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When you start a project, what is your intial workflow? Do you reach for inspiration first? Do you create a sound pallet? Do you have a specific analysis formula that you follow? Do you spot music first, ambiances, sound effects, foley or dialog?

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If I have time, I like to sit down and watch the whole piece to get a better understanding of how much work is going to be involved. That way I can create a basic schedule as to what I need to have finished by when. I have to do almost everything post-wise on the projects we have at work. So, this is essential for me to get everything in by deadline.

Once I'm there, I usually start with dialog (edits, cleanup, and pre-mix). For the pieces I work on (mostly television non-fictional) it's the most important element of the show. Then I'll turn to spotting ambiences and effects. If it's a short piece, I'll just drop markers onto my timeline indicating where I need what. For a longer piece, I keep that info on a separate document (cut sheet). I have a coworker who composes music for all of our pieces. So, I leave that to him, but we try to communicate with each other what we're going to build for each scene. When I actually get to work, I tend to deal with ambiences before effects.

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The first thing I do is sit down alone and watch the picture from start to finish, this lets me get an idea on the following:

  • Session set up. How many SFX tracks are needed, 20 or 200?
  • Any major sound recording that need to be organized (guns, cars, and thing you don't have confidence you already have library for)
  • Questions for the Director during a spotting session. Tech questions as well as story line questions. Directors will trust you more if you are paying attention to the story and not just what sounds are required
  • An idea of what the schedule will shake out as and where to focus energy
  • Get an overall idea of what you are up against. Sadly not all projects have to budget and timeline to allow us to go to town on every aspect of the post sound, so a screening can give you an idea of how to attack the project.
  • Make sure the picture has the proper tech specs, frame rate, no drop outs, if delivered as QT that there is burn-in TC ect
  • Look for surprises that were not discussed yet in terms of budget. A lot of times you can ask all the right questions but until you see the picture you are not sure if you were getting the right answers.

Next up set up a spotting session with the director and if possible the picture editor. I like to do an ambience pass first to give each scene some weight and ground them in a specific environment and then do the Dialog pass. I think most people do this the other way around but this works for me. Then I tackle the hard effects. I don't look after the foley or the score so they would be happening independently.

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