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Sound Editor

Typical Day

Sandra Felicia Xavier (SFX for short) is up and at 'em at 9:30, runs some personal errands, and finaly makes her way into the studio by 12:30. She is currently editing a project entitled, Do You Hear the Cannons?, a Civil War-era film about a man who becomes deaf after an artillery shell is fired inches from his right ear. Two words: Oscar bait. This is SFX's first time working on a war film, so it's a bit challenging. However, her work on previous films has prepared her for such a challenge. It's just unfortunate she's such a pacifist and so utterly squeamish, as it makes it really difficult to watch all of those exploding intestines.

She starts by booting up her editing software and loading the files she is currently working on. By 1 she is already editing away, polishing up the scene she started the day before. She begins with the scene that the film editor pieced together from a myriad of different takes, then for each shot she goes through the audio files, listening to see if there was better or clearer audio for any take other than the one the film editor settled on. If there is, she attempts to synch it up with the actor’s lips so it doesn't look like some bad, independently shot B-movie. (Whether or not she wants to admit it to herself, this is exactly what the film is. But no matter how cheesy it is or how much the other production values may be lacking, it is her job to make the sound top-notch.)

If the audio from the original take is unusable and no other one offers anything better, she may have to call in the actors in that scene to do some ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement). Or "Actors Deserve Raises," depending on whom you ask. Hopefully it won’t come to that, because SFX spends nearly every day all by her lonesome in her little editing bay, and that’s exactly the way she likes it. She even posted a "No People Allowed" sign on the outside of her door. She, of course, gets a free pass.

As she works, SFX edits are encoded to different channels—in other words, the finished file will be able to communicate with a theatrical speaker system to have certain sounds playing from the front of the theater, some from the back, and some from the sides. This way, she can better create the illusion that those cannons are being fired right over your head. So that you can—as the title inquires—indeed hear them.

At 4pm, SFX breaks for linner (lunch/dinner) and then meets with the director of the project to discuss his vision for the next few scenes she will be working on. The director informs her that he envisions a cool, jazzy number playing on the car radio in the scene at the beach (yeah, there's a car radio in a Civil War era film; looks like the writer and director really did their research), mentions that he wants the gunfire in the opening battle sequence to sound sort of far off in the distance to really accentuate that first explosion, and explains that he wants the music and sound in the closing scene to make theaudience feel like they are right there with the actors onboard that Viking ship. Wow—do these guys even know when the Civil War was?

Taking these (infuriating) notes, SFX returns to her dungeon and starts implementing the director's direction as she edits the next couple of scenes. As she goes through, she separates out and eliminates any unwanted background noise, sometimes supplanting it with new, manufactured background noise. If she wanted to, she could take out an exploding grenade and replace it with a mewing kitten. Probably wouldn't make it past the re-recording mixer, but she could certainly give it the old college try.

By midnight, SFX has finally gotten through the scenes she had scheduled herself to complete for the day. It's on to #78-84 tomorrow. For now, she's just going to grab her bag, go home to her husband, and try to stop hearing the cannons.

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