Project specifications and deliverables are an important part of every project even though they can often be left undiscussed until projects are almost completed. In reality this is one of the first things that should be discussed in pre-production as discrepancies in things like sample rates, bit rates and frame rates can cause mistakes that are costly and time consuming to remedy. I’ve put together some basic information here to help you as the customer to be informed on the information I need as an Engineer to deliver the best audio possible in the right format.


          1. Where is your project going to be released?- There are so many different mediums that music is released on nowadays and each medium has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing where and how you are choosing to release your music can drastically change the way that your Engineer chooses to record and mix. In the digital world formats vary from WAV, Mp3, FLAC, AAC, DVD and CD. In the physical world we have vinyl and tape that people are releasing music on as there is a growing trend to bring back these mediums. I highly suggest that you sit down and talk to your Engineer early in pre-production to establish exactly what format you need. I also highly suggest getting the highest quality possible in whatever medium you decide on.
          2. Be consistent- There are times where several songs on the same album are recorded in different studios at different times. Therefore it is important that you stick with whatever format you decided on in pre-production. Being consistent can save you hours in time and money down the road.
          3. Red Book Standard- If there isn’t a specified format I always deliver music at what is known as Red Book Standard- which is as follows:

            Format:WAV stereo files

            Sample Rate: 44.1 kHz

            Bit Rate: 16

            If I know before hand that a particular piece of music is going to be used specifically in a film, I deliver files in the following format:

            Format: WAV stereo files

            Sample Rate: 48 kHz

            Bit Rate: 24


Film is an entirely different animal than music and as such needs to be treated separately from music. There are also some crucial things that as an Engineer I need to know well in advance to complete and deliver projects in the right format and on time. There are also some professional practices I’ve listed here to help film makers communicate with the sound departments more effectively.

          1. Is your picture edit locked?- This may not seem that important but by changing a scene by only a few seconds after a film has gone to post can cost hours in time and money to correct. As an Engineer I don’t enjoy reworking an entire scene I’ve already done and I don’t enjoy having the difficult conversation with the Director that they are now going to have to pay for those corrections.
          2. What are the technical specifications of your film and are they consistent? The technical specifications of a film should be decided on well before the first camera starts rolling. These should include things like frame rate, bit rate and sample rate Your film should also be consistent from one clip to the next. Not having consistent specifications can cause serious problems in editing and post production as often times there can be several different sound departments working on the same film at the same time. Having consistent specifications will ultimately save you time and money while helping you keep your film meet budget and deadline requirements.
          3. Theatrical or broadcast?- Is your film being mixed for a theatrical release or for broadcast? There are major differences between the two and before starting a project its important to decide on which type of mixing your film needs.
          4. Acceptable Files- In the professional world of film the industry standard deliverables to Audio Engineers and studios are AAF, OMF, XML, each with an attached Quicktime file. At the very least a Quicktime file will also work. All of these should contain some sort of time code to insure that things are properly aligned at the end of the day. Traditionally each segment should start at 59:59 or the 1 hour mark. It is traditionally the responsibility of the editor to deliver theses files and to make sure that the specs are where they need to be. I also suggest sending things like scripts, spotting scripts and any other pertinent documents over at this time as well.
          5. Take the time to be prepared- This can apply to several different aspects in the post production process, but what I specifically want to address is file transfers. Because film files are often large and can sometimes take hours to transfer from one computer to another, I suggest getting these to your Engineer as soon as possible. I’ve included it here simply because I’ve scheduled ADR sessions before and haven’t been able to start recording until two hours into the session simply because we were waiting for video files to transfer. It just wastes everyone’s time and isn’t very professional. It also gives an Engineer time to address any problems that might occur and to fix them accordingly.

-S. F. Shields

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Posted in Enigineer's Corner.

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