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Music 265c Lesson 2: Importing Sound Effects

PDF version is available HERE

In our last lesson, we focused on spotting our video: we created Memory Locations at every important event and transition in the video. For this phase of the project, we will use those markers to place our sound effects into our session.

Before we get started, we need access to a sound effects library: several are available in the studio, including the General 6000, Sony Pictures, and BBC Sound Effects Libraries. Copy what you need onto your portable hard drive: there are over 100 GB of sound effects.

Sound Effects

There are several layers of effects that we will combine to recreate the sound we should hear alongside a video. When you import and organize your sound effects into your session, try to work with multiple layers to help keep yourself organized.

Ambient noise: things we don’t necessarily see, but should hear in any given scene. If we are working with an outdoor scene, like a park, we might hear birds chirping, wind blowing, leaves rustling, children playing in the background, traffic nearby, etc. If we are indoors, the room has a certain tone to it: air conditioning, lights buzzing, etc. A restaurant will have patrons eating, silverware rattling, etc.

Music: Music comes in two varieties. The film score is music composed to accompany the video: the characters onscreen don’t hear it. Source music is music that the characters would hear over the radio, in a club, and so on: it is part of their environment.

Dialogue: Any spoken words, including walla (indistinct murmuring from crowds in the background), etc. This is usually dubbed in the post-production process, in several different languages.

Foley: sounds made by the characters when they move. Things like footsteps, clothes rustling, body impacts, and others are usually too complex and too varied to recreate with a sound library. Instead, a foley artist comes in to recreate all of these motions into a microphone.

Action: gunshots, explosions, doors closing, vehicles moving, etc. Whenever someone interacts with something, it probably makes a sound. These are usually the overwhelming majority of the effects that we will recreate.

Importing Sound Effects

In your session, select File > Import > Audio to bring up the browser. Navigate to your sound library and look for your effects. (Side note: if your sound library came with an index or catalog, be sure to have that available since the sound you’re looking for might go by a different name. For example, the engine sound of an Oldsmobile Cutlass or a Honda Civic might be located under “Automobiles” instead of “Cars” and so on). Since you will have many options to choose from, select the file you want to hear, and press the play button on the bottom section of the browser.

If you can’t hear anything, follow the audio setup instructions from the previous lesson. You might have to reconfigure the Audition Path under Setup > I/O > Output. This should be the same setting as your output bus.

Keep auditioning sound effects until you find the ones that you want to use. When you find a keeper, Add or Copy it to the Clips to Import column on the right side of the browser. If the sound effects are at a different sample rate & bit depth, you will need to convert them by using the Apply SRC option. When you’re ready, click Done to import the audio into the session.

From here, you have several options. On the Audio Import Options screen, you can import the clip onto a New Track or move the clip into your Clip List – from there, you can drag it onto an existing track. For now, set the Location option to Session Start – we will explain how the Spot option works in a moment. Either way, move the clip to the appropriate track. We have several ways of moving our clips around using the tools and different modes located in the top left corner of the edit window.

For all of these methods, we want to line up our sound effects with all of the various memory locations that we made in the last lesson.

Manual Adjustments

Select Slip Mode in the top left corner of the edit window, and use your Hand Tool (or Multi-Tool option). Grid Mode functions in a similar way: instead of allowing the clip to slide freely, it will move it to the next grid position in your timeline (e.g. 1 frame, 1 bar, etc) depending on your settings. Click and drag the clip until it lines up with the proper memory location or film cue that you want to use. For example, if we want to add some ambient noise to a scene, we can drag the audio clip into place. For small adjustments, we can Nudge the clip forward or back in time with the + and – keys on the number pad. When you think the clip is in the right place, play the video to check yourself. Manually trim the clip down to the right duration with our Trimmer Tool/Multi-Tool. Be sure to add fades or crossfades to the ends of your clips. You can create fades by clicking and dragging the top & bottom corners of your clip with the Multi-Tool.

Spot Mode

Spot Mode lets us move a clip directly to a specific time in the session. For example, if our scene has a gunshot happening at some point, we can place a memory location directly on that frame: look for the muzzle flash, or the exact moment when the gun fires, and write down that time. Let’s say a bank robber fires a shotgun at the timecode marker 00:01:19:23 (zero hours, one minute, nineteen minutes, and 23 frames into our video). We want our gunshot effect to play at the same time we see the gun go off. Write down this time, select Spot Mode in the upper left corner of the edit window, and click on your clip with the Hand-Tool/Multi-Tool.

In the Spot Dialog window, we have to paste the time we marked earlier into the Start time. When we click OK, this will move the gunshot audio clip to the exact time we noted earlier. From here, go back into Slip or Grid mode and play the video. If the gunshot is slightly off, we can manually adjust or nudge it into place. Be sure to trim and fade the clip as needed.

We have another option with Spot mode as well. Let’s imagine that our bank robber is trying to escape from the police in a car. If he slams on the brakes and crashes into another car, we will need to find a sound effect to recreate this. Using spot mode, we can sync up the sound of the car crashing to the visual impact on screen. Select Slip mode, click on the audio clip, and press E to zoom in on the clip with Zoom Toggle. Keep zooming in until you can see the various peaks in the waveform. Find the moment in the audio clip where the car crashes – it should be a large spike – and click on this peak with the Selector Tool. To create a Sync Point in the clip, select Clip > Identify Sync Point. You should now see a line with a triangle drawn on the clip – our new sync point. Make a note of the time when we see the car crash on screen. Follow the same steps as last time to move the sound effect into the right spot, but this time, we can use the Sync Point option in the Spot Dialog window. Once again, nudge, trim, and fade your clips into the right spot. Since you made a lot of memory locations ahead of time, you will have a lot of effects to import.

To recap…

Use Slip Mode and Grid Mode to make manual adjustments.

Use Sync Points and Spot Mode to sync audio clips to a specific time in the session.

Use the Nudge, Trim, Fade, and Crossfade features to clean up your tracks.

Work in several different Layers of sound effects.

On your first pass through the session, focus only on Ambient and background sounds.

On your next pass, focus on Action: sounds that would be produced whenever someone interacts with their environment (gunshots, doors, etc).

In another layer, add Foley effects: footsteps, body noises, etc.

In another layer, add music: both Source Music (music that would be heard playing by the characters on screen, like the radio), and Score Music (music composed to accompany the film: the characters can’t hear it).

You might not find the perfect sound effect in a single file, so you will need to combine several different effects together.

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