Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are two of the most perplexing categories honored each year at the Academy Awards. If each February you find yourself scratching your head at these awards, don’t feel bad. Even many film professionals aren’t exactly sure what each of these professions entails or what makes the two different.

Because it’s such a wildly befuddling topic, I thought I’d take a stab at clearing things up the best I can. Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are two different steps of an overall process in creating and mixing a film’s sound, so it helps to think of them as such.

Step 1: Sound Editing

Sound Editing is the creation of a film’s sound effects, including Foley, and the insertion of said effects into the film. Films are more often than not shot with an emphasis on getting the actors’ dialogue. Most of what we hear in a film’s final cut is actually added in after the fact.

Once a film has been shot, the editor then gathers all of the footage and assembles it into a basic cut of the film. This is often referred to as the “Assembly Cut.” The goal here is simply to arrange the shots in general sequential order.

Now that the footage is laid out in the basic order in which the film will be watched, it’s time to start editing. This includes trimming shots, cutting footage, color correction and creating the sound effects that will fill out the world of the film; anything from the distant ringing of a bell or the ferocious roar of a Tyrannosaur Rex. Once those effects are finished, they are plopped down into the rough cut of the film wherever fits the director’s vision.

Step 2: Sound Mixing

Now that the film’s sound effects have been created and placed in their proper spots in the film, it’s time for the sound mixers to take over.

Sound Mixing is the layering and mixing of those sound effects with the dialogue. The goal is to realize a seamless world within the film. To be more specific, this is the part where the bell’s ringing is actually made to sound distant or a T-Rex roar like you’re staring down the king of the dinosaurs. Again, the focus is making sure we can understand what each character is saying.

That’s it! Sound Editing refers to the creation and placement of a film’s sound effects. Sound Mixing is about mixing and layering those sounds together smoothly and realistically.

If you liked this post or found it helpful, you might like to check out my Understanding Adapted vs. Original Screenplays post where– you guessed it– I discuss briefly the difference between the Academy’s two screenplay categories.

That’s the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing as I understand them. Hopefully that cleared some thing up! Jump down to the comments below and let me know if I was any help!


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