Hi all

I appreciate that every audio project is different, but I was wondering how audio is captured and what is the general audio workflow signal on bigger budget drama/tv productions? I have only ever been involved in low budget shorts, where I've boom-opped and recorded the audio straight into my audio recorder. I then wait for the edit lock, receive the video file with the on-board camera sound, strip out the audio, then go about building the sound from there.

I've never used timecode, or lav mics, or a mixer on set. Just a Rode NTG2 into a Zoom H4n, then editing using Logic Pro. I'm just wondering if anyone with experience of bigger budget drama/tv productions could perhaps shed some light for me?


3 Answers 3


I'd recommend some books such as John Purcell's on Dialogue Editing for Motion Picture or David Yewdalls Motion Picture Sound book for reference.

Think there may be similar threads on here if you do a quick search too.

In general the bigger budget shows will capture sound separately to video/film. This dual system allows more flexibility and general increase in quality. The sound mixer will record a mix for the editor on set that can be used as a guide in addiion to recording isolated tracks (such as boom or lav combos etc ). When picture is edited the sound editor/dialogue editor crafts the dialogue audio tracks from perhaps an OMF and alt/wildtrack recordings in the DAW (often Pro Tools). Removing noises, smoothing shot transitions, using fill etc all come in to play. The dialogue (Dx) is premixed for mixing later along with the other elements such as Foley, BG's, ADR, music in the final mix.

Could go on a lot more but typing on an iPhone is quite tedious! lol

Needless to say it's a big subject and those more experienced than me will no doubt chip in with more detail :)

Hope that helps!

  • @Andy thanks for the info, just placed an order for John Purcell's book :) So the sound mixer would send a "rough mix" into a stereo track for the video editor to sync and have good audio to work with when editing? Then the sound editor would utilise all the "stems" (lav/boom/atmos/spot effects) later in the mixing stage? Where does timecode come into this? Sorry for the novice questions! Thanks Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 11:22
  • The mixer would do their best to get a good mix, not just a rough one laid down. But this mix would be used as a guide by the video editor. The editor would likely send an OMF to the sound editor after. The isolated tracks and wildtracks etc would be used to find better takes, if no ADR is required. Glad you ordered the book, its a great reference. All explained in detail. Enjoy getting your head around it all ;)
    – Andy Lewis
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 12:13

Drama productions vary from only using what was picked up live by the mics on set in front of the audience with sound effects played in as live cues, to an exact replication of the film production workflow, it is more a case of budget.

On a bigger budget it is generally closer to a film that wants to use as much production sound as possible. ADR will only be used for mistakes, and foley and other sound effects will be 'light touch' so that everything sounds 'natural'. This is obviously not the case with Sci-fi or fantasy.

With television you have to be very careful with sounds that could cause television speakers to distort, and dialogue clarity is much more important as you have a wider range of viewers.

So basically for a big budget tv production it is generally film lite.

  • Film Lite.... "All the expectations, half the budget!" :)
    – Sonsey
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 17:07

I'll try to throw in a few things...

In my world, I've yet to work with a recording device that creates a polywave, I always record to a stereo track of some sort. I treat it like two separate tracks and normally pan boom hard R and lavs hard L. Sometimes it's boom hard R and plant hard L, sometimes it's two lavs R and L, it all varies. I always make notes about track assignments in the sound report.

If I'm using a more complicated mic setup (like 2-3 lavs, boom and plant/2nd boom), I'll mix between these mics a bit. What I'm looking for is the best signal-noise ratio (keeping in mind that if I keep all the mics open at the same time, I'll have the highest signal-noise ratio), no phasing, and no movement noise (if I'm not able to get around a talent's movement noise as they cross while another talent is speaking, the moving talent's mic is pulled out at that time).

Of course, in your situation, this is all kind of hypothetical stuff. Because I've never worked with more than a stereo file, when I deliver the audio to the picture editor, they receive that stereo file & my sound reports. When they edit, they've always edited just using that stereo track and when they deliver the OMF/AAF to the dialogue editor, they'll get the same thing. So, the editor is never working with the camera audio. It'll be either the editor or the assistant editor who syncs up the location sound files with the picture. This is because cameras don't always have microphones/sound capabilities (in the case of film cameras) and so it's kind of become standard practice.

Assuming I'm in your place and kind of doing everything (this is more my indie/student film mode, not my larger crew feature length mode), I'll edit dialogue first. Read the Purcell book, but the main bullet points are building fill, fading fill in/out under "mods" (modulations, places where dialogue is happening) and filling over revealing noise issues (director talking, people dropping stuff on set, etc.)

Next comes sound effects. I try to start with my BGs, creating the "world" for this movie to happen in. I'll add in traffic, birds, walla, wind, it all depends on what it's calling for. Then I'll do hard FX, things like doors, guns (if you should be so lucky :p), stuff tied directly to the picture. At this time I'll also either cut or record the Foley (walking, prop movement, cloth movement mostly). Music will happen after that, and then we mix.

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