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Order of Operations: The Phases of Audio Post-Production for Video Projects

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There are many stages in the audio post-production process, and it’s easy to get confused about the best order in which to complete various tasks. Because audio can make or break a video, a basic understanding of audio post-production is a must for everyone on a video project.

In this tutorial, you will learn about each of the steps in the post-production process, what happens in each phase, and the best way to organize your workflow.

Editing dialogue in Pro Tools
Editing dialogue in Pro Tools.

Order of Operations

The standard process for audio work has evolved over many years of movie and video production, and helps keep audio quality at its maximum throughout. When you are part of a larger team, it’s especially important to follow this order, but even if you are working solo, sticking to this process will make your workflow efficient.

The standard order of operations is:

  1. Dialogue editing
  2. Automated dialogue replacement
  3. Sound design
  4. Foley
  5. Music composition and editing
  6. Mixing

Now let's take a closer look at each phase.

1. Dialogue Editing

In this phase, the raw recordings are organized and synced to the timeline. Unwanted noise is removed and the recordings are trimmed down to the necessary length.

2. ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement)

In most cases, some of the original audio recorded on set will be corrupt, noisy, or simply missing. Other times, the quality is not up to scratch and the tone of the voices is poor.

ADR is the process of recording new dialogue in a studio environment to sync with the video. The actor will lip sync to their original performance as closely as possible.

3. Sound Design

Sound design is the process of creating audio effects for the picture. The sound designer adds wild tracks and new field recordings to create background ambience. Any special sound effects are created at this point, too. Various techniques are used to create sounds, included field recording, heavy processing, and electronic synthesis.

Sculpture a popular synthesizer for sound design
Sculpture, a popular synthesizer for sound design.

4. Foley

Foley is similar to sound design in the sense that it is a process of creating sounds to enhance the realism of the picture. The difference is that Foley refers to human-based sound effects. Foley artists will usually re-perform the scene live, replicating footsteps, rustling clothes and prop movements. These sounds are then edited to match the scene.

5. Music Composition and Editing

In this step diegetic music (sound occurring inside a scene) and nondiegetic music (sound not part of a scene, like soundtracks) is composed and organised. Where applicable, licensed music is also curated and organised.

Mixing in Pro Tools
Mixing in Pro Tools.

6. Mixing

Lastly, all of the audio is balanced to create a final audio mix. EQ and compression are applied when necessary. The individual sounds and the entire mix are measured for loudness and adjusted for optimal volume levels.

And You're Done!

That's the basic audio post-production workflow for video. Having a basic understanding of the phases involved in the audio post-production process will make it easier to work with sound engineers. Follow this workflow on your own projects and you'll be well on your way to a successful video.

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