Audio Editing

So you've made a film. Maybe a TV program, a short, or a feature length film. Maybe a cut scene for a game or something for a webisode. You've planned, shot, and edited your way to perfection. Well, almost, because now all it needs is to be mixed. That can't be too hard, can it?


Communication is paramount when collaborating with someone, which means you knowing the same key words as your dubbing mixer. Here's a few for you:

  • Dialogue - really obvious, the speech the actors say
  • Music - even more obvious than dialogue...
  • PFX - Production Effects, the sounds that were recorded on set
  • Foley - the 'natural' sounds (footsteps, cloth rustle, handling objects etc.)
  • SFX - Sound Effects, the 'unnatural' sounds (huge explosions, whooshes, zips and boings)
  • Atmos - Sometimes called Atmospheres or Wild Tracks (background noises that aren't necessarily seen on screen)
  • M&E - Music and Effects (a mix of everything except dialgoue, especially useful for overdubbing in foreign languages)
  • Buzz Track - Sometimes called Room Tone (the sound of silence from the room during recording)


Once you've edited your video, maybe even put some music to it and added in some of your own sfx, you need to consider how you will send the files to the mixer.

AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) is a nice, easy way to send everything you need. Pretty much all video editing software will export as an AAF file that will contain your video, audio clips, crossfades and so on. It usually won't carry plugin effects though, so if you've been using a reverb effect make sure you let your mixer know.

It's good to stick with an audio file quality. If you've recorded in 24 bit, 48 KHz, make sure you let the mixer know this and that any other files you make are the same. It's not the end of the world if you send something different but it could slow the process down slightly.

The video file you send, however, can make a big difference to the mixer. Always check with your mixer first as to what they want, but as a rule of thumb they almost always want a low resolution version. They don't need to see the footage in all its 4K glory, especially if they are needing those computer resources to focus on the sound. By sending a low quality video file you can make sure the mixer's computer can handle it. Some audio programs are not a fan of H.264 either, so it's always worth a quick check.

Ever heard of a .BWF file? It's a .WAV audio file with bells and whistles on. It's called a Broadcast Wave File and it allows you to add metadata to your audio files. If you are sending the complete sound collection from the shoots (which by the way can be very useful to a sound editor/mixer) it can really help to have spent a bit of time logging in some metadata such as Scene, Take, or Notes, even Timecode. Particularly if the files are all called Audio 1, Audio 2, Audio 3...

The nightmare

This. This is what a sound mixer dreads to see.

Audio tracks have obscure names, the clips themselves are labelled with even more bizarre names, and they look like they've been fired out of a shotgun and hit the screen randomly. In fact, when you go through each track (which the mixer will have to do, charging you for the time to do so) and listen to each clip you will find that the dialogue is mixed in with foley, that some PFX and SFX are chopped up and placed in between buzz track, that buzz track is missing in most places, and that the whole thing is pure and utter chaos.

Now, a good mixer will spend the time to go through all of that and organise it; but that's time and money taken out of your budget.

Make your sound mixer happy...

If you spend a little bit of time preparing the file first, you can save time and money at the mixing stage. Do some of these tips:

  • Put all dialogue onto their own tracks (one track per person) and include a separate track for buzz track
  • Put all music cues on the same track (or if using stems, bunch them together with clear labels)
  • As much as possible, put SFX and PFX on their own tracks. Sometimes the PFX is part of the dialogue track which is understandable (for instance an actor is walking whilst talking) but if it's possible to separate them out then do so. A good mixer will be able to take the dialogue and mix it separately to the PFX.
  • Label everything! Tracks, clips, use metadata if you can. The better labelled things are the easier and quicker it is for your mixer to get to work.

...will make you happy

By doing these tips, your mixer will be able to work much faster which will in turn be cheaper for you. You will also have a better understanding of what they do and how it can impact on your project, and it will make sure you can spend more time and creative energy on shaping the mix rather than simply getting through it.

Happy filming!

Barry Ryerson

  • Nov 18
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  • Barry Ryerson