Forgive me if someone else has already asked this, but I just did a "just for fun" sound design on a short film I found and I had a bit of a problem.

The film is cutting between a sniper and a victim, and it goes back and forth between their two perspectives quite a bit and fast - no fades/dissolves on the picture.

I had trouble making the outside-forest-ambience cut smoothly between the silent sniper's room.

Is there a rule of thumb I don't know about for this type of cutting of ambiences/picture?

I found that if I faded the ambience for too long it sounded jarring, and it took me quite a while to get the exact right fade at the right time (just nudging to find the exact spot and then starting the ambience right there wasn't working for me).

Your help is greatly appreciated, as always...

5 Answers 5


These rules of thumb are handy, but never use them on autopilot!

Every individual ambience cut has a cadence, which should be motivated by the action and context of the scene/s. You may want to emphasize the cut, make the cut unnoticeable or anything between those two extremes. Also note whether there is a time jump, and/or whether an intercut scene is ending. Also if dialogue is led across a cut, then ambience should also lead...

I always checkerboard groups of ambience tracks, so you have total control on the entry & exit of every ambience...

  • Yes, exactly!--
    – user46
    Sep 21, 2010 at 2:53

Typically you'll overlap the backgrounds by one frame and crossfade at equal power when you're doing a perspective change within a scene, and 2 frames w/ 2 frame crossfade for cuts between completely different ambiences, like you're describing. The only time this really changes is if you're dealing with slow dissolves or slow dolly/steadycam/handheld movements between rooms.

Basically , you want the audio to match the cut.

  • Colin You're Back!!! Hey! Thanks for the answer.
    – Utopia
    Sep 20, 2010 at 22:27

+1 to Colin's approach. For perspective-change cuts, I like to to start the 2-frame fade up (and fade out) for the incoming amb on the cut itself... so your fades actually occur in the two frames on/after the cut.

Checkerboarding your ambs will make it easy to keep the levels consistent as you work back and forth.

  • Thanks Joel. I knew there was a rule-of-thumb I can think with. Thanks a bunch!
    – Utopia
    Sep 20, 2010 at 22:30

Nice question. I've also had similar situations. Chances are, you're hearing it (obsessing?) a lot more than your audience would. But still, it's an important decision that need to be made.

Based on the bit of narrative info you've given, I'd think that the jarring of the cuts would work well.

If you wanted it more incognito, I'd probably just get both around the same loudness with a super short crossfade to smoothen the transitions and avoid clicks.

If you where going for someone's perspective, could be interested to keep the ambience on that person even during the shots on the other.

Just a few thoughts. Look forward to hearing what others suggest.


My favorite way to get the fast cuts done, is to get your next piece of dialogue on the last frame of the previous scene. And it gives the feeling of being in the other place right as your eyes realize where you are. Just my opinion.

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