starts with dialogue. Hopefully someone else is willing to share their workflow with you so you can get an impression of the broad range of types that exist.

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Thank you for your response that is exactly the type of information i needed. Like you said i hope more people can respond with their workflows. Cheers –  Stuart Mannell Jul 14 '10 at 16:28
    
@Shaun Farley Thanks for sharing. Do you print your dialogue premix and bring that into the final mix session or do you leave the raw edited dialogue tracks in the final mix session? –  Utopia Jul 14 '10 at 16:54
    
I don't print before the mix is locked; it just provides more flexibility. I'm a big fan of the "just in case" clause. That is part of my final backup/archival method though. Once the mix is finalized, I'll print the stems, and save them in a dedicated folder to be archived with the session and media. –  Shaun Farley Jul 14 '10 at 17:20
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Ultra-low budget usually goes: picture edit comes to sound editor. Picture gets unlocked. Sound editor gets mad. Picture gets locked, picture gets unlocked..... –  VCProd Jul 14 '10 at 18:16
    
still beats: "Here's my feature length doc. You've got 10 days." lol –  Shaun Farley Jul 14 '10 at 19:05
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I have to say that @shaun hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of variables to mixing for TV. If I can add a few more things, We get either an .omf or .wav files, with what we call an EM video file (edit Master). Our video editors work in Final Cut Pro and also Premiere,(if you are a video editor we are not going to discuss which is better ;-) I bring the audio into my workstation (Nuendo 5) and start my work. I normally lay my template out with the Vo on top (A good trick to clean up the Vo is to bring the breaths down about 15db or so. This helps esp. with the dragon breathing talent, you do not want to take them all the way out as this makes for some good robot speech.) then any Sots, on to nats, sfx and them music. I also treat all the dialog including Vo for proper leves, This includes and is not limited to EQ, Compression, some Noise Filters to clean up the "great audio the field guys captured" Once I get my dialog nice clean and clear I then can make the story come alive. We have a very extensive sound effects library here, pretty much all the sound ideas stuff and then some, which you can keyword for stuff. We produce a Full mix, M&E mix and a Sot mix for archive. I take the EM video and marry the full mix to it in Final Cut and call it an AM (air master) Then i archive everything to Final Cut Server (its ok... thats all im saying) there is much more and I will add some as I think about it. But right now I have a live show to do.

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I've been mixing a reality show. We get an OMF from the video/sfx/music editors and we import it into our template. It's supposed to be a mix but its more of a dialog edit and fix bad music edits job.

So I make a pass through the dialog (not getting to crazy since the whole show has music) then I mix in the music and effects. Then I make another pass to tweak things. At this point I typically run my mix through the LM100 which will give you your dialog-norm level. Usually mixing to ear won't create any problems with the LM100 output. After that its QC with clients and then I create all the different stems that the network requires for foreign languages.

These shows usually have a tight deadline so I'm always keeping myself moving forward and not getting hung up on some barely audible click in the dialogue that nobody can ever hear when the music in mixed in.

And finally it goes to the production company then to the broadcast company.

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