Help out confused Academy voters


I can hear it now,

“And the Oscar for Sound Editing goes to….
I’m sorry, no one voted”

As I understand it, to be an Oscar voter you have to be white & male working or have worked in the film industry… there are about 6000 voters, 22% are actors and when surveyed in 2012, 94% were Caucasian, 77% were male, and 54% were found to be over the age of 60….

So having spent many years professionally working on film, and a lifetime watching & listening to films, one might presume each Academy voter has a fairly good understanding as to how films get made…

But not this voter

While I agree with their abstinence, there should be no need for it…. after all, a lack of knowledge or understanding is not a permanent flaw – it is an educational opportunity!
So for your good deed of the day, lets help this poor voter….

Relative to this voters dilemma, please answer these two questions

Sound Editing is…..



Sound Mixing is….



UPDATE: Thank you Mr Murch

Ai-ling Lee in LA Times: “I get asked this quite a bit,” she laughs. “You start with sound editing, taking the production dialogue recorded on set and cleaning it up so you don’t have any hiss and pop. Eighty percent of sound is added during sound editing — background sound, car doors, giant monster sounds, are all designed and recorded then. The sound editing team basically creates a palette of all of these sounds.”

Next, you move onto the sound mixing. “You take all that material and sift through them to see what is important to focus on,” Lee says. “It’s like when you’re watching a film and the camera is helping you focus on what’s onscreen. Here you do that with the sounds created by the editing team.”

8 thoughts on “Help out confused Academy voters

  1. tim Post author

    Sound Editing
    The sound editor is responsible for assembling everything you hear on screen — the dialog, the foley, ADR (automated dialog replacement), walla (crowd noises), incidental sounds (paper rustling), atmosphere (wind, a distant tugboat) and sound effects (engines revving, gunshots). Sound editors make audio choices; sometimes they tap into a library of sounds, sometimes they make their own recordings, and sometimes they fabricate sounds that are completely new.

    Sound Mixing
    This is one of the final stages of post-production. The sound elements have been prepared/gathered in isolation, and the sound mixer takes all of these (plus the music score), and determines the appropriate levels, judging which elements the audience needs to hear. In other words, after the sound editor has assembled what the audience hears, the sound mixer determines how they hear it. The mixer decides when to de-emphasize atmosphere sounds and prioritize music, for example.

    (notably ignores the role of Production Sound Mixer)

  2. Kirill Belooussov

    That’s how I can explain those two questions in short format.

    Sound Editing is – mostly editorial process of trimming audio, fading in/out of audio clips, organizing all files by tracks types and perhaps grouping them for a mixing process. In some cases editing involves sound design on a smaller budget films. Editing step is very important in post production due to it’s difficulties and challenges of choices to make in the editing suite. Choose a better dialogue line take to a not so good one, and etc.

    Sound Mixing is – pretty much a stage where all the edits are combined by track types, Music(M), Dialogue(D)&Effects(E) – MD&E and then it’s balanced, equalized, compressed, DSP-ed in various ways, panned in to a correct stereo or surround channel. And then blended together seamlessly so viewer doesn’t pay attention to a single “crack” of audio that isn’t fitting in to the whole mix, unless it’s intended. Intelligibility of audio levels is decided on that stage as well. Then final mix is mastered to a certain required levels and printed on to mediums.

  3. tim Post author

    I strongly suspect a technical description of the process does not help clarify the merit of the roles to an uniformed film goer. I wonder if another way to think about it is to reverse engineer it: who should win each award?
    I personally would hope the award goes to the most original work which best helps tell the story.
    So for sound editing, what does that involve?
    And for sound mixing, what does that involve?

    Sound editing is primarily about creating and refining the content – the individual elements of the soundtrack. All of the background ambiences, the foley footsteps, the sound effects. Editing the production dialogue, additional and replacement lines, breaths/efforts and crowd/group dialogue. And creating sounds for things that may not exist in the real world.
    As an example, if it is a period drama, is the content correct and of its period and feel characterful and real? If it is a scifi, is the content unique, characterful and feel real to the world of its story? Great sound editing does not necessarily mean attention seeking – its not an award for creating the best explosion. It is about the story of the entire film, and all of the elements that are created to make that story feel real, immersive and engaging – from the smallest quietest sound to the loudest.

    Sound mixing is about choices and balances – what we hear and when – to best understand and engage with the story. It is about focus: the re-recording mixers choose what to direct our attention to. They combine every element, including music, in a way that should feel seamless and natural, but which may at times be very emotionally manipulative. On a moment by moment, scene by scene basis they choose what we need to hear and what we do not need to hear.

    The problem with both of these roles is that a great film, with great sound, may be watched and your attention is never drawn to the soundtrack. This is one trait of a great soundtrack – it is seamless and engaging and feels real, it does not pull you out of the film and make you notice it. But if you were to watch the film a second time, paying particular attention to the soundtrack, you will realise how much evolution and work has gone into selecting/making the elements (sound editing) and combining & shaping the elements (sound mixing) to create a soundtrack that best conveys story and emotion.

  4. ErikG

    I have no answers to the actual question. Just thoughts around the question itself.

    But what is the truth of who does what, and is it important of who does what in a oscars context?

    Yes of corse it is. But at the same time, perhaps it isn’t.

    Most film workers really do not know or understand what we do. Seriously.
    So how would they be able to judge the difference?

    So in a way, why is there a difference in a awards context?
    That is actually easier to answer. It is about being fair and respectful to creative crafts.

    Who on earth can evaluate best script if they didn’t read them all and compared them?
    But the writer deserves a chance to get an award for good work that is vital to the creative process. So they get awards.

    It’s all really a make belief thing that these films are truly compared and that the voters can justly vote for the different type of awards.
    How many voters see the films multiple times? As you wrote Tim “But if you were to watch the film a second time, paying particular attention to the soundtrack” yes if they were to do that. Do they? I highly doubt it. If they don’t, will the voting ever be fair or truly make sense? Probably not.

    And of course this goes for many other crafts as well like costume, lighting, camerawork etc. But interestingly enough it’s a lot easier (for most folks) to remember something that you have seen compared to something that you have heard.

    Just my rambling thoughts on the matter.


  5. Mac Smith

    I’ve had success over the last year with the following explanation while working with first time filmmakers. I found that using culinary analogies works quite well.

    Sound Editing:
    Think of a sound editor/designer as a sous chef working in their home kitchen and they have access to a pantry filled with tens of thousands of ingredients. Their job is to find the right meats, vegetables, starches, spices, etc. for a given dish (a scene). If the ingredient they need isn’t available then they grow it themselves (field recording). They mock up the dish in their home kitchen to see if it works and once they are happy with it they carefully organize all the ingredients to go to the high end kitchen in the restaurant (dub stage).

    Sound Mixing:
    The sous chef (sound editor) presents the ingredients to the head chef (re-recording mixer). The head chef is working in a nicer kitchen with the best appliances and cookware. The head chef starts building the dish and decides the proper amount of all the ingredients and will often decide to skip some ingredients and ask for a different kind of spice or starch. They work until they are happy with the dish and it’s ready to serve.

    Now this is a very simplified analogy and you can obviously go into much more detail, but it’s been successful for me. I think starting to explain this difference in audio terms is a mistake because it makes a lot of people turn off their brains and stop listening. If you start the explanation in something the general public is familiar with then there’s a better chance that they’ll perk up and listen more intently.

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