Supervising Sound Editor

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What does a supervising sound editor do?

Supervising sound editors manage the team that looks after each part of the sound of a film or TV drama. This includes those responsible for dialogue, additional dialogue recording (ADR), sound effects, background sounds and Foley.  (See Who works with a supervising sound editor below for the full list.)

Their role varies according to the budget of the production. On lower budget films they start work when the picture editor has achieved picture lock – the point at which the director or executive producer has given the final approval for the picture edit. On bigger budget films, they start work before shooting begins and appoint specialist sound editors to supervise separate teams for each area of work.

After picture lock, supervising sound editors attend a “spotting session” with the director and other sound editors. They discuss any concepts for the overall feel of the sound (naturalistic or stylised), check every sound effect and line of dialogue to see what’s needed.  

They will then have a hands-on role in creating the overall soundtrack for every discipline.

They are responsible for the sound budget and for organising the workflow – from sound editorial, Foley recording, ADR sessions, pre-mix to final mix - and making plans for any special requirements. After the final mix, supervising sound editors usually oversee the creation of the different deliverables, including a music and effects version which allows dialogue to be replaced with dialogue in different languages.

They usually work in a freelance capacity but are occasionally employed by post-production houses.

What’s a supervising sound editor good at?

  • Listening: have a good ear, know what sounds good, be able to hear sounds that shouldn’t be there
  • Story-telling: understand the process of film production, appreciate how sound contributes to the narrative
  • Using software: record sound, use editing software, understand how sound is made
  • Organisation: budget, recruit staff, plan the work flow, work to deadline
  • Communication: understand the vision of the director, work with actors replicating dialogue with ADR, collaborate with the producers, picture editor and sound editors
  • Attention to detail: be patient, attend to the smallest sounds, often under pressure in the final mix stage

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