From Mix, March 1999
By Aaron Stipkovich
This season, I've found myself on the post-production stage for television shows, much more than previous seasons. I have worked on Mad About You, Just Shoot Me, Party of Five, The Nanny, LA Doctors, Rude Awakenings and Oh Baby. In a number of situations, I'm mixing and editing shows for foreign release; this typically involves re-creating foley, ambience, sound effects, music and laughter, but removing dialog.
Because the time allotted to post for the foreign dubs of these shows is a few hours instead of a few weeks, I need to work efficiently. I need audio processing power beyond my Pentium CPU, so I use Soundscape hardware right from within Pro Audio, as if it were a sound card, but with all the DSP power of the Soundscape unit. I use this configuration to perform the tasks of spotting and cutting effects, Foley, backgrounds and music. (This configuration gives me versatility stability and speed: In six years of heavy duty, my setup has never crashed.) The following tips will show some of the advantages to using Pro Audio in the same capacity.
In one pass, you can load all of the video, dialog, Foley and miscellaneous audio straight into Cakewalk on your PC. Once that's finished, you have sample-accurate audio (in 44.1k, 48k or 96k) and subframe-accurate video loaded in Cakewalk, all controlled from one location, with solid, instantaneous sync.
Any sound effects or music cues you want to drop in can be done immediately and synchronized to video in one step through Pro Audio's Insert | Wave File command, without scrubbing. However, if you do want to scrub, in the Video view, you can use the +/- and left/right arrow keys to advance the video by frames (or use the [ and ] keys to advance by ten frames). This lets you quickly find a location where you want to insert an audio file.
The video will even seamlessly loop along with the audio if you have set up loop points invaluable if you are trying to get a scene right. To set loop points, simply drag in the time bar above your tracks, or select a section of music and then hit the Loop button on the Cakewalk tool bar.
If you are going to be working with numerous sound effects or cues, Cakewalk's Virtual jukebox utility lets you load and preview up to 999 WAV, MIDI or Cakewalk files and then simply drag the file you want onto Cakewalk's track pane, exactly where you'd like to place it. You can also drag files directly from the Windows Explorer.
Here's a real time-saver when working with sound effects. Pro Audio features anchor points for each audio event. This lets you define which part of the audio is important. For example, when creating a cue list while playing back the video, you may want to insert a sound effect of a door that is slammed at a specific location, say 01:10:21:17. Your slamming door WAV file might contain some creaking door sounds before the actual door is slammed. In Pro Audio's Audio view, you can easily locate the actual slam by looking at the peaks in the waveform. Then you can drag the anchor point to the peaks in the waveform. Next, right-click the audio event, and type 01:10:21:17 in the Now box. The sound effect sample will align perfectly with the video.
Using markers, you can jump quickly from scene to scene. To drop markers, press F11, even during recording and playback. Markers are listed as a drop-down list in the Markers tool bar. Jumping from scene to scene is as simple as selecting a marker from the list. Markers can be locked to SMPTE, so they never move if you change the tempo of the project.
If you change the tempo, you can specify whether or not audio tracks should be stretched to fit the new tempo. For example, you probably do not want to stretch audio in tracks that only contain sound effects. Pro Audio lets you define a track as unstretchable by double-clicking the Patch column of an audio track, and selecting <Unstretchable> as the patch.
By having all of these tools in one integrated environment you can work fast and finish early. With my setup, I have true nonlinear, high-resolution playback of NTSC or PAL video; recording, editing and playback of high-quality audio and MIDI; and automation of the entire project, including mix and outboard effects. Project management is simple. Sound effects are easy to locate and use. Best of all, one file will store everything: audio references, edits, synchronization settings, signal routing, lyrics or dialog laid out right in the time line, clock settings, notes and more. This makes backup and retrieval a breeze. I've even emailed my Cakewalk Pro Audio file for an entire show to another stage. This is truly a great way to work. I finished the shows in a quarter the time it took on the conventional gear.
Aaron "Stipko" Stipkovich is a mixer, composer and coffee drinker.