Dear All,

I am right now working on mixing a documentary for broadcast TV.

There are quite a few sound effects I'd like changed and/or reworked from scratch from my own personal taste because the cheese factor is strong with these ones.

I'm curious how you go about rejecting or asking for a rework to be done? Do you go through the producer, director, or straight to the SFX editors themselves? What is the convention on this type of thing?

There really isn't a "supervising sound editor" on this job - just the editors themselves.

Am I totally out of my mind if I think I can just reject something that I don't see as fit for the final soundtrack? And how to I go about not hurting the editor's feelings? Obviously he thought it would be a good idea to place those effects there, and I don't want to be the bearer of bad news and all but I just think for the good of the project that the soundtrack can do without those effects. I don't want to tear the heart out of some intern, though.

How much say does the Mixer have in the final soundtrack? My guess would be a lot because he's ultimately responsible for running it off and making it "sound good". So I think it's perfectly fine to reject something back to an editor if something's not quite right. But am I wrong in thinking that?

Basically, foley/spot effects are all pretty much cheesy stock library effects that have either incorrect physics (very strong bottle-down on a table when he lightly places it there) or incorrect sounds altogether (a bunch of people fall down and they literally cut in BOWLING PINS falling over)... And this is a pretty straightforward piece. No tounge-in-cheekness about it. Just a run-of-the-mill History Channel documentary going on here.

What would you do in my situation?

Thanks! - Ryan

2 Answers 2


Here's how I see it: I think you have every right to pull it. You were hired as Re-recording Mixer. In my book, that's Lead Decision Maker in Charge of What You Hear, who reports to the Sound Supervisor, who reports to the Director. When there's no Sound Supervisor (as is usually the case with cable TV docs), tag! You're it.

But here's why I see it that way: Where I work, we're typically hired to provide everything audio post. We do it all under one roof: narration recording, dialog editing, sfx editing, foley, re-recording. Depending on the project, anywhere from 1 to 5 of us work as a team tackling the different aspects of the job to get it done in a timely manner. But regardless of the number of people working on a project, whomever is acting as the Re-recording Mixer also acts as the Sound Supervisor. They are the liaison between the client and the entire creative staff, and they are usually chosen by the Post Supervisor for their compatibility with both. They will more than likely be the only one who listens to the show in it's entire context. They will be the one who sits with the Director and presents the final piece. As a result, they have the final say in how the show sounds.

When I act in this position, if something is not congruent with the story and it's work we did, I kick it back if it's a major re-design, or fix it if it's minor and move on. In either case, I have a chat with the editor responsible for the set back so they understand the issue and it hopefully doesn't happen on the next show. If it's an element that was provided by editorial via OMF, like I said in this post, I do as Colin said and keep it tucked away, muted on an inactive track. Safe and convenient for when the producer is confused about new sound design.

So, if I was working with an out of house sound editor I could see where there would be issues rejecting their work. Perhaps the director has had their own approval process already. Perhaps there were specific instruction delivered at the beginning of the edit to address the questionable sounds. How would you know?

If I have any question I contact my client, typically the Post Supervisor. Whoever your client is should be able to put you in touch with whomever provided the elements in question. Just remember, there are multiple ways to say, "What the bleep were you bleep-ing thinking putting bleep-ing BOWLING PINS in for this shot?!?" Some of them are even very professional, choose wisely.

  • Wow. 2 good answers. Thanks, Steve! Don't worry, I would never approach the editor like that (and hopefully he doesn't visit Social Sound Design! :-)
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 25, 2010 at 3:44
  • Didn't mean to imply that you would act so inappropriately, simply that it was an understandable reaction. Commented Jul 25, 2010 at 4:17
  • Here here Steve, well put and totally true.
    – ianjpalmer
    Commented Jul 25, 2010 at 11:09

From my experience, there's really no rule about this. Often times if I find myself in this situation, I'll fix the sounds, but I'll keep the old ones, just in case. I'll show the director the new sounds, and if he likes them, we'll keep them.

Often times I won't tell him I changed the sounds. If you tell someone you changed the sounds, they will over think it. If you don't, they often say "wow, you really made my effects sound great!" to which you say "thank you." Sometimes I'll tell him I changed them, but not all the time.

What I find is that directors and editors get attached to their temp sounds because it's what they've heard hundreds of times during editorial. So when they hear new sounds, it feels foreign to them. So sometimes you'll need to "sell" your sounds to them. When all is said and done though, it is their project, and you have to do what they want. You can't really "reject" their sounds, you can only make suggestions and hope they trust your judgement.

Again, this isn't any sort of "rule", just what I've found to be true in my experiences.

  • The other thing you have to consider is budget. If they aren't paying you enough for it to be worth your time to redo everything, then I wouldn't redo it, unless it means enough to you to do for free. Again, that's obviously up to your discretion.
    – Colin Hart
    Commented Jul 24, 2010 at 21:46
  • Thanks, Colin. I've heard of sound designers having their work replaced out with an Avid guide track for the final mix because it's not what the director wanted. That must hurt...
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 25, 2010 at 3:45
  • +1 on the budget issue, Colin. But keep in mind that the lost revenue spent looking out for your client may wind up being repaid in repeat business. Now if it's not worth the repeat business is another question... Commented Jul 25, 2010 at 4:15

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