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Typical Day

Sandra Felicia Xavier (SFX for short) is up and at 'em at 9:30AM. She runs some personal errands, has a quiet cup of coffee at a local shop, and finally makes her way into the studio at about 12:30PM. She's currently editing a project entitled Do You Hear the Cannons?, a Civil War-era film about a man who goes deaf when an artillery shell is fired inches from his right ear. Two words: Oscar bait.

It can get pretty nasty out there. (Source)

This is SFX's first time working on a war film, so it's been a bit challenging. She's a pro, though—her work on previous films has prepared her for just about anything. That said, she's a pacifist and she's also pretty squeamish, frankly, so it makes it a bit difficult to watch gory intestinal explosions (among other horrors) all day long.

SFX gets to work, booting up her editing software and loading the files she's currently working on. By 1:00PM, she's already editing away, polishing up the scene she started yesterday. Each piece she needs to edit starts 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 and listens to see if there was better or clearer audio in other takes. If there was, she attempts to sync it up with the actor's lips so it doesn't look like some bad, independently shot B-movie.

(Confession time: whether or not SFX wants to admit it to herself, this film is indeed a low-budget, not-quite-Hollywood production. The whole "Oscar bait" thing is mostly wishful thinking. But no matter how cheesy it is, or how much the other production values may be lacking, it's SFX's job to make the sound top-notch.)

If the audio from the original take is unusable and no other take 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 her door.

As she works, SFX's edits are encoded to different channels—in other words, the finished files will be able to communicate with a theatrical speaker system, in order 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 title inquires, indeed hear them.

"And make sure the guns really sound like they're firing fifteen bullets per second." (Source)

At 4:00PM, SFX breaks for linner (lunch/dinner), then meets with the director of the project to discuss his vision for the next few scenes she'll 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), and explains that he wants the music and sound in the closing scene to make the audience feel like they're 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 lair and starts implementing the director's directions. She goes through the scenes, separating out and eliminating any unwanted background noise, and 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'd scheduled herself to complete for the day. It's on to scenes seventy-eight thru eighty-four tomorrow. For now, she's just going to grab her bag, go home to her husband, and try to stop hearing the cannons.