I am wondering where the divide is between being a sound effects person and being a dialogue person (and can I guide myself toward one or the other?)

I am constantly forced into projects where I must do EVERYTHING. Scheduling it all is possible, only if you are ok with NEVER achieving what you truly are going for. e.i " Got the DX done, but there wasn't any time to do ANY foley"

Is there a place in indie film for specialists? Or shall we all be Composers, Mixers, DX editors, ADR recordist/editors, Foley Artists, Foley Mixers, Sound Effects Editors, and Sound Designers.

4 Answers 4


Its neither good or bad, but an important factor is that it depends on what stage you are at in your career.

If you aspire to be a supervisor or sound designer then you need to have a deep appreciation and understanding of what every contributor brings to a film mix. Accordingly early in your career it is valuable to get some experience & learn about all aspects...

Later in your career, once you have proved to yourself (& others) that you are actually ideally suited to a chosen speciality, then of course it is inevitable that people specialise because most projects rapidly become far to complex and schedules too tight to do it all yourself, even if you wanted to. But more importantly film making is about collaboration and it is what we each bring to the project and how we collaborate that creates the best outcomes...

As far as indie films go, even the lowest budget projects I've ever done (including short films with no budget) I have always collaborated with a dialogue editor.

  • @tim I have been a sound effects editor for three years. And I do feel like I have proven myself in that arena. (enough to ask for a full paycheck) Its not that I don't ever want to cut dialogue or mix. Its that there seems to be no way to learn this stuff without being thrust into the lead position. Sure, the trail by fire thing is a great learning experience, but the (current) film suffers for it. So I guess my question becomes what is the career path? How do I both learn AND use my skills to generate enough income to not work 2 jobs, which is what I do now (and it is horrendous!!). Sep 3, 2012 at 2:51
  • @tim well said, couldn't have said that point any better myself! Sep 3, 2012 at 3:37
  • 1
    Working on projects with larger budgets requires trust, producers need to see evidence that you have experience with larger budgets.... so maybe you first need to find an established team with a more senior supervisor/mentor, so you can learn & get experience with bigger budgets? FWIW I worked 6 years as a sound FX editor before I got to be sound designer on a properly budgeted feature... 3 years is a good start
    – user49
    Sep 4, 2012 at 4:04

A good question, and as with most good questions they are hard to answer in a simple way.

Being a specialist makes for a pretty good career path. Employers know that you know your job. They won't hesitate working with you as long as you also get a long well with the other team members.

But the more you are known as a specialist the possibility that you will be considered as an asset for other types of work diminishes. If you are known as a great dialog editor, why should they risk using you as a sound effects editor rather than for dialog?

The same goes for an accomplished effects editor.

The tools and workflow for mangling and treating sounds are similar but rarely (if ever) the same when you compare what is done by a fx and dia editor.

How to bwcome one or the other? Persoanlly I think it wil just "happen" to you. If you are the perfect one-man-band for documentaries and fast turn around projects you will be known as one.

If you are great at building a super soundtrack but perhaps not a tech wiz at designing your own sounds you are likely to become a fx editor.

If you do the above but also constantly produce fresh sound design elements and also have a good perception on how to effectively convey feelings with sounds. then you might be considered as a sound designer.

If you are great with rhythm, cadence, tonality, meticulous and fast at operating your daw, you are likely to be known as a dialog editor.

If you know most of the above, have a super personality, are great with scheduling have spent countless hours on a dub stage delivering material to various mixers, then you are a likely candidate for a sound supervisor post.

Mixers, they are the folks who don't want to spend the time creating all the material but love to claim the fame for a great soundtrack while being especially good at time managment... :-)

Personally, I've become a "do-it-all" person. I started in music recording and mixing, transitioned to fx editing and foley recording, then became a dialog specialist, then assisted a lot in mixing, became a mixer, unsatisfied with certain sound effects editors job I decided to try to do better. So now I spend most of my time editing and designing sound effects. On projects I supervise I tend to mix as well. Occasionally I just mix. Right now I'm editing dialog only for a feature but I also supervise and handle the contacts with the director, mixer, composer and editor.

But I've become a "do-it-all" person out of necessity, as being full time employed as staff at a smallish (9 employees but growing) sound post company with a dub stage, 7 editing rooms and handling all aspects of sound to film and TV I need to be able to wear many hats. I'm also responsible for assessing workflow and also the brains behind all things technical at our facility. The only thing I don't do is record dialog on location.


The habit in our country (Hungary) is like u do everithing in one film. From Field record to Mixing. (of course u have boom operator,or maybe an editor in the studio) Its really nice, when u follow the whole project alone, and u work with in the studio what u recorded in the field. not that it would not be good professionals here at home, because many foreign production come here, and work with our sound engeniers, but i guess u cant immers deeply in one thing in this way. it shows in the movies sometimes...


Chris, with the way most film and video is produced, I think it's in your best interest to be able to offer more than one audio skill to a production. You don't want to be the "jack of all trades, but master of none", but competent in a few different areas makes you more employable.

After 26 years in audio, when I am hired now for a gig, I take it from recording on location, to writing the underscore, to mixing and mastering for broadcast - I take responsibility for all aspect of sound for that production. I used to have close to 50 clients when I was known only as a location audio operator, jumping from 2 day gig to 7 day gig ect., but now I cater to 6 clients and do 3 to 5 complete shows a year. Jumping from the studio to location is kinda nice.

  • Thanks Dean, I guess that I am just gonna have to tough it out. I am getting better at Dialogue and Mixing with each project. I just hate to have to put out poor sounding stuff just for a lesson. Sep 10, 2012 at 0:16

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