Post-Production, Sound Design, and Composing for Film

One of the things I do for a living is performing post-production, sound design, music and dialog editing, and composition for film. About one year ago, my friend Fran Burst-Terranella asked me to do all of the above for her feature film The 12 Lives of Sissy Carlylile. Because I was finishing my dissertation I had to tell her no. As luck would have it, Fran kept perfecting her film, and when I finished my dissertation and graduated, Fran was just nearing completion of the production of the film (the actual filming of the movie). Since I was now ready for another project, and Fran was starting to complete the editing of the picture, we agreed to work together to finish everything.

Over the next several posts, I want to describe the process from beginning to end of what it takes to complete post on a feature film. The first step for me was having a “spotting session” with Fran and her editor Whitney Trower. Although Whitney had moved to New York City several months ago, Fran flew her down and rented an editing suite in Atlanta where they had a very intense week long plus to complete the final edits. When they had a final cut of the film Fran invited me down to the editing suite to see the complete movie. I was actually the third person to see the picture.

In a spotting session the post-production personnel (me at this point) takes detailed notes of every aspect of the sound that is needed to be added. In other words, where music needs to enter and end, where sound ambiances need to be added (that were’nt recorded during the production) and sound effects that need to be added, and anyplace where adr (automatic dialog recording or “looping”) needs to be recorded with the actors in the film. In other words, all of the elements of the soundtrack and mixing of the soundtrack together. The notes include the exact minute:second: and frame for each element of the soundtrack.

Once all of these notes are written down, I could go back to my studio and begin the post process. Because I have also worked as a composer on many of Fran’s movies, I would also be recording original music as well as editing some classical and jazz recordings that are over one hundred years old and are in the public domain.

In the next post I’ll talk about my process to complete the soundtrack for the film. Time is of the essence, because it is Fran’s intent to submit the film for the Tribeca Film festival and the deadline is Dec. 27th, so time is of the essence!

As always, thanks for reading!