I am curious what everyone template for creation of sound effects to picture are. I have a good overall "God" Mix template with all the stems and routing and things I need, but I find that when I am working on a specific sound or set of sounds and creating new sounds with many plugins, my sessions just get out of control and jumbled up. Trying to get some structure in place so that if I ever have to revisit a design session, it will make some kind of sense.

6 Answers 6


I know what you mean. Sometimes I wish I had the ability to have track folders like in Logic, a feature that Pro Tools hasn't absorbed yet. I'm not sure if you're asking about a literal template file or just a standard structure for your workflow, but ultimately it's just about your preference.

Let's say that I am designing a standard romantic comedy — chatter, music, standard foley, some basic hard effects, and one big car crash etc. I'm going to speak in Pro Tools terms, obviously this would vary with other DAWs. The stems for RomComX starring Shmatthew Shmcconaughey might, for example, break down like this:

  • Production dialog
  • ADR
  • Walla/Ambient Vocal
  • Environmental Atmos
  • Hard FX
  • Foley
  • Music

Here's how I handle large sound sequences that clutter up your individual sessions. Say that the car crash sits within the 'Hard FX' stem. To match the big crash on screen, I've piled together 35 tracks of metal impacts, scrapes, glass shattering, etc. To keep the Hard FX session from getting too cluttered, I'll bounce these 35 down to 5 sub-category stems: metal impacts, scrapes, glass shattering, and low-frequency material. Once I've bounced the individual 35, I hide and deactivate them. They're still there — each with a track name that looks like "CC.glass1" to make sure I know that it is a layer of the "Car Crash" — but now they're invisible and taking up no CPU power. Each time I make a new edit to the sequence, I'll re-activate the tracks and make the change, then bounce to the same 5 sub-stems on a new playlist . This way, I can easily switch to the previous playlists to compare with old edits later on.

For each major sound moment with unique track content, I will usually do one of these sub-mix setups. Once I hit the mixing stage, I can still control the balance between the layers of the car crash (and what gets sent to reverb and FX) without having to open up the 35 individual tracks.

When setting up your mix session, you want to make things as intuitive as possible for yourself. For instance, I always leave insert slot 1 for an EQ/filter and insert 2 for a compressor/limiter/gate. Even if a track only has a delay on it, I will still stick the delay on insert slot 3. Same goes for sends: for RomComX, send 1 is always Room Reverb 1, send 2 is Room Reverb 2, send 3 is Sweetner Reverb, send 4 is delay, send 5 is special effect. This way you can start to associate a particular send with a type of sound, and you don't have to think twice to know which knob to reach for.

And when you're in the heat of a creative spark, of course you're going to create a million tracks called "audio1, audio2, ... audio47). Just make sure to go back and organize them.

Let me know if that makes sense, I can't always explain it to my own brain ...


  • @Matt I like that approach, I think playlists are something that could really help me out, I have no idea what they are :) Still getting used to pro tools. Having consistent sends is also something that I never really thought about. What do you end up doing when looking for the right source material to make something that does not really exist? Like spaceships, alien things, etc. This is where I get really messy because I rummage through tons of raw material and start sending them to crazy plugin chains and go bezerk. ultimately ending up with the audio1-50 of chaos :) Aug 16, 2012 at 0:38
  • Ah, gotcha. I still think you just need to budget a little time for tidying. It's fine to get in the flow with unnamed tracks, but the longer you wait the longer it will take to organize them. My method of organization works well with my method of design, which works in layers and sub-layers — so when designing a spaceship passby, I usually know if the sound I'm working with will acts as a doppler whizz-by, engine mechanics, or internal propulsion drive. A good use of the 'comments' section of a pro tools track is to explain what the hell all of these categories are.
    – Matt Glenn
    Aug 16, 2012 at 1:45
  • With plug-in chains, all you have to do is attribute the chain track to the category it serves, then deactivate it when you're done with it. Here is a good video on how to use pro tools playlists: youtube.com/watch?v=6WuV4nvX0zk.
    – Matt Glenn
    Aug 16, 2012 at 1:48

I agree it makes sense to not do serious sound manipulation/design work in your main edit session, for a number of reasons..... first being thats often its better to do serious manipulation at 96k, and then export 48k files to the main edit session....

Second being that you might want literally hundreds of source files available to create a few specific sounds & its easier to not clog up your main edit session with all the source material (eg for creating wooshes I might have literally all of Franks fire library & all of Michaels two rocket libraries in my woosh creation session, along with a lot of other material.. and a few different plugin chains.... Certainly dont want all that in the edit session!)

Another is that its valuable to be able to leave plugins enabled & setup, especially when the sounds created are dependent on them, but they aren't the sort of plugs you want to carry in the main edit session... Especially as their automation may have no relationship to picture and they wont want to be conformed the way a main edit session does, when picture changes)

And there is definitely merit in having a design session (and every version of tis evolution) archived for every major design element, simply because as VFX etc become finalised you may need to revisit it (and/or earlier versions of your designs) to create variations...

Having said all that, there are also times I want to work in context, and even in my big edit session I usually have a few disabled tracks down the bottom, one with Doppler on it and another with TL Space, Altiverb etc - these are bused to their own dedicated record tracks, so while editing if I come across something I want to doppler or convolve I just enable the source/plug track & the destination/record track - print versions, & disable the tracks again)

In my big edit session I mainly use VCAs for food groups, but thats for my own monitoring, since I dont mix ITB...


Interesting subject, I have the same issue whenever I'm in a project that get's too elaborate. I mostly realise too late that i should have created an extra design session in PT. But sometimes switching between 2 sessions kills the creative flow.

Your question is not very clear. Are you looking for an overall solution? A sound design Demigod-template? Or do you need tips how to keep everything in working order after finishing the project?


  • @Arnoud I wrote an answer response because the comment field was not enough characters :) Aug 16, 2012 at 0:28

I usually create an aux or 2 with my mandatory Design plug ins. My track layouts change per show, if theres heavy guns, or cars, etc Ill dedicate and cater tracks specifically for those key elements, and create LFE tracks for them as well. But I always put plugins on auxes and send from my DSN tracks and automate the sends and plug-ins accordingly.

Hope this helps


I guess just looking for tips on how to approach things. For instance, I have some rough cuts of the picture currently in which I am trying to design some pretty crucial sounds to the story. They are sounds in which the characters interacts and responds to, so the picture edit is still loose should I need a little more room here and there. I am working very close with the director and editor.

I find that when on a roll and just free associating things, I end up duplicating regions and tracks many many times so that I have different "sets" of options. The end result is a big mess of tracks, plugins, bussing etc, that all make sense at the time, but months/years down the line may make absolutely no sense.

I do not like having the "design" sandbox to be in my main mix/edit session because I play files and record in real time and just mess around with things, until something strikes me and then I start to fine tune it. Many times this audio gets sent out of protools into another program and then ingested back in.

End result being that I end up with different Layers that I am happy with and I bring those into the mix session.

So I guess I am looking for tips on keeping things open and creative but within some kind of structure that makes sense. This is my first project where this much actual design is a factor so I am curious as to what steps should be taken and what information needs to exist to make a decent workflow to the mix sessions.


Michael, have you seen this video. I found this incredibly helpful for organization.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.