There are some pithy quotes from uber-genius Albert Einstein where I swear he was talking about the trials and tribulations of audio post-production. And whether you are building the DM&E to an indie feature or mixing your latest musical opus, ponder these thoughts.
“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
There is always a tendency to throw everything into the soundtrack. I call it the kitchen sink approach. But as a consequence there can be too much going on and too much fighting for attention.
That’s when it’s important to step back and strip away all the unnecessary sound elements and find the root of the soundtrack, to find the message (and emotion!) of the piece that you are trying to convey via sound. And this is not an easy process.
As audio professionals, we often become enamored of our own work. And it’s painful to cut out the bits we worked so hard to include. But that is the creative process – working and reworking the audio until the story is best supported.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
When you’ve acquired a significant amount of knowledge in a particular area, there is a tendency to rest on your laurels and take a similar approach to any new work that comes your way. This is a dangerous notion. You suffocate your creativity when you resort to the same old fixes for the same old problems.
For example, students and other would-be pros often ask me what EQ settings and such I use. And my reply is simple: whatever makes the track work. I never want to resort to ‘canned’ settings and instead rely on my ears to make the right choices to drive and support the story.
In fact, I don’t care what anything sounds like on its own as long as the mix as a whole works. Individual sounds can be rather thorny when soloed, but in the context of the entire DM&E mix, this thorny sound may fit in perfectly. In short, every problem is unique and every solution to said problem is equally distinctive.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
This is a corollary to the above mentioned approach. Don’t rely too much on the way things should be, or worse “the way we’ve always done it ’round here’.”
Instead use your tools to make the sound come together as it should in the service of the project. It’s the soundtrack as a whole that must work, and only when expanding your approach (and your creativity) can you discover the right way.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
I think what Einstein was saying here is that there are no shortcuts, no easy fixes. I have a client who is always looking for the easy fix: What ____fill in the blank___ will make my audio better, less noisier, and perfect? And the answer to that blank is simply this: hard work and even harder won skill.
Acquire good sound to begin with and then use your post audio tools to make it shine. There is no magic button for fixing audio—it takes effort to craft a seamless soundtrack that makes an impact on your audience. It is the raw skill that really matters and not the tools.
“Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
This applies to all those free VST plug-ins you find on the web. Stick to the tried and true technology and you will have fewer issues. And never upgrade your DAW software in the middle of a project.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
There is nothing I could say that could enhance this quote. Thanks A.E. for dabbling in audio post. You make the work easier.
Of course, there are dozens and dozens of quotes from the venerable Mr. E., so do yourself a favor and read up on the man. You just might discover he had far more insight into art than you might have thought.