I was sitting in on an ADR session for a television show at an ADR stage the other day and I was talking to the ADR mixer about how Sound Design is different for TV than it is for Movies.

He told me one of the main differences was that sound designers usually use pre-made scene effects, for example, a crime scene.

For a crime scene, you've got a police-car walkie talkie going, an ambulance siren, people murmering (detectives), some ADR callouts from the forensic team, city ambience or rural ambience, etc. etc. etc.

He said what they do is keep a pre-made pack of sounds like this and then just plop them in on the scene and move the individual sounds around so they fit.

Does anyone else do this?

I personally like to be original and re-create a scene from scratch as I see fit for each project, but do you think it has some benefit to create pre-made scenes to have in your library for some type of project you work on a lot? Especially when you've got a tight deadline like on a TV show or series?

5 Answers 5


Well, it really comes down to time constraints. I've worked on many television shows where this was the standard practice, and although I went in with the "make it unique every time" mindset, I quickly understood the value of template BGs and FX and adopted the workflow.

Bear in mind that many network/cable program execs don't share the same desire for originality that you do; meeting the budget and making the deadline are much higher priorities to them. Also, some line producers actually want the same sounds from episode to episode. It creates a continuity, and helps to tie the series together.

Another benefit to this template approach is that you now have a go-to set of scenarios for ultra-fast turnaround projects, such as TV pilots and low-budget films. When you just have to get it done, it's great to have those pre-built FX and BGs right at your fingertips.

I try not to reuse much/any material from one film to the next (unless it really makes sense to do so), but the schedules for film are usually much more forgiving than those for television.

There's no shame in recycling your stuff -- remember, the best ideas are usually borrowed from someone else!

PS: I wouldn't bother with region groups since you will lose all volume and panning automation. Better to keep recurring sounds in a template session and then import tracks from that as needed.

  • 1
    Thanks J - always quick on the answer and with great ones. Thought I annoyed you recently but glad you still give me awesome answers as always :D
    – Utopia
    Sep 16, 2010 at 7:39
  • @Ryan, shoot me the Best Answer checkmark and we're all good! jk -- ;) Sep 16, 2010 at 7:53
  • and I will certainly be borrowing this idea... Sep 16, 2010 at 17:42
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    – Utopia
    Sep 19, 2010 at 5:41
  • I've actually had some great success with using region-grouped template material, yet I agree with thr shortfall you mention. The caveat of this process is that the region must exist on the timeline somewhere (usually well beyond the 2 hr mark for me). My steps to grab it are: take note of my current timecode, search the region list for the sound, click the region on the list, SHIFT+TAB to select the region, Apple+C, Numpad * and enter timecode I was at, Apple+V. Slightly convoluted, yet it works quite effectively with practice. Aug 6, 2011 at 10:38

A long, long time ago (eg mid 90s) I made a Filemaker Pro database to generate EDLs for PostConform (a Digidesign app for conforming) to conform ambiences for a TV series! So eg we were working on the second & third cycle of a TV series, and I had composite ambiences for most locations and so I output them to timecode DAT, with a log of in/out times for each ambience... When we got each new ep I'd just cue the scenes into my Filemaker Pro database, tag ambiences to the scene & then output an EDL, boot up PostConform & conform the ambiences off my DAT & then start tweaking....

Ahhh TV, I dont miss it one bit - but it is a very good place to hone your skills & get fast at cutting! As the saying goes: "Its not how good you are, its how good you can be in the time available"

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    Ooh I like that quote Tim.
    – ianjpalmer
    Sep 16, 2010 at 9:50
  • The problem that I always have with that thought is I want them to hear them how good it could be if only the time were available... Alas, no matter how much I protest, they don't give a sh!t. At least they keep coming back. Sep 17, 2010 at 2:16

I do this too. A show that we've just finished had a lot of repeated sequences and locations. For the locations I gave tracklay the groups to save them time layering up the same set of sounds each time we're in that location. I also did that for transition sounds (matching the flying logo). It's really handy if you get lots of repeated things.

Time got even tighter so I ended up playing out mixed stereo files for the repeated atmoses and used them instead as I didn't need to balance the individual sounds to create the same mix each time.


Great question/idea......I had never thought about setting up premade background ambiances. Makes sense especially if, like someone said, you're working on a TV series and want the continuity.

  • Could see it working great for packaging elements as well. Opens, graphic builds, promos, transition effects, anything that promotes series continuity. Sep 16, 2010 at 17:45

Yes, this is a common practice, and I am familiar with it - I even highly support the idea for TV. As Jay said, it's a time constraint issue primarily. TV shows, even primetime shows, have a 5-6 day editorial turn around for the entire 45 min show. Templates can save your life and keep a show under control, especially on some SFX-driven shows where it's easy to run 96 tracks or more of cut material. And in shows where there's always new and recurring on-screen cues which must be kept track of.

Tim is very valid too in his quote which supports Jay's notion as well about creativity - yes, there is room to be creative and you want to inject creative ideas into every new show. However, one must learn real fast that there is a point of diminishing return in the TV workflow, and it will creep up on you fast if you're not careful. It's a "creativity in moderation' or 'restrained creativity' I guess - you pick your moments to shine. TV sound editorial I believe is a true shining example of Walter Murch's 'Clear Density, Dense Clarity'

Additionally, many shows have recurring devices, computers, weapons, backgrounds, you name it - and having it at your fingertips in a template (or means to conform it as Tim mentioned) is the only guarantee for continuity.

TV and film are very different mindsets for sound editorial, yet there are advantages of being familiar working in both modes and learning how certain aspects of each can effectively cross over from one another. There is a different type of creatively involved in working within this template-driven TV method, yet it still is a highly creative in nature.

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