Dialog Editing Part 7: Dialog organization for different projects

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Dialog organization

There’s a lot of different ways to organize dialog and the style can change depending on a few factors (like the genre of the project or the mixer you’re editing for). Here’s a general overview.

Documentary/Reality tv

When working on reality tv shows (or documentary), it helps to have two sets of dialog tracks: interviews and in-scene dialog. This example has interview tracks (where each track is labeled by character name) in addition to dialog tracks.

This next video shows two characters (Agnes and Chip) talking in interviews then switching to dialog in-scene (around 30 seconds):

At 1:19, we hear Chip in-scene but at 1:31 it switches to Chip talking in an interview (off-screen). The mixer has to do something to make these sound different so the audience doesn’t think it’s a continuation of the same thought.

Even though that’s the mixer’s job to adjust these, the dialog editor helps prep for it. A mixer may want lavs for in-scene but boom for the interview (assuming they all sound good) and it would be the editor’s job to select those mics and edit. This is why it’s important for the dialog editor to know what a mixer’s preferences.

Scripted tv or film

That style of dialog editing doesn’t work for scripted film or tv because there’s no interviews. Instead, you might just have a handful of dialog tracks.

Unless a mixer instructs you otherwise, you typically want to edit the same character/same mic on the same tracks through a scene (in a new scene they may switch to a different track). In this example, there’s 3 people (and three mics):

Your mixer may want a different style of dialog editing, though. This is the same audio but with a different mixer’s preferences applied:

  • No “Equal Gain” fades
  • Long fades coming in and out of each region
  • Use A-B tracks for one scene and C-D for the next

This is one of the challenges of being dialog editor for multiple mixers. You have to be a chameleon as an editor changing style from day to day (depending who you’re editing for). Mixers have different preferences and it’s not necessarily how anyone else does it. Some mixers want longer handles than others. Some mixers have strong preferences about the type of cross fades used or the fade in/fade out style (equal gain, equal power, s-curves, etc). But, there’s also mixers who will say, “if it sounds good to you, I’m happy with it and I’ll come back to you if there’s any problems.”

Always take notes about your mixer’s preferences (or get a project to use for reference). Talk to your mixer if there’s any issues or concerns.

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