Behind the Sound: Grid Down
To watch GRID DOWN, please click HERE!
It feels great to jump back into DVXUser’s film fest, ScareFest! I had the great privilege of working with talented director Shawn Nelson on his new short “Grid Down”. Thank you Shawn for letting me do a Behind the Sound blog post on Grid Down!
I love doing DVX fest’s because of the extremely tight turnarounds – it really does keep everyone on their feet. There’s a ton of pressure on everyone to complete these shorts, but in the end, it’s all about the experience and really having fun with it. Not to mention, DVXUser folks are all really cool to work with and I’ve definitely made some long term creative partners throughout these years.
To get started, here are my PT session specs:
- Everything was edited on the new Pro Tools 10.0.0
- 48khz @ 24bit @ 23.976FPS
- Mixed in 5.1 and Stereo (LoRo)
- Some plugins include DMGAudio, Waves, Audio Ease, and Digidesign (Avid) stock plugs
- Total Track Count in PT: 165 (there are some inactive tracks)
- Sound Effects Editor: Geoff Price (Thank you for volunteering your time!)
- Dialogue Editor/Re-Recording Mixer: Me
- Turnaround time for post sound: Exactly 1 week
1) Receive deliverables from Shawn. QT with TC burn, 2pops, and OMF with 5-10 seconds handles (can’t remember right now).
2) Convert QT into DV Codec
3) Import QT (included guide track) into PT10.
4) Import OMF into PT10 (See picture above). Shawn generously sync’d all the production audio for me
5) Adjust OMF to match QT (Final Cut has always had an issue with this…).
6) Split out dialogue (DX) and sound effects (SFX) Pro Tools sessions for Geoff and me.
7) Upload edit sessions to FTP.
8) Edit Edit Edit
9) Receive score from Herman Witkam
10) Import edited tracks into my master 5.1 mix template
11) Mix Mix Mix
12) Deliver Mixes!
You can go to any post production sound person and ask them, “What’s your worst fear?” Well… one thing they might say is… “A horrible recording…” It’s true (even for music). A lot of aspects of post production sound rely heavily on the dialogue. It really serves as the anchor for most things. If the production sound is poor, then the end result will be poor. Crap in = Crap out. If the dialogue recording was horrible, then more time is taken away from the creative aspects and the focus quickly becomes fixing the dialogue.
The boom operator and production sound mixer for “Grid Down” did a fantastic job with the recording. In total, 2 lavs and 1 boom were used on set. Shawn laid them out very nicely for me in the OMF and I actually had OPTIONS to choose from! Kind of like a buffet. I based my decisions on continuity and quality for the most part. I typically shy away from the lav channels, but for interior shoots, I favor them to a certain degree. Shotgun mics indoors generally have some weird phasing issues and a lot of times have to much “room” in the recording. For this film, I think I used the lav and boom channels equally, depending on the scene. I don’t like to mix the lav and boom for the same character within one scene due to continuity and quality mismatches. It’s really noticeable when one compares the quality of a lav to a boom.
The noise floor for “Grid Down” was clean and for the most part, consistent. No roomtone was recorded, but I made it work with the handles and tone between words. Occasionally, there were a few car by’s that I had to get rid of by noise reduction, which includes EQ and a bit of magic sauce ingredients What I can say is I did a ton of automation in order to attenuate/get rid of car by’s. Other than that, the dialogue editing was pretty darn easy due to the great recording. I used a total of 20 DX tracks. I have been in situations where the dialogue recording was just horrendous, and it’s just a complete pain to listen to it and try to fix it. Working with well recorded audio is always fun.
Geoff did a great job with the BGs and SFX. I rely heavily on BGs to hide a lot of things While this is a minimal SFX type of film, I think he did a phenomenal job adding tasteful sounds especially the bass drop to indicate the power has gone on. I especially love the last exterior BGs as our protagonists walk away. After receiving Geoff’s final SFX pass, I added a few more things such as the the trailing water drops, more convoy trucks, and voice walla as the Domestic Security Force approaches the front door. I actually took the voice sample from my SFX library. It’s actually some Jamaican New York walla/ambience that I pitched down and chopped up. I think it fits pretty well considering that the audience isn’t supposed to comprehend what’s being said.
Here’s all the SFX used (doesn’t include BGs). Click to maximize:
That’s it. The back end of the film is a bit more music heavy so SFX wasn’t really needed or things would be competing for your attention.
The Wrap Up
This is the first film where I hardly had to touch the Pro Tools fader. All the “clips” – Avid’s new word for audio “regions” – has clip gain, which allowed me to mix much much much easier. It was literally a life saver. Sometimes certain syllables would need some gain or attenuation and clip-based help me with that very quickly. In the past, the TRIM plug or volume automation was used to do this, which definitely slowed down the workflow. I’m glad PT10 implemented this Nuendo-first feature. Herman’s score was probably the only thing that had less clip-based gain and more volume automation. I actually like to feel the fader when riding the music. It sounds/feels much better to me.
I had a great time with this. Like I said, it’s awesome to work with Shawn, Herman, and Geoff. I think the film turned out great! I hope it does well on DVX on hopefully, it’ll get into other film fests around the country. On to the next film…