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When you are asked to work on a short, what is the proper process of communication between the director and sound person?

Do you ask for scripts or treatments and outlines? Are most films written with treatments and outlines?

How long does it take for sound to be completed on a 15 minute short film?

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3 Answers 3

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I've done a LOT of shorts and, assuming it's a low/no pay gig, things are a lot more relaxed than a bigger production, so you can push things a little.

It's good to grab a script and, if they haven't shot it yet, submit a list of wild FX you think you may need to the location recordist. You may not get all or any of them, but it's always worth a shot. If there's something you think may be hard to source, such as an unusual car or something, then you should really let the director know how important it will be.

Back in film school, we were given 3-4 weeks for a short, including foley and mix and whatnot, but we were pampered. Try to get a month, if you can, but 2-3 weeks is very fair.

You should do a spotting session with the director and editor (where you get all their creative ideas, and pitch yours) once you reach picture lock, then do a runthrough with the director once you have all your elements in a rough balance. Then bring him/her in for the final mix. Some directors are keen to learn about the sound post process, but i find that showing an inexperienced director an incomplete mix isn't usually productive.

Good luck man!

Edit: One more thing; make sure your recordist gets at least 30 sec of room tone or "atmos" for each location (for each setup, if possible). That's important for stitching up gaps in your dialogue edit.

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I like to read the script and make my own notes before talking to the director about it. Think about backgrounds, important sound effects and potentially important sound design moments. If you already have a list of ideas that correlate to specific areas of the script it makes you look a whole lot better. It will also prepare you for when you actually receive the OMF from the editor.

I 100% agree with @Roger Middenway about requesting specific effects to be recorded wild during production. Use common sense to figure out what you A) Can't get from a library and B) think would add to the film or make your job easier/ higher quality. Sometimes library effects don't match production sound, and most often original recordings sound more authentic than Sound Ideas or Hollywood Edge effects. Those libraries are very good but the same effects tend to be used in a lot of films and tv shows.

The last pre production suggestion I have is to talk to your director and location recorder about rolling sound on every take. People love to shoot M.O.S. (no sound during certain takes) because they know what it means. It's important to have a guide track for every take ESPECIALLY if there is dialog. ADR is much more difficult than most people think. Even if there is no dialog and you have to foley everything it's still very useful. Would you rather draw something you've never seen by guessing or by looking at source material?

Good luck with the film! Be honest, realistic and understanding of the director's opinions and you'll do great.

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+1 on discouraging ADR and being anti M.O.S.! Inexperienced directors love to say to the location recordist "we can just ADR this, right?". Then when they can't get a performance out of the actor in post (or even get them to come in), you're stuck with noisy location sound. –  Roger Middenway Feb 9 '11 at 19:13
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I try to get a copy of the script for any project that has one. For me, reading through the writer's original intention (or umpteenth rewrite) usually provides a better insight to the mood, settings, and character development which leads to better conversations with your producer/director about the goal of the piece. After all, that's usually where they start from.

But that's assuming that there's a copy of the script available for you, and that the director followed it.

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