standard audio track assignment?

Posted by paul kelleher 
standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 05:26PM
Is there a specific standard for audio track assignments? 1&2 dialogue, 3&4 ambient, 5&6 effects etc. Obviously anything can go anywhere but much easier to export if someone is expecting specific assignments


Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 05:48PM
ONly if the production company where you work has them. Typically they won't have the same setup. One place has VO on 1&2...another might have tape audio on 1-4, and VO buried down on 10&11. The last place I was at had the first 20 tracks assigned to tape audio (10 tracks on the tape, 2 layers for when we added b-roll audio), then SFX on 21-32, and then music on 33-40.

If you are editing on your own, you can do what you want. But be consistent. If 1-4 are tape audio, do not put SFX or music up there. Keep everything on the tracks you assign. Makes life easier for you and the audio mixer.

Listen to THE EDIT BAY Podcast on iTunes
Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 05:56PM
There isn't any dead rule, but I can tell you right now that your system is going to fall apart very quickly. Two tracks aren't nearly enough for dialogue (I usually assign at least four to six). If you're going to create a system, make sure it fits most of your projects.

You have to think ahead to what's needed and efficient in sound design. The head editor on my last reality show insisted on putting voice-overs on 1-2, sync sound on 3-8. No problem. But then he wanted FX on 9-10 and then music on 11 and above...which is silly, because when will you ever have more than two pieces of music overlapping?

So my system is:

Sync sound: 1-6 (more if necessary. Because sync sound has the most specific and important relationship to picture, I place it on the uppermost tracks to maximize proximity to the video clips)
Voice-overs: Next 2
Music: Next 4
FX: All tracks after music

The system is different if I have multiple language versions, in which case I'd group them by language, or even start using nests to separate out languages.

Here's another useful trick. You can use an audio Slug as a "visual slate" for your timeline. Let's say you have a monster of a scene, 12 tracks of sync sound in tiny little pieces, and 24 FX elements. How do you prevent them from mixing you up on your screen? Pull the FX clips one or two tracks farther down, and add a Slug in the track that can act as a "fence" between your FX elements and your dialogue elements. You can even select the Slug and press APPLE-9 to rename it like this:

"A30 and up ---- Sound FX"

They act like Post-Its on your timeline, like markers and temp text slates, except even easier to access because the message appears on your timeline at all times, without having to open anything or step into sub-menus.

On that same reality show above, I used live music from one scene as score on a different scene with the same character, a musician. To avoid people wasting time searching for it in the shared music library, I did one such note:

"Music from Scene 30 -- 01012011 Clip 01 --->"
Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 06:29PM
That slug as Post-it barrier idea is a good one. I'm gonna pinch that, Derek.

Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 07:11PM
Thanks guys-
The production company I work for is, so I will design a system using your excellent ideas... merci

Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 08, 2011 07:12PM
My standard setup is similar to Derek's.

Sync sound (ambience, nat sound) on 1 and 2, (or 1 to 4, depending on how many channels came with the footage.)

Interview grabs 3 & 4 (unless moved down by the above)

Voiceover 5 & 6

Music 7 to 10 (to allow for music overlaps)

sfx from there on

But I have worked on shows that needed different setups. As the other guys said, the main thing is to know where you put things and stay consistent.

Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 10, 2011 11:34AM
1 - 4 dialogue

5 - 10 SFX

11 - 16 MX

Am I alone in putting music below sound effects?

- Justin Barham -
Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 10, 2011 02:18PM
No, I put music last too.

My software:
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Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 10, 2011 02:20PM
Music on the bottom...yup. Typically 4 tracks for that. 4-12 for SFX, depending on the show.

Listen to THE EDIT BAY Podcast on iTunes
Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 10, 2011 03:24PM
Mine is kinda like Derek's, but nothing hard and fast. I usually start with just SOT 1-4, then quickly need music, so music usually goes to the next two (or 4), then sound effects, but sometimes I merge the music and SFX together in the same few tracks. If I need VOs, they tend to go between SOT and music.
Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 11, 2011 05:49AM
i'm Dial, FX, then Music.

but i use the layout as a sort of guide.

there can be a bit of cross-over while i work, as less trakcs makes for faster editing.
i would not want to be wrangling 24-tracks while cutting.
12 maybe.

when its ready to hand-over, i'll tidy it up.

Re: standard audio track assignment?
March 15, 2011 04:44PM
I find it handy to use grouped outputs to keep a split track QT when exporting:

Audio mixer set to 'downmix' so I monitor in stereo. Audio outputs of sequence are 8 stereo.

Currently using -

Routed to 1&2: (Full Mix)
A1&2 - clear - move clips up to edit then move down to the correct tracks. Eventually put mixdown AIFF here.

Routed to A3&4: (Fx)
A3&4: mono fx tracks
A7-10: stereo fx tracks, sometimes mix these up depending

Routed to 5&6: (Dx)
A5&6: mono interviews
A17&18: mono sync dialoge
A19: VO

Routed to 7&8: (Mx)
A11-14: stereo music tracks

Ideally I'd like those busses to exist in the audio mixer and be keyframeable - so the full mix doesn't require a mixdown.
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