Assume that you're looking at a scene with dozens of hard synced events that need a few layers of sound per event. Something like a fistfight or a shootout.

What's your specific workflow for finding all of the sync points and then cutting the various layers of sound to those sync points?

I have my methodology which I'll edit this post with once a few answers are in, but I'm eternally curious as to whether I'm doing this as efficiently as I can. Thanks in advance for any responses.

-- edit:

ok, here's my workflow

1) go into grid mode and spot all sync events with markers to the frame edges

2) grab a group of sounds for a layer and begin cutting the transients to the markers. This typically means going into tap to transient mode, tabbing, hitting "b" to break the region at the transient, and then grabbing the region and lining it up to the marker. if there's a lead up to the file I'll usually just manually trim it back out again.

(as a side note, one thing I don't do is to use region markers on the transients. I haven't found the workflow there that makes me faster yet, but I'm suspicious that one exists.)

3) with one layer cut I'll move on to the next using a similar technique. if there are swishes that lead up to the transient I'll usually just eyeball those once the impact are in.

4) once all the layers are in I'll begin tweaking the timing things that Tim outlined. Sometimes events do have to be moved to accommodate musicality and other things. This is also the point at which I'll work on the balances more consciously.

ok, spot the flaws there. any useful critique is appreciated.

--another edit

I found this tutorial that gives me a better look into how I might improve using the sync points.


still digging...

  • I'm very interested in this myself. Not something I do very often, but the work is coming up more and more. Dec 21, 2011 at 0:30

3 Answers 3


I tend to mark a scene or sequence using markers, and then split elements across as many sets of stem source tracks as is required...

In terms of sync, insuring the hard attack of sounds is tight between layers is VERY important - one sound early in sync by 1/4 frame can blurr the attack on all the elements...

Another sync consideration is score - it may mean moving sync by +/- 2 frames to benefit music/FX relationship, whether fx move in sync with music/tempo or move to sit in the gap depends on the context & what matters most....

  • Nice mention of the relationship to score, Tim. Many times this relationship trumps the importance of actual frame accurate sync by a few frames as you mention.
    – Brad Dale
    Jul 13, 2012 at 15:11

@Rene, I'm pretty close to where you're at. One thing that I've found useful...

If you have a single file that contains multiple hits. Rather than switch to Tab to Transient (Opt+Cmd+Tab for those still mousing up to the top of the screen), I'll use Beat Detective (cmd+numpad8). Under Operation switch to Region Separation, then Capture Selection, Analyze (pick the correct High/Low Emphasis depending on the file), then use the sensitivity slider to slice up the file. I typically use this trick on footsteps and it works great.

But in your scenario, what's a typical number of stems you're producing? ie. Hits, Whooshes, Gunfire, GunHandling, etc?

  • obv the number of layers you use is very dependent on the visuals, the style, and the context. sci guns can get pretty ornate (lfe, mech, synth, blast, chargeup, etc) whereas I use the same spotting techniques on simple character clicks on screen text when i just need to spot a click to each letter as it pops up.
    – Rene
    Dec 21, 2011 at 21:20
  • great idea on Beat Detective Dec 21, 2011 at 21:24
  • right, +1 on the beat detective thing.
    – Rene
    Dec 21, 2011 at 22:01

I usually have some sort of moderately detailed plan in place before I start spotting effects to the timeline, and I'll start with the foreground or most active elements for the scene. It's kind of like how a lot of painters will start out with a line sketched on the canvas, before they put paint to brush. Once I have the key elements in place, I evaluate my original plan. Now that I can physically hear (not just in my head anymore) how the scene is working and what it still needs, I'll make any amendments to the plan I feel are necessary and move further into the background and supportive elements.

While I repeat this with each layer I add, it doesn't really take a lot of time. It also moves faster with each pass and layer, because I'm just adding refinements and detail. The further I get into it, the more minute the changes. I do this to try and avoid having too much sound in the scene. On the whole, I tend to take things away when I mix. Occassionally, I'll find things that need to be added, but it's not that frequent. This process helps me determine what's important at edit, and means I have less to mentally process in the mix. I'm just trying to make the mixer's job a little simpler and efficient; whether that's me or someone else.

  • 1
    its funny how little planning I do before I start cutting sounds. :)
    – Rene
    Dec 21, 2011 at 21:21
  • @Rene - my plan develops when I'm doing an initial spotting session...just watching through the scene to see what is needed. I usually get a pretty good idea of what I want to do at that point. I do get stumped sometimes though, and need to "sit" on the hole for a while. ;) Dec 21, 2011 at 21:24

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