Woody Woodhall runs the Sound for Picture channel on ProVideo Coalition, and just like the title implies, the articles there explore sound in media and entertainment projects in a totally unique manner. Whether he’s talking through why getting the shot shouldn’t be the only priority or how to save money in audio, his articles are insightful on a technical and practical level.
On the latest episode of That PVC Show, Scott talked with Woody to go even deeper into some of those pieces and got into how sound and picture editors can, do and should work together, among various other topics. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation. To listen to the whole thing, subscribe or rate the show in iTunes or listen to the show on Stitcher Radio.
Scott Simmons: On this episode of That Studio Show, it’s another ProVideo Coalition version, or That PVC Show as we like to call it. This is the first PVC version since we updated the PVC website, so check it out at www.provideocoalition.com. On this episode I talk with Woody Woodhall, and we talk about all things audio post-production. We chat about stems versus splits, the CALM act, what a picture editor can do to make a sound editor happy, the Los Angeles Post Production Group, walla versus room tones, as well as the iZotope RX4 plug-in. There’s a lot of good information in this episode about audio and audio post-production, so let’s get started. Today, we are talking with Woody Woodhall. You might know Woody from…well, you might not know him personally but you may have watched some of the programs that he has mixed audio and done sound design for over the many years of his illustrious career. Woody, thanks for joining us here.
Woody: I’m so happy to be here Scott, thanks for having me.
Scott: Now, you’re in Los Angeles, and a lot of folks know you from the Los Angeles Post Production Group. And you guys…give me a little history of the LAPPG.
Woody: Sure. LAPPG, we’re in our 8th year. We’ve produced over 100 live events. We meet the second Wednesday of each month, so we have a minimum of 12 meetings a year, but we typically will do more than that. We usually will do an additional four or five on top of the regular meetings. We’re a networking community. We find that there are a lot of people who get stuck in editing bays and don’t have a lot of opportunity for social networking. We do it on the computer…
Scott: But it’s not the same.
Woody: Yes (laughs). My wife and I started the group and thought it would be a great opportunity to sort of share ideas. We have some of the large manufacturers come and do demos for new products or show new workflows. We have a lot of Hollywood professionals who show people how they work and what they work on. It’s really turned into quite a vibrant community. There are a lot of regular members that rotate. We have 3,500 members worldwide now, and a lot of big partners. Adobe is a partner. HP is a partner. Sony is a partner. They help get the word out, and we help get the word out to our members about what they do.
Scott: Is it open to anyone? So anyone can come to a meeting?
Woody: Yeah, anybody can come. They can join us for free. If you’re not in Los Angeles and can’t make a meeting, through our website, lappg.com, there are all kinds of member benefits. Membership is free. We have discounts, and a lot of interesting leads to great articles. In fact, we just showcased in our current eblast a really great series of posts by a guy named Scott Simmons.
Woody: 28 Days of Editing Tips.
Scott: That was a big commitment.
Woody: It was a bear, but our membership has really supported that, and really loves the work that you do, so it gives us an opportunity to spread this stuff around. We have had a number of audio post facilities over the years through my company, Allied Post, as the sound guy. We found that we were sort of rehashing a lot of the same, not ideas, but the same requirements of what we need for shows. Whether we need room tone, the original music files, or whether we need a copy of the script for ADR…whatever. We were just sort of constantly reinventing the wheel. And we thought maybe there was an opportunity to create a group where we’re all sort of sharing ideas, so we’re not always starting from scratch. And at that point I had been lecturing around town on audio post specifically to places like the Producer’s Guild, Filmmakers Alliance, some of the universities. It actually grew into something way bigger than we ever thought it would. We started hosting meetings at one of our facilities, and we could sit maybe 40 people in there, but within about 3 months we were overgrown and needed to find a new space.
Scott: It’s a good problem to have. It’s got some longevity, so it’s almost at a decade.
