The Role & Processes Behind Audio Post-Production
The term post-production is widely used in most creative disciplines and can refer to several different types of work that is performed on the raw or original creative content. A simple example would be adding computer generated imagery on top of the pictures of humans and other real-world objects that have previously been recorded. There are several different types of audio post-production work, each of which can be highly specialized. The engineers who perform these tasks are the unsung heroes of the music industry, and every bit as important in making the perfect feature-film as the actors and directors. If you choose to go for a career in this type of work, your name may well end up as just one in the sound effects portion of the credits roll – don’t expect to see your name up in lights! Despite this, many people who do choose to make a career out of audio post-production work still find their jobs extremely satisfying. You might be just one cog in a very big machine but knowing you have played an important part in a popular creative work is a reward by itself; the salaries can reach very reasonable levels too, once you have mastered your craft. Let’s investigate some specific audio post-production processes, discuss their role in the creative process, and explain why they are so vital to music, tv, and film.
When a musician or band leaves the studio, you might think that the work is done and the song has been cut, but this is often not the case. Each member of a band is recorded separately using individual microphones and combining each of these instruments into a finished song isn’t as simple as you might think; just because it sounded good in the room on the day, doesn’t automatically mean that you can just combine the parts into a single finished master track.
Once a final mixdown has been created with elements of the musical ensemble perfectly balanced against each other, it is often necessary to create several final master recordings intended for the distribution medium of the final audio. Mastering used to be of vital importance in the days of vinyl-based music distribution, as cutting a record with bass notes at too high a volume could cause the needle to skip out of the groove. When music is played on the radio, the frequency range which can be broadcast across the airwaves is determined by the type of modulation being used to transmit the signal. This is the reason why FM (frequency modulation) radio always sounded much better than other types of radio such as AM (amplitude modulation). The idea is always to create as loud a recording as possible, whilst maintaining as much dynamic range as possible to ensure that the song remains pleasing to the ear.
Sound Effects Editing
Moving over to the visual realm now, adding sound effects to creative content such as movies, TV shows, and video games can be a much bigger job than it first sounds. Sound effects editors will often spend hours looking for the right sound or designing one from scratch if they are unable to find something which fits from their existing library of content. The job has become so great when working on a modern feature film that there will often be teams of sound effect editors that are overseen by an overall sound supervisor, who will look to ensure that everybody’s work fits together and works well alongside the musical aspects of the production as well.
Finalizing and Exporting Your Work
It can sometimes be necessary to supply the audio aspects of a production separately to the video – for example, when movies are shown in cinemas there are often special seats for those who are hard of hearing, so creating an alternative audio track that will remain in sync with the video for this purpose is an essential part of the post-production process. By the time a final master recording is being exported, it will often have been worked on by dialogue editors, sound designers, foley artists and recordists, sound designers, re-recording mixers, and people working in various other roles. People often think that most of the work that goes into producing creative content is performed by those shooting and editing the video and forget just how important the work of the audio post-production team can be. A final step of mixing and mastering is often performed on the overall mixdown – sometimes additional compression or limiting will be required, or excess high or low frequencies will need to be tamed by a final pass of equalization. When all of this is done, your audio will be designated as the “locked cut” – the final draft of the audio part of the project. Finally, you can sit back and hear the results of your work!