Audio For Film

During the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to get a taste for creating sound for film. The brief was to re-create all the audio for a minute clip from back to the future 2.

This process is a great way to discover what you like and don’t like about sound design for film. Personally my favourite aspect would have to be the creative process for coming up with Foley ideas followed closely by sound effects design and musical composition.

Here is the short clip taken from Back To The Future Two in which we re-created the audio for.

Uploaded by Andrew Monte on 2015-11-18.

We did the majority of work in Pro Tools (apart from the music score I did in Ableton) and used the Avid 24 track D-Command console for mixing, automation and recording

With limited Foley sources we were forced to think outside the box (which seems to be a huge part of being a successful Foley artist). A couple of the obscure things we ended up recording were the Air conditioning breeze in the room (simulating some of the steamy atmosphere)  and Doc’s jacket noise which was actually a backpack we jiggled about.

 24 Track D-Command

24 Track D-Command


Things I’ve learnt from this process have been the implementation of room tone, importance and consideration of atmospheric sounds, music soundtracks, techniques for Foley, dialogue and sound effects/ sound design.

If you have never heard of room tone before I will give a quick example. This technique is not limited to dialogue and can be implemented in lots of different situations. It’s great for masking sounds and especially great to disguise edits.

In a nutshell room tone is a recording of silence at the location wherever your dialogue was recorded. You’re probably thinking why would you record silence? Well when recording dialogue there will always be lots of takes that are later pieced back together. Between these takes are often unwanted noises like pops, clicks or someone banging in the next room.  This means edits will be made and this is what you end up with below.

 Example showing gaps in the dialogue due to editing

Example showing gaps in the dialogue due to editing

When playing back this example above you will hear the absolute silence between dialogues, which if your heard on T.V would be perceived as a problem with the audio. That’s where the recorded silence (room tone) earns its keep.

 You cant see any sound on the room tone track but you can definitely hear it

You cant see any sound on the room tone track but you can definitely hear it

Having the underlying room tone from where the dialogue was recorded allows for the original edits to sound seamless and done in one take. In other words you won’t hear the audio cutting in and out (hopefully). This may also need some fine tuning with levels and equalisation etc.

Another big learning outcome from this exercise was navigating the D-Command console and re-learning a few shortcuts within Pro Tools. I’ll leave you with a few time saving shortcuts that I had forgotten which should be remembered.

Shift + Space = half speed playback

Shift +command + space = half speed record

A (keyboard focus on) = Trim to start (I had learnt but forgotten how good this one is)

S (keyboard focus on) = Trim to end

Option A = Bring the length of all tracks into view.