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Q: Compression, EQ or reverb - where should I start?
Normally a programme is recorded in the studio or outside on location on video tape, normally with the sound track in as good a condition as we can manage. Essentially what we try to do is the obvious equalising and level controlling to produce a continuous and viable sound track, so that when the tape goes into VT editing the video editor has a sensible sound track to work with. Our videotape editors, unlike some others, would expect to do proper audio edits. That is to say that they wouldnt necessarily expect to do the audio edit in the same place as the video edit. They do it at the right place and they use mixers to do proper soft joins rather than hard butt joins, and they will expect to do whatever rebalancing is necessary to make the edits work. The idea is that when they offer us an edited tape it will be be complete and the dialogue track ought to be usable as it is. That speeds up the post production work enormously because we can use a lot of whats already there. It may be that we intend to replace the dialogue, or large parts of the dialogue, anyway in which case we cooperate so that our Sound Supervisors and the VT editors can discuss whats going on. Things like sitcoms can be quite complicated because you are editing more or less a complete track. It has all the voices and the audience reaction on it and if for vision reasons they cant make a sound track that works then they let us know that so that we are prepared when it comes to post production.
The edited master video tape goes into a transfer area where copy work tapes are made of it. The audio is copied onto an eight track Dolby submaster and the video onto U-Matic with matching timecode. The original audio tracks now come to us copied onto tracks 3 and 4 of the eight track with timecode on 8. That goes through the post production process and a final mix goes down onto tracks 5 and 6. The tape goes back into a video area where the audio is laid back against the original picture. It is checked and then its ready for transmission. Thats the simplest process. There are many more complex processes in which the audio involved in the post production has nothing to do with the origination at all. The Staggering Stories of Ferdinand de Bargos is edited from picture material which has come from a variety of sources on which the audio is totally useless. Thats entirely done in post production, the whole thing.