December 30, 2009

Getting Cinemate: #7 Sound Mixing

Sound Mixing involves editing the sound track of a motion picture, that involves three parts:
  • The dialogue spoken by the actors, recorded on location or by dubbing
  • The background score, i.e. the pre-recorded music
  • The sound effects: All that constitutes the ambient sound of the scenes using pre-recorded sounds. To appreciate it better, look at a clip of a crowded market place from any good film. If you listen carefully, you will realize that there are layers of sound, not only corresponding to the visuals, but also relating to things we do not see, but can imagine being present in the scene around the frame. Each sound, from the movement of a cycle to the cry of a bird to the rustling of leaves to blowing of the wind, each little detail that we never really notice while watching a film, is created artificially. It has to be done because shooting in real locations also does not record these sounds- films are mute and do not capture sound! But when the scene is getting readied for presentation, the audience must feel the ambience as realistically as possible. Even in scenes with no music or obvious noise, you will find a layer of sound, making it real. Just sit quietly for a while in your room at night, when there is no obvious sound, you will still listen to the music of the ambient sound. Creating that beautiful effect is the job of the Sound Editor/Mixer.

These three elements of a soundtrack are modified or reinforced to alter the quality of sound. The levels are made appropriate. And then the sound track is ready to be merged into the mute film to create the audio-visual product called a movie.

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