Collaborate successfully with these communication tips for sound editors.
The post-production sound process can be confusing for newer directors, and often represents a gap in their knowledge when compared to other areas of production such as camera or lighting. For audio-post professionals, it is our job to guide them through the process and ensure a smooth and collaborative experience through solid communication, empathy and patience.
In this post I will take you through 5 key considerations for communicating post-production sound with directors.
1. Let the director describe the project in their own words and language.
At 344 Audio, experience has taught us that the most effective approach when beginning a new project is to let the director talk you through their vision in their own words. Listen closely and pick up on the style of communication they use. Pay attention to key words and phrases that relate to the story and use similar language in your responses.
Even if it takes half an hour, allowing them to talk fully through their ideas will help build trust between you and the director. They will feel that you are listening to them and are not trying to dictate your style of working onto their project, putting them at ease and making them confident in your ability to deliver.
Remember, trust is the foundation for successful collaboration so you should work to maintain it at all times.
2. Tailor your approach to match their experience level.
It's crucial to remember that every director is different and will have their own level of experience when it comes to working with post-production sound teams.
Tailor your approach to match the experience level of the director. If they are still in the beginning of their career you may have to guide them through the different stages of the process. Conversely, a more experienced director may be more familiar with the process and will need less guidance from you.
Never assume anything, as even the most experienced director may not have worked as closely with the sound team as you are used to. Ask lots of questions to gauge where they are at.
3. Understand the way they like to work.
As well in variance in experience level, there will also be significant variance in how involved some directors like to be.
Some directors may give you minimal guidance as they value your independent thought enough to trust you to execute mostly independently. Other directors may be much more involved and have very specific ideas to be implemented into the project. Every director is going to be somewhere in between these 2 sides of the spectrum so know who you are dealing with and mould your approach to fit their way of working.
This gets easier with repeat collaborations, but when working with a new director it's crucial to invest time into learning how they like to approach sound.
4. Avoid overly technical language/jargon
Resist the urge to launch into technical discussions too early and keep things creative and subjective. Technical language by its very nature narrows/constrains your view in finer points. This is great for communication with sound colleagues, but for someone who doesn't speak this way it can be confusing and alienating, neither of which encourage successful collaboration.
For example: instead of saying "We will apply a low pass filter to cut high frequencies" try "We will make it sound softer" or "We will blend this into the scene more".
This kind of communication is open, accessible and allows the director to remain an active participant in the discussion.
5. Put yourself in their shoes
The role of the director is to make decisions, sometimes hundreds every day. They can't be an expert at everything but they need to have a general understanding of all of the different aspects that go into making the film (Costume, Lighting, VFX, Sound etc.)
This goes both ways. You should make an effort to put yourself in the shoes of the director and get into their head. What are their motivations and concerns? What do they expect from the sound team and how does it fit into the bigger picture?
Switching your viewpoint like this will help you to see things from their perspective and encourage successful collaboration.
Thanks to Alex Gregson of 344Audio for sharing these tips and tricks!