NEW: 10-part dialog editing blog found here!
Different types of sound editing
Sound editing for picture can be broken into different elements (and job titles):
- Dialog editing (dialog editor)
- Music editing (music editor)
- Sound FX editing/sound design (sound designer, sound fx editor)
- Foley editing (Foley editor)
These roles could be different people or it could be one person doing all of the above. In credits, if someone is listed as “Sound Editor” they likely worked on multiple elements.
As we saw previously in What is an AAF and Why Does it Matter, the materials are brought into an audio workstation from a video workstation (through an AAF or OMF) and then “split” so that each element is placed on appropriate tracks. The dialog editor is responsible for going through all of the dialog tracks for the following:
- Organizing files within each set of audio tracks
- Sorting through tracks and removing regions so only usable or preferred/best mics are remaining.
- Once the appropriate mics are in place: adjusting fade ins, fade outs, cross fades, and filling in holes as necessary.
- Removing unwanted sounds such as pops, clicks, hums, thumps, or other noises that can’t be removed by real-time mixing. Sometimes the dialog editor can remove other non-desirable sounds like dogs barking or sirens.
- Repairing sounds that can’t be fixed by real-time mixing (such as mic dropouts)
- Editing ADR (actor’s lines that were re-recorded in the studio) and voice-over narration
The fundamentals of dialog editing
Here’s an example of a very basic dialog edit; The above track is edited while the grey track (lower) is how it was delivered by the picture editor (via AAF).
- Notice how in this example there’s a long fade in and fade out. This is to help make the ambience come in and out naturally.
- In the middle, the original dialog had a hole between two regions. The dialog edit “filled” that hole and added a crossfade.
- Towards the end of the clip (the 5th region), an edit was moved slightly to clean up a bad dialog edit in the middle of a word.
- At the end, the original audio had some unwanted noise. That was replaced with clean audio from earlier in the track then faded out.
Before dialog editing
After dialog editing
This is a before and after look of two tracks of dialog. It’s two people with separate mics talking at close proximity. Even just looking at the waveforms (without listening) you can tell when one person (or both) are talking. There’s a bit of bleed from one mic to the other. If you edit out the bleed it makes the person talking sound much clearer.
Even though you can tell a lot from the waveform it’s still a good idea to listen through each track. Sometimes there’s low level sounds you want to keep like a quiet word or laugh.
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). For example, when working on reality tv shows (or documentary), I like working with two sets of dialog tracks: interviews and in-scene dialog. Here’s an example of a reality show where that style of editing would be useful: