Have any of you gotten to a point where you have spent a day on a scene and you listen down to it at the end of the night and there is just something missing and you don't know what it is? Even when you leave it on the board overnight and come back to it the next morning?

What do you guys do?

I'm right now working on a dialogue scene which gets intense and I want to add in subliminal sounds in their environment (posh office building) which add to the tension of the scene, and it doesn't quite feel complete to me, yet.

(I know these kinds of questions are better answered if you were able to hear the scene and see the video, but I can't do that at the moment)

Basically what I want to know is what you guys do to decide you are done with a scene and that it's time to move on?


My advice is to leave it alone for a while. Come back to it in a few days (if possible) and revisit it again. Sometimes you can get too "close" to a work and forget what made it interesting in the first place. Go do something else, work on some other scene, or just do a stream-of-consciousness perusal through your library for interesting sounds; something may spark your imaginiation.

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    +1 bajillion. :-p This is the ultimate advice in all creative disciplines, from art (turn the canvas against the wall and work on something else for a while) to photography (return to shoot the subject under different conditions). – NoiseJockey Dec 22 '10 at 0:26
  • Alright, it's easy to step back from something for a day when you have the time. What if you don't have that luxury? – Utopia Dec 22 '10 at 0:55
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    @Ryan - Step away for an hour or two. Watch a movie that inspires you, take a walk, listen to music, etc. Or, as an alternative, just start throwing stuff in that you don't think will work. Or, as another alternative, throw away everything you've done and start over. That last approach is really, really hard to do, but often times worth the sacrifice. – Jay Jennings Dec 22 '10 at 0:59
  • You're second sentence is the nail to the coffin on the issue faced. I find it can happen by merely playing or an edit too many times in the same way words begin to sound strange when you keep saying them and consciously thinking about them. It's a weird 'auto-pilot' zone - if one is overly consciously awake and aware, it's difficult to get through edits with the constant analysis. There seems to be a sweet spot that one has to strike between full conscious awareness of what they're doing, and intuitive "unconsciousness" of a free mind, almost like lucid dreaming in some respects I guess. – Stavrosound Sep 20 '11 at 8:27

There's a great brief scene in Nolan's insomnia where all the sounds of the police station are heightened for Pacino's character due to his increasingly neurotic state of mind, might help inspire some ideas?

  • Ian, that's great! I'm checking this out right now. I've left the scene overnight and I'm coming back to it with fresh ears this morning and I'll check out that scene first - thanks a bunch! – Utopia Dec 22 '10 at 17:50

I always find the more ears the better. Play the scene for someone. Maybe not even a sound person. THis question is related to the story telling question that is on SSD right now. Maybe there is a moment in the story that is not being addressed or supported.

On one of my first films there was a shot of a missing/stolen engagement ring that is suddenly revealed. It is dropped and spins while everyone watches. I put together a design heavy spin sound with an s-ton of whooshes and such, but the scene just wasn't hitting right. Played it for my girlfriend (now wife) and she immediately said, needs vocal reactions. Once I put in some over the top gasps, the scene rocked. Didn't even need the heavy sound design stuff.



I sometimes use time as a cut off point. If something is not working I just move on to the next thing, and then if I have time at the end I will come back to it. Very often it is a lack of context, sometimes the solution is elsewhere in the project. A sound that is used earlier or later can be reintroduced into the problem scene and it fixes everything.

On other occasions there was nothing wrong, and it was perfectionism creeping in at the cost of time.

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