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Book Review: Soundtrack Success: A Digital Storyteller’s Guide To Audio Post-Production by Jeffery P. Fisher

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Depending on who you ask, and the specific type of movie, it is the sound that can make up anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of the viewing experience. To prove the point just go and mute the sound of any movie and see how you enjoy it. Even in the early days of the silent move, there was sound — it was the piano or organ that provided the mood and intensity to the drama or action that was going on.

There is no short cut to creating good sound and the goal of Soundtrack Success is to help you sharpen your skills so that you can provide a vibrant sound track to your visuals. This book is for storytellers who produce content for theaters, TV, video games, and the web. It is also for those non-professional video creators who still need to produce quality sound work on their productions. Soundtrack Success is 309 pages and is divided into 20 chapters.

Chapter 1, “Crafting the Quintessential Soundtrack,” is more than just about the music. There is the dialog, background sounds, effects, and the sound design. This chapter takes a look at the workflow, and how it all comes together to enhance your video. Chapter 2, “Audio Aesthetics,” describes what makes for good audio on your soundtracks. Here you will learn the three edicts that the author recommends for recording good audio, the various elements for good audio, and a checklist for you to follow.

Chapter 3, “What is Sound?,” takes a look at what sound is, what its components are, and how it is perceived. By understanding and applying the mechanics of both digital and analog sound your work will become better. Chapter 4, “Workflow,” describes a workflow framework whose goal it is to be efficient and minimize problems. This chapter breaks it all down and shows you how to manage your timeline.

Chapter 5, “Location Matters,” examines capturing sound on-location. Usually you are working with a small group and so to do it right, this chapter looks at many of the things that can go wrong and how you can overcome them before they happen. Chapter 6, “Microphones,” are an important part of capturing sound and having an understanding of the types of microphones and how they work is important to getting good sound.

Chapter 7, “Building the Location Sound Kit,” while it does include the microphone, there are other things that it takes to put together a solid toolbox to help you get great field recordings and this chapter takes you through them. Chapter 8, “CYA Tips,” is needed because sound production usually is a one-shot affair and there are certain rules that need to be addressed so that you can cover all of your bases.

Chapter 9, “Hearing Sound,” is important especially when it comes time for post-production and having the right tools in place will make sure that you hear the sound that you need to hear. Chapter 10, “Making and Recording Sound,” takes a look at the software that you will need to create and edit your sounds. Here you will look at hardware and especially how to choose the right software for your particular use.

Chapter 11, “Make Sound Sound Better,” is all about those add-ons that will help improve your sound. These include audio effects, tools to analyze your sound, and in general, plug-ins to improve your recordings. Chapter 12, “Audio-Post Workflow Tips,” looks at ways to develop an approach to working with audio that makes sense, is efficient, and develops your creativity.

Chapter 13, “Voiceover,” is about dialog and in video it is the dialog that rules. Here you will learn all about the methods of capturing and making the most out of dialogue. Chapter 14, “Recording ADR and Walla,” shows you how to work with automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) and recording the background voices in scenes that contain crowds (Walla).

Chapter 15, “Editing Dialog,” is all about improving the dialogue that you have captured. Through these post-production techniques you will see how to make the voice tracks even better through the use of a variety of editing and sound-shaping tools. Chapter 16, “Sound Effects,” usually have to be added in post-production because the ones recorded on location are not loud enough to make it to the finished mix. This chapter looks at everything you need to make quality background sounds.

Chapter 17, “Foley and Backgrounds,” are two sound elements that add layers of reality to your scenes. Here you will learn about Foley – sounds that can’t be represented by traditional sound effects, and backgrounds – sounds that give the situation added reality, as well as how to create and use them. Chapter 18, “Sound Effects in Use,” is about making the soundtrack work. It is a conscious process that takes deliberation and work. Here you will look at all of the different aspects of the use of sound effects.

Chapter 19, “Music,” affects how the audience interprets what they see. It brings emotion to what they feel about your work. Here you will see how to get the music and incorporate it into your video. Chapter 20, “Mixing,” finishes up by looking at the final mix or dub. It is all about putting all of the sound elements into the completed work. Here you will see how to put this all together.

Soundtrack Success is very clearly written and well laid out in easy-to-understand language that will make sense even to the most novice of users. The author really guides you through the key concepts, workflow, and other techniques that you can put to use immediately to any size project.

I feel that Soundtrack Success makes for a perfect base that anyone can build their soundtrack creation skills upon as well as serve as a good reference afterwards. If you are someone who produces content for theaters, TV, video games, the web, or just about any other medium, then I very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.