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I just jumped on-board to do the sound design for this 30min short. The director has asked me to gather SFX, ambiences, etc. before the picture is locked. This is my first big project. Is a movie file with a timecode necessary before picture lock if I'm just putting together (and gathering) SFX. Also, I won't need an OMF file till the picture is "locked", correct? Thanks!

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as others have said, read the script, look at whatever you have access to from the shoot and start gathering sounds.

Also, get the sound rolls ASAP and start going through them. If you have soundminer, put them in that and begin adding the metadata that's spoken into the slates for each file. This will be invaluable during the dialogue edit because you can quickly jump to the soundrolls and audition every take of a problematic line before cueing anything for ADR. You can also jump straight to the takes for the shot your working on to find room tones and foley. This assumes that your picture editor logs and transfers the video in some manner that is coherent with the slates.

I'd also add that you should use this opportunity to get with the picture editor and lock down a workflow system that includes:

  • audio post deliverables ( If you could tell your picture editor anything... )
  • version numbering scheme for the edit. Version numbers will allow you to get preliminary edits that you can work with while keeping your sessions in line with picture changes.
  • a post schedule with specific milestones
  • a contact list of the actors (for scheduling ADR)

Try to sit in on the edit here and there if you can. Picture editors and directors may discuss audio things during the edit that you'd otherwise not be privvy to. You'll learn a lot about the specific emotions that a director will look for in the soundtrack if you can be a fly on the wall during parts of the edit.

You can also (diplomatically) chime in if you see something that's going to be an audio problem happening later. Don't be a nuisance though, be an asset in this setting.

  • Excellent advice @Rene, especially about logging the dialog records (I'm sifting through 18 days of shooting as I speak), and getting a workflow down. That alone can save DAYS in post. – Sonsey Apr 7 '11 at 15:32
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    Everything Rene says is right. My work flow consists of the following... A) read the script from beginning to end. Notate anything that could be sound related or need foley created for it. B) Speak to both the director. ask him what kind of feel he's going for for the film. (Ask for a reference if possible) then research that reference. C) Speak with the editor. Have an understanding about audio. Is he/she going to trim things, or will he/she leave it to you. (hopefully the later). Ask for a time frame for the first rough cut. – Sean Apr 8 '11 at 18:31
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If you're just gathering sounds, you won't be placing them against the picture in any sort of locked-down fashion. If I gather correctly, you're building your source library, and not actually designing the sounds -- yet.

Depending on what you and the director are using, it's possible that you could start laying down the start of the final soundtrack and he'd just export an XML document whenever he makes changes -- I've only read about that, though, so someone else will need to speak up if you need more information.

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I'd recommend going through the samples you record and collect and making notes about where you see them going, how you plan to effect them, etc. Also try to figure out what the most difficult stuff is going to be and maybe do a couple temp passes to get the feel down.

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I actually like to start gathering and designing sounds as soon as possible, assuming it's in the budget (if that is a concern, this may be a "labour of love"). I do however, like to get a copy of the picture in whatever form it is... that way I can see what the visual look is, and get a feel for the way the audio may work. It's also useful for flagging potential ADR issues to come.

  • And yes, an OMF, AAF or other audio turnover, SHOULD happen at picture lock.. although be prepared for changes even after lock. – Sonsey Apr 6 '11 at 22:06
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Starting to collect asap is crucial in respect to time as well as getting a good feel of the film before you actually start to design. I like to go through the script and hi-light stuff and build ambience folders, effects folder, dialogue etc. I also like to listen to the on-set stuff before so that I know what I need to go out and also hi-lighting potential ADR areas and crucial foley segments if there is a a budget/time constraint.

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I would ask for an OMF. It will make it a little easier to fix sync when the picture is locked, and you can also rearrange the sounds from the OMF to make better room for your sounds.

I wouldn't spend time on dialogue or metadata at this point, you'll have plenty to do with that once the picture is locked. Now is the time to get into the more creative side of your sound design, and try to figure out what types of ambiences helps the story.

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The one golden rule I've learned in post sound: picture is truly never 'locked', it's only 'latched'.

That being said, I'm an advocate for getting started with cutting elements, at least roughly, against picture. I'm more than happy to begin working on a non-locked cut, but the client will be billed for each conform and informed of this upfront. So that may be one way to approach it if you feel work needs to be done beyond gathering/creating elements

As Morten mentioned, always ask for an OMF to accompany each picture version - the OMF is the lifeline to pretty much everything in the post sound process, especially version changes/conforms.

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