I work mainly in the broadcast/advertising industry and, as such, a large majority of my projects are very quick turnaround. A typical challenge here determining the level of detail you can produce consistently across the whole spot and still meet the deadline.
My general strategy when I start spotting a project is to categorize the sfx by what will be easy to produce, what will be more difficult to produce, and what I can leave out if need be. I like to work on the more challenging segments first, when the project is still fresh and I’m less likely to get burnt out. If I’m stuck on something I force myself to switch gears and work on the easy stuff. Once I’m confident I’ll have plenty of time to finalize the mix, I start improving the detail, revising any sounds I’m not in love with, and replacing library effects with custom recordings.
What’s your strategy for budgeting your time? Would especially love to hear from those of you who have worked on longer term projects since I have less experience in that area.
I always allow time for procrastination and unforeseen events such as anything breaking down. If you have a week to do something I’d say always assume that at least one of those seven days will be lost due to issues such as hardware failure.
I always start with the Foley, specifically footsteps. I’ll do all the footsteps and cloth movements. I then do the dialogue clean-up and then whatever SFX remain + sound design if needed.
I recently worked on a web series which took a few weeks and I have another one which will last longer. I tend to go through all the episodes and do one thing at a time for all of them. I’ll first record the footsteps for ALL of the episodes, then the cloth for all of them, etc.
Not only do I find the Foley to be the easiest to do, which is why I do it first, but if something happens and we have to stop work for some reason, it’s better to have the Foley and Dialogue with a minimum of spot SFX rather than have complex sound design with no footsteps.
I would say that 25-30% of my time is spent on recording the basic stuff but then the 65-70% is where I actually earn my money by polishing it, adding detail and just generally making it stand out. It’s what makes the difference between hiring a sound designer/re-recording mixer rather than having the picture editor cut in some footsteps from a library.
If I had to work on a short sci-fi film for example, and I had one week, I’d most likely schedule my time as follows:
Day 1: Download files from the editor, setup the Pro Tools session, light Foley work
Day 2: Full on Foley work, get the footsteps, cloth movements, weapon handling, etc. The more obvious stuff
Day 3: Dialogue editing, cleaning-up
Day 4: Sound design
Day 5: Sound design, mixing and adding more detail
Day 6: Final mix session after resting my ears since the previous mix session
Day 7: Leave available in case something goes wrong with the hardware. This also allows you time to upload everything to the editor and the luxury of making changes or fixing things if something is wrong for whatever reason
PS: During that week I’d send updates (notes + video files) to the director, ideally every evening, worst case scenario once every two days.
In the case for advertising as an example, something with a quick turnaround, I make sure I have a solid template. Sometimes I only have a few hours to turn something over when mixing a spot, and if my template isn’t set, I just lost a lot of valuable mixing time.
Outside of that, I think it’s really important to try and understand , as best you can, what the client is looking for/wants, what the story requires when you watch it, and lastly, what deliverables are required.
The production fx may sound great, and/or the client may hate foley unless they deem absolutely necessary. Same with backgrounds. Talk about a waste of time doing a ton of work on both only to have the client say no, I don’t want that, it’s distracting me from the story.
It’s my client’s priorities I’ve got to look to address first and foremost. As much as I’d like to do something cool here or there, if it’s not on their list, it’s going to have to be addressed after I’ve hit their priorities, if I have the time/budget.
Once we sit down together and discuss the film or project, going through it, then I can begin budgeting things out more appropriately. I like to look at the dialog right away and see what my obstacles are there. How rough is it? Will it be easy to assemble if I’ve got dailies, and they only have the mix track in their aaf? Are there any major areas that may require ADR?
In addition to dialog work early on, I want to find out if there’s any specific sound sequences, or sound ideas that the client is very concerned about, and wants to dial in. The last thing I want to do is go all out on a sound or sequence, only for the client to say they’d like it to go in a different direction. This will give me a chance to start putting ideas together early on, giving the film makers a chance to react and give input.
From there I can start filling out the rest. If the deliverables don’t require a fully filled M&E, then there’s a lot of foley I probably don’t need to do. If I know the film makers just want a music playing in a montage or scene, then it may be something I don’t need to worry about cutting fx into, or can at least move it down the priorities list.
Depending on the scope/scale of the project, I try to discuss goals with with the client. I can’t shoot for the moon if I’m given a toy rocket. It’s at this point we can discuss how we may be able to achieve their goals given our combined resources. If the budget is small, I think it’s a very important discussion to have so we as professionals don’t get taken advantage of, or feel like we were taken advantage of because we spent too much time on a part of the project that wasn’t a priority for the client.
Often in my case, the time schedule are really tight, more like 3 days with change in the cuts alongside, which leaves no time for procrastination even if I wished ^^
I work per layers, having the background and atmos first for the whole commercial, then I move to foleys, SFX.
When I’m done with those, I go more in details for every sound, make it feels right. I do them all. Then it is mixing (no secret about it) and TV compliance mix + web mix