Just under a year ago, I participated in a workshop about technology applied to music by Iván Tarabelli.
Besides being a musician, keyboardist, composer and arranger, Iván teaches Sound in the third year of the provincial school of film and television (EPCTV). He has worked on composing and recording music for films of Gustavo Postiglione, Hector Molina, Claudio Perrín, plus short films, documentals and miniseries. Also, he has performed audio post-production of several of these projects, besides other musical productions.
In other respects, he has designed multichannel sound projects for special sectors of parks and other places of the city of Rosario, Argentina.
Among the concepts he shared at the workshop I attended, Iván mentioned his activity at EPCTV. That fact, along with the clarity of his presentation, led me to contact him for ask some questions regarding audio postproduction.
ZioGiorgio.es: How did you come to work in audio post-production for film?
Iván Tarabelli: Working for films was a consequence of making music for films. Your question could also have been started how did you come to make music for films?, and my answer would have been that making music for film was a dream that was feeding from the knowledge of technological advancement in computers applied to sound and music recording. So, I did not hesitate when they offered me the opportunity to teach at the provincial Film School. Then, I follow what was happening.
ZioGiorgio.es: Can you explain how your routine in audio post-production is?
Iván Tarabelli: Luckily not have to be a routine job. Each production presents several challenges.
From the technical side, the first thing is the conformation and selection of material available (direct sound), then search and create everything you need to complete the soundtrack (voiceovers, Foley elements, music), then the composition of the soundtrack (similar to the orchestra conductor based on the score), mixing and final equalization.
ZioGiorgio.es: Is it possible to distinguish between different types of audio elements that comprise a sound mix for film?
Iván Tarabelli: a) Dialogue
c) Sounds to reinforce ideas and moods (music, effects)
ZioGiorgio.es: What considerations need to have you as responsible for the sound of a movie, taking into account the different locations / environments where it will be projected?
Iván Tarabelli: The most important consideration and longest assimilate is to not commit excesses induced excitement, or quantity of sound elements, or intensity of the same, or how often they appear – I say this leaving aside the “correction” and technical balance which is unavoidable – or movement within the surround, etc.
Then, having done this, everything will sound as good or as bad as it sounds the system used in the room. At the music is much more varied the range of reproductions and we are used to such inconstancy.
ZioGiorgio.es: Considering current levels of audio and the tendency to concentrate media playback in a single system, what can you say about the dynamic range of a mix film and a CD?
Iván Tarabelli: In films we have the advantage that nobody sits in a chair for not paying attention to the projection and talk with the neighbor. So it is possible to preserve the maximum dynamic range in the hope that no details are lost. Something that is much more difficult with the music, except for Classical and some Jazz recordings.
ZioGiorgio.es: What measurement tools do you use to verify that the volume of the mix is within the current standards?
Iván Tarabelli: It is important to rely on the trained ear. Get as far as possible in the mixing process with the ear. Then for the final levels, I recommend this reading: tech.ebu.ch, and any found at tech.ebu.ch/loudness; and any plugin that addresses these specifications.
Anyway, if the material is for TDA, for example, each channel informs which their technical requirements are. Often, they’re similar to each other.
ZioGiorgio.es: What audio mix format do you need to deliver for every production?
Iván Tarabelli: Most commonly, a file 5.1 (six tracks) or stereo (two tracks) in 48000 kHz and 16 bits. Usually, they ask the same individual tracks properly identified. I usually also deliver an international track (without any dialogue), for later dubbing if the movie is sold to countries with different language and where legislation requires that procedure.
ZioGiorgio.es: Do you remember any mix of a scene whose complexity demanded so much work or some specific solutions for that moment? Can you describe it?
Iván Tarabelli: I remember in the 90s I was invited to work on a film where all sound and dialogues were overdubs. Due to a technical limitation had not been made recordings of live sound.
It was extremely laborious because at that time we had no possibility to digitize the video.
All the footage was transferred to super-VHS along with the timecode. Later, the final audio track was recorded with SMPTE code.
The audio output from the tape deck it was connected to the audio input on the audio interface used on the computer (which also presented MIDI ports).
This audio track – containing the SMPTE – commanded the clock of the multitrack audio software used in the computer. For that reason, it was necessary to start and stop playback from VHS deck, without forgetting all the required time that this type of system demanded to accommodate the tape on the head. Then, the computer audio interface had to read the SMPTE code, recognize it and to convert it on a clock indication and locate the multitrack software on the scene being edited.
All this forced us to add several seconds of pre-roll to the videotape to achieve identify the moment you want to edit. Word for word; event by event. A work of extreme patience.
ZioGiorgio.es: What elements are important so Foley effects are heard as if truly had been recorded during the action of the scene rather than in the calm of a studio?
Iván Tarabelli: Is recommended to perform extra audio takes with the direct sound, exclusively, where no matter the places for the mics because there are no cameras or lights. These extra audios takes will be the most realistic we’ll have even if later we’ll need to re-sync. All the rest of Foley, because of its creative nature, the least what it respect will be the “realistic” sound.
Once recorded the Foley effects – on an environment as neutral as possible, i.e. with the least possible amount of reverb – they’re artificially processed with the required reflections. All other aspects of what is used as a generator for these sounds correspond to the artistic activity where it is useless to try to set rules.
ZioGiorgio.es: What DAW usually work?
Iván Tarabelli: I feel more comfortable with the line of Steinberg but today most multitrack fulfill these tasks very well.
ZioGiorgio.es: What kind of editing do you apply to the dialogues? What processes do you use to integrate naturally to the scene?
Iván Tarabelli: I prioritize intelligibility over the tonal beauty. Something is not sound quite nice can be distracting, but something that is not understood is disastrous. I have no problems in using compression if necessary highlight small sounds of voices (such as consonants).
ZioGiorgio.es: Do you have some processors or have a favorite tool to create environment?
Iván Tarabelli: Nothing special at all. There are times that you can use sounds of some synthesizer or sampler libraries. Everything depends on how the image already has achieved to strengthen, reverse, or simply accompany.
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