This trimester I didn't take as many risks as in the previous one. Having worked on several external projects last year was great, however I decided to scale things down and instead focus on the transferrable skills that needed to be improved. This trimester was all about understanding who as I am as both a student and a professional, as well as learning what are my strengths and weaknesses in the audio universe and where do I fit in.
I've been finding that I'm a much better surgeon than a designer, so to speak. I genuinely enjoy repairing audio and editing and mixing dialogue. Perhaps this is because I spent most of my career working with dialogue instead of sound effects, and dialogue editing feels as if I'm truly assembling the film. In spite of dreaming of becoming a sound designer since my childhood, I've identified that what causes anxiety attacks is, ironically, creating sound effects; it's the process of spending a lot of time inside a room experimenting with ideas that may or may not work. It feels as if I'm losing productive time.
Nevertheless, sound design is just one of the elements of a film's soundscape, and I'm in peace with letting it go for the greater good of my mental health. That said, my main freelance project was a contribution to the Tonebenders, a podcast about sound design. I got in contact with them to see if there was an episode I could edit, and about a day later they replied asking if I would be OK with editing an interview with Ethan Van der Run and Eric Aadahl, the supervising sound editors for 'A Quiet Place', in a relatively small timeframe. This was a Monday I believe, and they'd need it prior to the following weekend. I accepted the challenge and spent two straight days working solely on it.
My strategy to efficiently turnaround a 40-minute podcast within a short deadline is to first to a rough edit, trying to find the best pacing for the conversation. Then, I duplicate the playlist, route the track to an aux track with iZotope RX inserted, and send the entire program to RX for a general click and pop removal. Next, I render the changes to the files and begin to edit the 'ums', 'aahs' and the like, although only where necessary. If the flow of the dialogue would be damaged by the removal of one of these sounds, I tend to leave it in. People are not paying attention to every little detail after all. Once I fix the majority of problems, I begin to meticulously edit the show. For this project, that took me an entire afternoon, and mixing took me about the same time.
Speaking of dialogue, a week after I finished the edit they released an episode in which four dialogue editors would talk about their process and experience, as for someone who's always looking forward to improving his editing skills, that episode was very enlightening.
In addition to the podcast, I've collaborated with the film department on the first episode for a web series. Initially I was meant to work only on the post-production side of things, although my colleague, Daisy, needed help with location sound and I volunteered to help out. Instead of using SAE's lapel mics, I brought my own set of lapels as I've got all the accessories for them and trust their sound. In the end, we managed to save plenty of time and successfully go through the day without any inconvenient troubleshooting.
A challenge I've been facing lately is that of making the dialogue as crisp and clear as compared to professional quality. Many years ago when I studied in Canada, I learned that to achieve that result professionals would route the dialogue tracks to a chain, where they'd do all the processing, such as de-noising, limiting and multiband compressing. This is a standard method of mixing in Canada and in the US. While I do remember the order of plugins and the steps to do it, I need to train a lot more and figure out what works and what doesn't and, more importantly, why it doesn't.
The film got transferred to us quite late in the trimester -- more like a week before exhibition, and since we were all busy with our main deliverables, we ended up not putting all of our effort in it, although we did manage to make the dialogue sound smooth. There were some parts where I'd go back and fix if time allowed, but I think that for a 7-day workload the end result was acceptable. I've been told many time by colleagues and family members that I tend to be too hard on myself in terms of quality control. Even though I've been trying not to be too perfectionist, I always think I could've done better.
What was unfortunate of only having a week to edit and mix the film, was that none of us had time to do foley, and I only made sound design decisions during the mix, as time was being specifically allocated for that work instead of the development of my major project for CIU 212.
Looking back at my distance traveled, both academically and professionally, I believe I should've said 'no' to the film students. It' not that I didn't want to collaborate, but essentially because as time went by, I found myself with a plethora of work to focus on; work that would vehemently make me happy about.
Learning to say no when other priorities arise is not a weakness; rather, it's a strength. It subconsciously implies that you are confident enough about your skills, and that denying one or two projects won't damage your reputation at all. In fact, right after week 2 or 3, I spoke with an animator about helping him out on his project. About a month later he provided me with further details as to what was he expecting of sound and an estimated deadline. I decide to pass as I didn't want to commit to somebody and not deliver what I promised due to time management conflict. That decision was one of the most important ones I've taken this trimester: it helped me identify my limits and be respectful to my peers.
Finally, as much as this trimester was about mastering, tape, music and post-production, it was also about understanding what type of student I am and professional I'm becoming.