Adventures in Sound Editing - Part 2

MixerGoing for the Take: Okay, you've got your mixer and your equalizer.

Now you must decide which sounds you need for the mixing session.

Much pre-recorded material is available, but you may want to experience the thrill of creating your own sound effects (SFX) like they did in the old radio shows. Crumpled cellophane, for example, makes good rain or eggs frying. But keep in mind you only have two hands to work with and will need them for the mixing board. If you can, have an assistant with you during a mix.

Say you're audio mixing a wedding tape. You can "sweeten" up all your location audio through use of both technique and equipment. You may need to clean up and equalize the live audio vocals a bit.

You'll also want to work on the sound from your outdoor segments-selectively equalizing background noises or reduce them manually during spoken passages. That waterfall, for example, near the wedding party blocked out some of the vocal interaction. An EQ can help, as well as a touch of reverb on the vocalists' voices.

When possible, record musical interludes preceding the ceremony-such as a soloist's number-on cassette rather than relying on a room mike during the shoot itself. If the bride doesn't object, the artist may have a professionally recorded tape of the same material you can use to replace the live track. After all, we are not focusing our attention on the soloist unless there are a lot of close-ups requiring lip sync.

In almost any kind of production, consider using background or "wallpaper" music track for continuity. It will fill in those silent gaps often associated with live footage. One cheap trick; try an inexpensive keyboard with built-in rhythm sounds as background. Use the individual slider on the mixer to boost the volume of the background gently during these silent periods.

If you're relying on pre-recorded music, find selections that don't clash with the theme of your video. For a wedding, don't use anything overly aggressive or dynamic; instrumentals are a safe bet. You may wish to sprinkle in some sound effects like ambience or laughter. Stock music of applause and laughter may follow special introductions at the reception.

By now you will have run out of hands. Starting the CD player just in time while cross fading from the live track to an over-dub makes this a job for an octopus. Pro studios use computer sequencers and remote controls to help. It is best to try a few dry runs before actually recording onto the final tape. While practicing, send the mixer output to a cassette recorder so that you can listen later. It is very difficult to be objective while working the mixer.

With most projects, you'll find it challenging at best to audio edit the entire length in one pass. Use cuts and scene breaks in the video for audio transitions and segues. Have an assistant keep records of tape count and time passed as editing cues. Have him or her act as an audio director, coaching you through the moves.

Complicated editing may require sound recording the output to a tape recording before laying it on the videotape. A minimum of two output channels will be sent to corresponding tracks on a tape recorder. You may use the individual left and right channels of a stereo cassette recorder for two-track mono recording. This is ideal for adding narratives that may require numerous takes. You can then mix the two-track master directly onto the video. You'll have control over each individual channel.

Successive generations do add noise, but what a small price to pay for such flexibility. You can also add noise suppression or filters for the final mix-down. Four, eight, twelve, sixteen and twenty-four track audio recorders are available at recording studios for complicated mixes of numerous audio elements.

It takes a lot of practice to learn proper audio mixing technique. Even a small video switcher/audio mixer demands a lot of attention. The results, however, are light-years ahead of what you produce in-camera.