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  • How to work with a Sound Designer

    Posted by Jason Morehouse on October 3, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    My more specific question is: “How do I work with a sound designer when I’m not happy with the technical quality of the audio?”

    I’m currently working with a sound designer at a studio to finish a film in both 5.1 and stereo. When working at the studio, all the sound is very loud, especially the dialogue. He says that dialogue has to be a lot louder than people normally think. Is this true? While watching with two of my producers, we had a difficult time listening to some of the characters speaking. And in the finished product, since we find ourselves lowering the volume, the ambience and music become really low.

    The main problem I have is that I feel a lot of the audio sounds low quality to me. As if my original sound files (which were recorded very well and with the highest quality mics) have been downgraded to a lower quality or heavily compressed in some way. Also, some of the ADR sounds artificial as if a “robotic” effect was put in but since the sound designer says it’s just me nitpicking, I just moved on. He explains to me everything’s fine, and since I’m not a sound expert, I just have to let it go.

    But recently, what alerted me was when I watched the film on my TV at home. I uploaded the film to Vimeo like I have done on previous projects, but I can’t get the volume to go higher than medium before the sound begins cracking. And sometimes, the music cracks even at a very low volume. All of my previous projects in which I worked with another sound designer have crisp sound and doesn’t crack even at the highest volumes despite streaming on poor quality sites like YouTube. Since I plan streaming the film online in the future, I would like for the audio to play well. But the sound designer just tells me that I have bad speakers/headphones. So I don’t know what to do. Maybe if I knew what the problem was, he would fix it for me. Any advice on what to do in my current situation to end with good stereo?

    Jason Morehouse replied 3 years, 1 month ago 2 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • Ty Ford

    October 3, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Hello Jason,
    Sounds like what you have is a “failure to communicate.”
    Sounds like your hearing is more sensitive than his. He may have some hearing loss and may need to have the volume up to hear what he’s doing.

    “While watching with two of my producers, we had a difficult time listening to some of the characters speaking.” Your comment is not clear to me. You say the volume of the dialog is too loud, but you have difficulty listening to it. Please explain.

    Tell him about the Vimeo issue and see what he says,
    The distortion you refer to sounds like there may be some gain staging issues.

    I do not know your system and/or what problems there may be with it (or not.) Does everything else sound good on your system? Listening on other systems is always a good idea to sort those issues out.
    Can you reach out to another sound designer?


    Ty Ford

    Cow Audio Forum Leader

  • Jason Morehouse

    October 3, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Yeah, I think communication is definitely the problem.

    When I said, I have “a difficult time listening,” I mean it’s difficult because it’s too loud.

    There are very few cracks when I listen to the film on uncompressed audio on TV or on my computer. But they’re still there when the volume gets high, but he says it’s fine and not cracking. And the 5.1, despite the very high dialogue volume, seemed to have no cracking issue. It mainly happens on stereo and hence vimeo.

    I’ll tell him about the vimeo issue. It’s just really difficult sometimes, because it’s easy for a director to end up nitpicking when something is unnoticeable. Just not sure what case this is.

    (The thing that scared me on top of the cracking sound was when the sound designer had panned all the dialogue throughout the film. When one character was on the right of a wide shot, he would make the sound come from there. From my experience, the dialogue should almost always be center but he tells me many people pan dialogue. I got it back to center but definitely makes me second-guess trusting him.)

  • Ty Ford

    October 3, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Jason, I agree. Dialog usually stays in the center channel. I do some mixing for an Edgar Allan Poe podcast. I use panning because we don’t have a picture and it helps to separate the characters. I seldom go hard left and right, but I do pan.
    It sounds like you don’t trust your guy. That’s a nasty feeling. Perhaps he could direct ou to something he’s done on Youtube or Vimeo to make you feel more comfortable.


    Ty Ford

    Cow Audio Forum Leader

  • Jason Morehouse

    October 4, 2020 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for your advice, Ty!

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