6 habits that will make you a great dialogue editor

The one thing you have to nail in audio post is the dialogue. Sure, all other elements need to be spot-on, but if the dialogue has problems you are looking for trouble.

To complicate things, editing capabilities have gotten more and more sophisticated. With the advent of iZotope’s RX, dialogue problems that used to be acceptable now need to be meticulously edited.

In this episode of the sound tweakers podcast I’ll talk about 6 habits you need to develop if you want to become a great dialogue editor and build lasting relationships with your clients.

6 habits dialogue editor new

Great communication is paramount

  1. If you’re working solo on a small project: Make sure you know what the director / producer expects from you. Talk to the location sound recordist and understand what will be delivered to you.
  2. If you’re part of a bigger production crew: Talk to the dialogue mixer about her expectations of your work. If there are editors that deliver work to you (for example, a pre-selection of mics and takes), make sure you understand what you can expect from them.

By communicating well you integrate yourself better in the production process!

Be clear about delivery deadlines

  1. Make sure you understand the deadlines involved and that you can meet them.
  2. If you can foresee delivery problems, communicate this early and ask whether schedule updates are possible.
  3. The good old ‘underpromise and overdeliver’ is definitively a rule to live by.

Remember that if your client loses a deadline because of you it’s likely he’ll never return.

Check your session setup and sync before starting to edit

There are a lot of weird things that can happen in audio post. Save yourself tears and sorrow and allow yourself time to check frame rates, pull factors, audio format, handle length and of course audio sync BEFORE you make a single edit. I forgot this in a recent project. Cost me a sleepless night. Not recommendable.

Less is more

Probably the most important habit on the list. Remember that:

  1. Most mixers / directors prefer a dialogue that’s a bit dirty but natural-sounding. If it’s Skype-y, you’ve definitively done too much!
  2. Be specially careful with noise reduction, de-rustle, dialogue isolate and the like.
  3. Foley, FX, ambience and music cover a lot.

If in doubt, do less!

Know your tools

I’m going to stick to iZotope’s RX and Pro Tools in this podcast as example. Anything said below is valid for other editing suites and DAWs.

  1. Know what all the different modules do. Spectral repair is the one to know inside-out, but taking time to experiment with the other modules is well worth the effort.
  2. Test the extremes and see which settings work well for you.
  3. Use preset shortcuts.
  4. If you have any sort of controller – use it for triggering preset shortcuts (I use PT Control app on an iPad).

Knowing your tools is power!

Have backup points available

Post production is all about optimizing your time. Deadlines are tight, producers are demanding – so you need to avoid losing precious time at all costs. Here’s how you do this in Pro Tools – other DAWs have similar functionalities:

  1. Use playlists to make backup points at specific editing stages.
  2. Like this you don’t have to load earlier sessions if a revision is needed. You keep everything centralized, much easier to access.
  3. In my workflow, I keep the following playlists:
    • Raw mic selection with clip gain, phase alignment and fill edited
    • Clip gain rendered
    • Clips consolidated to eliminate fades
    • 1st automated RX pass
    • 2nd manual RX pass plus fades

Using playlists and any other organization functions of your DAW will help you to stay on top of your game!

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