Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #10

The Director’s cut
Sound, part 2

Post Production Sound

The reason post sound production is expensive is that there are 3 components involved. They are:

  1. Sound editing
  2. Sound mixing
  3. Sound design

Sound editing involves the most basic aspect of post sound production. Essentially, making sure the sound is there, synched with the video, and adding additional sounds to fill in the gaps. Fortunately for us, Gib Jaffe has extensive experience as a sound editor and delivered Blood Pledge with a complete sound edit.

Our process started with the sound mix. As mentioned earlier, we didn’t have the budget (at least $15,000) to pay for a full service mix and design. After further discussion, we decided to complete the sound mix and design ourselves.

Like the technological advances for cameras, I presumed there would be similar developments for sound. And of course, there were. Initially, we considered editing with Adobe Audition, an excellent “prosumer” package. Two issues arose, and they were:

1. Poor sound quality in many scenes.
2. Constant background noise from an unruly stream nearby.

Working with Audition would take at least a year to clean up the sound this way. I now understood why post sound is so expensive. After a month of learning from the sound pros on YouTube, we realized we were not going to get satisfactory results.

And then, the light at the end of tunnel: Izotope Post Production Suite. Simply put, it’s like having a sound engineer and designer working with you. The software is magic—deep machine learning coupled with AI produced high-quality results. We completed the sound mix in two months.

And that's when the fun started: sound design, which I quickly learned is a form of storytelling. Sound design relies heavily on the use of sound effects, subtle background noises, and voice modification through plugins. And these are creative decisions to augment the viewer’s experience of Blood Pledge.

To enhance the “alien” voices, we used Kronos simple monsters, which converts normal dialogue into various kinds of frightening voices. Plus, since we used ProTools, we discovered more cool plugins native to that program.

In the end, it took six months to complete post sound, which was mostly handled on weekends. Total cost came in at about $1,500—Izotope Production Suite on sale, Kronos simple monsters plus a monthly subscription to ProTools. Also, we purchased a pair of Sony studio headphones (MDR-7506) – essential for getting a “neutral” sound.

You can check out the results here: Blood Pledge