The Seed&Spark Blog

Sound Wisdom: 5 Sound Mistakes to Avoid, Pt 2

October 7, 2016

• Heika Burnson

Enjoy the second part of our two-part blog post from Heika Burnson of White Light Audio to get the most of your on-set and post-production sound. Read the first part here.





There are 3 phases -- and 7 key services -- involved in post sound work, and they are all different! To get the most out of your sound team and make your project the best it can be (sound), know what your sound work involves.


DIALOGUE EDITING: This is the editing and smoothing of ALL production sound captured on set, and the foundation of your soundtrack. The goal for this first key step is to make all your set tracks sound clear, consistent, and noise-free. If you had trouble on set, you will hear it here and might need ADR (looping) to re-record your talent’s lines in a post studio vocal booth.


BACKGROUND EDITING: Your production sound has captured the backgrounds of your locations, but we always add in 2-4 more tracks per scene to help create the ambiance of your space. These tracks are also referred to as “ambients” and create information and mood re your location. They are one half of your sound design.

SFX EDITING: Sound Effects are, like Backgrounds, about calling attention to or accentuating spaces, actions, and moments. But unlike BGs, which run the entire length of your space/scene, these are direct, acute moments – like a crow calling, glass breaking, or a door slam. We layer these on top of your set sounds but also add in missing FX at your direction.

MX EDITING: music editing is the insertion and editing of your music files into the project. This is NOT composing – we work with composers to properly place their work into a project via a cue sheet that tells us exactly what and where music starts/ends.

ADR: Automated Dialogue Replacement, or “looping,” is the re-recording of on-screen dialogue lines with your talent. It’s called looping because the scene with missing dialogue is played back to the talent in the vocal booth and then they re-create the line for a fresh capture. This is done when your on set sound had problems, or you don’t like the performance you go on location.  

FOLEY: Foley is a lot like SFX, except that it’s more about the sync with your picture, and, like ADR, there are master foley recordists who re-create onscreen actions to boost up those moments in your soundtrack. A common example is footsteps: if your production sound footsteps are weak or nonexistent, you can hire a Foley Artist to “walk” those footsteps in sync with the character. Foley is a multi-step process, and not something every project needs; it involves the foley artist, the foley mixer, and then a foley editor to get you ready for your final phase:



This is the coalescence of all your previous 6 elements to create one master session. In this phase we blend together your distinct parts and let them support and enhance one another. For a feature film of 90 min, this can take anywhere from 5 to 15 days, depending on how many tracks you have.


In the music world, this is called “mastering,” and it’s the final bake of all your ingredients on the soundtrack. No editing is performed in this stage: your files should be set into place and mostly cleaned and prepped. Mixing allows the manipulation of volume, tone, and direction to create the final experience that your viewers will receive. The most common mix channel configurations are in stereo or 5.1 surround, but there are many more to choose from and explore. Knowing your final output system (where your media will be shown) is key to choosing the right mix option(s).


To discuss any of these issues further, please reach out to [email protected] or @whitelightaudio on Twitter, Instagram, or on Facebook for a free consultation on your project and sound queries!


Heika Burnson

Heika Burnson is Executive Producer & co-founder of White Light Audio

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Heika graduated USC with a BA in Cinema-Television and a Masters in Arts Journalism. After working for several years as a freelance writer and creative director, Heika returned to USC for an MFA in Film & TV Production, with a specialization in film producing and sound.

White Light Audio was born with USC colleagues who also wanted to create a space where affordable sound services could be offered, to independent filmmakers and corporate brands alike, with the same quality and creativity that big film studios provide.  

In addition to serving as Executive Producer for WLA, Heika independently produces a variety of feature film, music video, and multi-media content for international companies such as Universal, Art + Vibes, and Doomsday Entertainment.



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