Scott: Now, you mentioned an article, which kind of brings us to our topic here. You have a channel on ProVideo Coalition called Sound for Picture, which you’re talking about not just the music mix scene. I think the description of the channel itself gives you a clue into what the main focus is going to be. And I think sound for picture is an important topic and one that often goes undiscussed or thrown by the wayside in our camera crazy world with lots of DPs and lots of techie camera gear. People think sound is secondary to picture, but it shouldn’t be secondary at all. We’ve often heard that people will say you turn off a program you can’t hear before you turn off a program that you can’t see very well. You’ll accept bad picture over bad audio. You do that subconsciously, but I think people often don’t realize how true that is until they’re trying to listen to a program they can’t hear very well, and they’ll turn it off. I think you’ve go quite a few articles on there, and the idea of this PVC version of That Studio Show is we try to do a deep dive into one article, but in your case I think we’ve got several articles here that we can really dive into. If you go to your channel on PVC, there’s just lots of good reading on there. One that struck me and I read over multiple times was called Saving Time and Money in Audio Post. As an editor, I’m often thrown into the mix scene by default because they don’t have the money to go to a proper audio facility. But when we do, I like to try to hand off the best thing that I can. This is a big question, but the first question I wanted to ask, as a sound mixer and as an audio mixer, what’s the best term to call someone like yourself? Is sound mixer too demeaning? Are you an audio engineer? What’s the right term?
Woody: That’s a good question. I call myself a Supervising Sound Editor and a Re-recording Mixer. Which in itself is a huge bunch of syllables. I wish there was a simpler way to describe myself. Certainly, just going into the audio post process might be a way to describe it, but there’s a variation of either supervising sound editor, sound designer, re-recording mixer…any of those are pretty much what I do.
Scott: So forgive me if I use a term that’s demeaning to the craft and skill that one would have.
Woody: I have a very thick skin to just about anything when it comes to audio, so no problem there!
Scott: Well, what would a supervising sound editor, sound mixer…what would you want from an editor like myself if I’m giving you a reality show? Or even if it’s just a corporate spot and we’ve got interviews, we’ve got music, we’ve got some sound effects…what do you want from me to make your job not just easier, but more efficient? I want you to spend less time fixing stuff that I could have fixed all along in my two weeks of editing. What do you want from me that lets you make the best mix possible?
Woody: I think that’s a better way of framing the question. It’s not about what makes things easier for me, because I’m doing my job too, and whether my job is hard or easy is sort of beside the point. I just have to make something sound good. There are definitely steps that a picture editor can take that can advance the process to creating the best sounding show that we can do, and that’s really the goal for all of us. It’s a very gray area because there are so many other considerations. A television show that might be an unscripted show, and I do a lot of those for a lot of the different networks, has a very specific need which is different from a feature film. I would anticipate a different sound edit for a feature. And again, it would be the same if it were a corporate thing or a television commercial. So they’re all different, and a lot of these picture editors are all very different. Typically, an editor whose main stock and trade is, say, unscripted reality series, they’re going to cut sound very differently than, say, someone who basically cuts television commercials for a living.
Scott: When you say “cut sound differently”, in my mind, and it’s probably because I cut a little bit of all of the above just by nature of where I am, but I think there’s only necessarily one way to cut sound. Of course you can rearrange your tracks differently, you can be more proper in your layout and keeping things sort of aligned in your timeline where you’ve got groups of dialogue going here, and music going there…but when you’re saying “cut sound differently”, do you mean some editors will be more precise as far as how they’re making it sound versus others who will be a bit more sloppy and say they’ll let audio post fix it?
Woody: Or anything in-between. Most of it is really dictated by schedules. There’s this Food Network series that I’ve just started season 9 for called Mystery Diners. The picture editors are a revolving group, maybe four or five of them. We’ve done 100+ episodes since the show first started. I don’t really know how much time they get per episode, and there’s a whole process they have to go through. A story editor will assemble it for the picture editor, and then the producer gets involved. Television is a very hands-on thing. There are a lot of people who are involved in that. So they’re up against the clock to get the show out the door to me, because it’s going to air next Sunday, or whenever it is, and so the same is true for me. The clock is ticking on me. The minute I get the show I pretty much have 2 ½ to turn around a ½ hour show. If I’m lucky I might have four days to turn around a one-hour show. There’s whole lot of dancing that I have to do.
Scott: In that case, if you get two days to do a ½ hour show, and you’re on a reality show that probably has a lot more stacked up audio tracks than a corporate piece, because you’ve got lots of different sounds in that world, are you expecting something you can import where the tracks all pop up perfectly and everything is where it needs to be? Is it something where you can go to work on making it sound good, as opposed to having to spend hours figuring out? Stuff like, is that mic on audio track 1, or is it on audio track 10? Is there a standard for how you get that? Or a booklet, or a bible?
That’s just a preview of what Scott and Woody discussed during the podcast. Hear more about some of the projects Woody has worked on and some key details about articles like Audio Splits, Stems & Elemental Tracks, Pre-Production Audio for Post Production Sound and why iZotopes’s RX4 is so great via the links below.