...what would it be?

I'm doing a talk to the South African Guild of Editors. I have a good idea of what I want to talk about, but I can only speak from my context. Hearing from other sound designers (you) would help a lot in being objective and covering all perspectives.

Topics covered: (any other ones you think would be important?)

  • Making sound editing decision.
  • The picture editor & sound designer relationship.
  • Editing choices that impact the sound design.
  • Deliverables for sound.

Obviously there are different types of projects. The long haul ones that you give your life for, the short one day jobs for cash, and everything in between.

I really look forward to hearing what you have to share!


7 Answers 7


For the purposes of your talk I'd address the following:

Creative editing for sound:

  • visuals are style, story is substance, sound is emotion.
  • for emotional impact, leave space in the edit. Sound is tied to time in a way that visuals are not, and as such the better you get at setting things up with space the more effective it will be when you knock them down with the "big moment". Cramming a bunch of stuff together demonstrates a lack of substance.
  • find films you love and watch them with the sound off. Pay attention to the amount of time certain things seem to hang and observe how unnerving it can be to stare at things with good spacing when the sound is absent. Then do the opposite, rip the soundtrack from the same film and listen to it in headphones with your eyes closed while sitting or laying down. Without the visuals. Observe how the pacing and tempo don't seem to have any real holes and recognize the degree to which sound dictates pacing. Take time to try and describe the more interesting sounds you're hearing on paper as you listen.

the editor/sound designer relationship:

  • learn the language of sound. Specifically learn what tempo, compression, and loudness mean on a technical level. Also learn how to describe specific sonic textures. Learn the appropriate ways to use words like soft, sharp, warm, cold, fluttery, thick, smooth, coarse, etc. This will help you communicate.
  • don't say "hollow." say "verby"
  • never give the following direction "I'll know it when I hear it." Always have an idea of what you want, or otherwise trust the person you've hired to know what he/she wants.
  • never make mix decisions on laptop speakers.
  • learn to trust your own ears. If something doesn't sound right then it isn't right. If it isn't right, use the language of sound to direct.
  • understand that sound and sound design are creative and emotional mediums. As such, temper your language and direction to respect the emotional and creative process that it takes to achieve anything in that realm. Also, allot the appropriate time it takes to do the job well when you need it done well.

technical editing for sound:

  • editing for sound is essentially collaborative editing. As such things like documentation, naming schemes and any other way to facilitate communication are the key elements.

  • log and transfer clips with appropriate names on import.

  • trust your ears with the source audio. If something sounds wrong in the edit suite, then it is wrong. Take steps early to rectify that, or plan for what post will have to do.
  • never render audio effects destructively if your project is going through audio post.
  • deliver complete sound rolls well in advance of picture lock.
  • have a head an tail pop in the session for sync ref.
  • keep your audio tracks logically organized. When you deliver them we can see them exactly as you're working with them, and untangling your mess is expensive and prone to human error.
  • know the exact frame rate and sample rate of your session.
  • plan to deliver in enough time for the audio department to do its job when you're done.
  • always plan for revisions.


  • sit with an audio post guy or gal and ask them to critique a video delivery when you can. Do this more than once.
  • never deliver mp4 or m4v files.
  • deliver quicktimes formatted with a timecode burn in, head and tail pops, and the appropriate frame rate. DV codec is the most compatible codec, but check with your audio dept for what they prefer.
  • name your quicktime with the project name and version number.
  • deliver an edl named with the project name and version number.
  • deliver an AAF or OMF that has audio embedded. Include at least 5 seconds of handles on the clips. Include all appropriate audio from the project.
  • name the AAF or OMF with the project name and version number.
  • send an email or other written form of instruction with any notes and with contact info and delivery requirements.
  • Holy crap... Can we steal this? Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 19:25
  • absolutely. I actually give this talk every so often at the art institute here in Dallas. I'd love the other Uni's and colleges to let me in to speak there as well.
    – Rene
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 20:07
  • 1
    Brilliant! What an answer... Thanks so much. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 20:59

Hand out copies of this article from Randy Thom:


  • Wow, I read this when I just started sound design. It will be good to read it again. Good idea about giving it to them to read as well. Thanks. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 21:01

Probably too many to list, but the ones that are bugging me the most from my current project are:

  1. If you're going to cut to music, particularly when you're showing the performers on screen, you'd better understand how to identify the beat and phrasing of music. Cut on the beat, and make sure the cut is between phrases (not in the middle of one).

  2. Don't decide for me what channels of production audio you think are best (multi-mic situations). Send them all to me and let me choose; otherwise, I'm sending the director back to you when there are complaints that the sound of dialogue doesn't match between edits.

These suggestions don't usually apply to good editors, but I have worked with too many "experienced" editors who don't know how to cut to music. #2 there typically only applies to newbies, which is the current situation I'm in.

  • I have a single editor that I know and trust enough to let him cut up my music. Anyone else, I'll ask them to cut it up how they want and send me the clip so I can reedit the music myself. Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 15:44
  • Really good points, thanks! Adding them to my list :-) Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 20:58
  • @Dave - I don't have problems cleaning up music edits, but when the music is being played in sync, on screen, it makes it a little hard to clean up edits that entirely ignore the meter of the piece. That was my problem this time around. I was able to get things close to proper timing (fudging the sync here and there a bit where I could get away with it...thanks elastic audio), but I was lucky in that they're background elements. So, the foreground audio elements help keep attention away from the smudgy spots. ;) Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 2:45

Maybe a simple I love you


• Don't cut in the middle of phrases/words!!

• Choose takes not only because of the good image, they need to SOUND good as well.

• Give us all the tracks, please.

• Be open to accept modifications on the edit to achieve better emotional storytelling (obviously with director's blessing).

• Think about sound design potential to tell without showing. Believe in off screen sound!

  • 1
    love that last point.
    – Rene
    Commented Mar 18, 2011 at 23:38
  • 1
    I especially love editors who create sentences and make people say things they didn't originally say and expect me to handle it and work magic to make it sound smooth and like that is what he originally said.
    – Utopia
    Commented Mar 19, 2011 at 2:56

If you are going to talk about documentaries, then try to make the point about intelligible dialogue.

If have often worked on documentaries where the editor and the director have fallen in love with a specific sound bite, where the main character says something important, but almost impossible to understand. Often they didn't understand it themselves until the 10th time they heard it, but it is the only event in all of their material, where the point comes across.

The problem is that if it is so hard to understand, it will probably be impossible to make it intelligible in the sound editing, no matter how much EQ'ing or noise reduction you use.

The way to solve this problem is to try to tell the story in different ways, create some other scenes to help out the scene with the bad dialogue, so this piece of information you were supposed to get from the bad dialogue doesn't get too important.

The final possibility is to have subtitles in that scene.


Four words: Lock your damn picture ;)

  • haha! Yes indeed... Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 9:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.