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Sound Design Workshop for Visual people
by Michel Massicotte   
Rated "PG13" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Posted: Wednesday, December 03, 2008

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This article is meant to illustrate a few challenges you may face --and the rewards achieved-- as a member of a coop, and one of its eventual instructors.

Sound Design Workshop for Visual people


Not an impossible task, but you need to convey the information in a way the students will understand, and want to listen to you.

“No kidding,” you might be thinking.

Of course, but people seem to act differently on weekends. Two days (Workshops are not taught during holiday weekends) when most people would rather be idle, do their own thing, or be with family, and at this stage of the film workshops, the majority of the fun --at least from the student point of view-- is over. Writing the script, shooting, recording sound, being a director being an actor, are already completed, and the point when most students are satisfied with their efforts. They might be interested in seeing themselves on film and take an interest in the picture-editing workshop. You might see 1 or 2 students with a vague interest in how the sound they recorded will be added to the film, but that interest is satisfied in the 1st 2 hours of the workshop, and they tend to leave at lunch.

Students who persevere in this workshop are considering a career in film, they will migrate to making video or HD movies, or produce work bound for the Web.

To make the material stimulating, instructors should include discussing pioneers and their contributions to cinema. You want to be funny to maintain their attention, and you can do that by pointing out how the innovations and evolutions in cinema happened by accident.

Since film and video are visual mediums, you are expected to show examples and teach (We are more like instructors, but teacher sounds better) the class how to operate the toys in the coop, and the intricacies of preparing their film according to industry standards.

Yes, I agree, almost too much to think about for 2 days your body tells you it was meant for less stringent activities.

I started out as an assistant teacher, watching the teacher go through the paces, learning 10 to 12 new names, and trying to make theory sound interesting. They were impressive in maintaining interest for a good chunk of the time. But as with all students who go through lectures while in university or college --and in some workshops, adults looking to do something they dreamed about for a long time-- their mind wanders after an hour to an hour and a half. Reduce that time frame when the subject matter is not related to earning credits, and learning things on the weekend. Did I mention that point?

As with all workshops directed to visual people, sound supports the visuals or picture. Therefore all instructors show clips of movies with sound effects and score created by the pioneers --or they should, and not resort to their own work unless their work is acknowledged by the industry-- and point out what they are to hear.

Unfortunately, once you show the visual, sound is considered of secondary importance, and chatter begins about how the director motivated the actor to say a line or react a certain way, or how a producer bargained to secure a location. At that point, no matter how hard the instructor tries to refocus discussion on the pioneer, interests drift to what the students would like to do with their film.

I went through this moment twice.

I was terrified at being the instructor, and thought correcting their behaviour would be wrong with the workshop into its 1st hour. To make matters worse, the assistant seemed more comfortable with the material and more confident about herself as an instructor, finishing my thoughts and adding her view on things.

The second time this moment occurred --and fortunate the assistant was more respectful-- I knew my technique needed to be changed, especially after talking to previous instructors who told me, “you did fine.”

I thought they were kidding. How can your technique be fine if the students are talking about anything other than sound effects or score?

I was invited to “teach” the workshop a 3rd time. I thought, “Ok, time to change technique.” But how do you make students pay attention without making reference to the image?

Yes, I can hear you saying, and saying loudly, “unplug video from TV!”

I tried that at home for a minute, or the time span felt like a minute. I imagined a student saying something like, “that’s dumb. You watch a movie. You don’t listen to it!”

Maybe not, but what if you make them hear a movie clip and then ask them to tell you what is going on?

I thought, “Ok, they’re either going to be mad and complain about my incompetence, or they might actually learn something.”

One movie would serve for sound effects, another for score (music designed to create mood throughout the movie).

Theories about sound design, naming the pioneers, describing their work, and how the wonderful accidents happened would serve as a setup for the clips.


I am looking at their faces, 9 in all. One person is not here. Judy tells me he was part of their group but will probably not “show up”. I thank her, trying to be as humble as possible for not remembering her name. As with most people, I remember things better after writing them, and during the workshop I do that while they are completing their picture edit.

I hold the TV on the trolley storing DVD player and turn it away from them.

Ken, a large boy with a mess for hair tied in a pony tail watches me suspiciously from the far end of the table. Larry, beside him, seems worried, looking at him.

Judy and Mark are talking about their respective plans for that evening.

Tony and Josh continue planning their strategy, or so they told me before the others arrived, and arrived late.

Jack, Ben, and Tasha are debating the use of CG in movies, where Tasha thinks story is being lost whenever you see effects in the movie.

I lower sound to “0” on the TV to set up the clip, unplug the yellow RCA cable for video from the television, and turn trolley and TV to face them.

The next part is crucial in captivating their attention, especially so close to lunch.

“How well do you know this movie?” I ask, holding case high enough for all to see.

Ken blurts the title and a rude comment.

Judy and Mark look at each other as though insulted.

“Hey, dude, everyone knows it,” Jack answers.

“Great!” At least two people are paying attention. “This clip you’re going to see is at the very beginning of the movie. I want you to listen to it, and tell me what’s going on.”

I can almost see gears rolling, anticipation, and wonder.

I press the play arrow on the remote.

Ken whines after 10 seconds (At about the same time I grew frustrated in doing the same thing at home).

He is shushed severely by Tasha.

I stop the clip close to the spot in the movie where the ships reach the platform.

“What are you hearing?” I ask them.

“Airplanes,” says an upbeat Ben.

Mark nods in agreement.

“That’s good,” I affirm. “Now, how many airplanes did you count?”

“This is boring,” Ken says, cursing.

Tony and Josh are annoyed looking at him.

“I think three or four,” Jack says.

“Ok, great,” I reassure them. “Now, can you tell me what size they are?”

“Huh?” Ken says.

“Look at it this way,” I tell them. “Big ships make deep rumbling sounds, small ships make small sounds. This may be a sci-fi, but I think Lucas wants people to be able to relate to things in an everyday way, and I think you can do that here. So, how many of each?”

Jack snorts and then giggles. “I get it. There are three small airplanes and one big mother.”

“Very good,” I tell him before plugging in the yellow RCA wire to the television, and reverse scan the disk and confirm his assessment. “Now I want you to listen to an example of scoring”.

The guys seem less interested in that demonstration, but Judy and Tasha say they now see how scoring made a huge difference in the movies they like.

You can tell by their expressions, group 1 made up of Tony, Josh, and group 2 made up of Jack, Ben and Tasha are already working at redesigning sound in their movie, and I know their eyes would glaze over with anything other than an explanation as to how to setup the editing table for sound editing.

The next step is also important, as you are trying to simulate the accepted standards in the industry. That will mean making art students do more math.

To your benefit they already know, at normal speed, film runs through a camera at 24 frames per second, and the picture editing workshop introduced them to the Steinbeck editing table, which means they know --or should know if that instructor did his/her job-- a ruler on the table will help them count the exact number of frames of sound they will need for the corresponding number of frames of picture.

The challenge --at least when you do it for the 1st time-- is in synchronizing the sound reel to the picture reel. Students become nervous at this point, and always ask for help.

Ok. Being an artist and not being able to relate math to things like film, I cheat at this part. I watched the instructors measure off so many frames of leader (strip of white plastic matching dimensions of film and perforated the same way), saying “you need ‘x’ number of frames to match the universal leader on the picture reel.”

I tell the students, “Use about three turns worth of lead on the spool and then unwind enough of it to make it through the sprockets and reach the sound head. That’s where you put the ‘2’ beep.”

Judy asks, “So if our movie starts with hearing a punch, it would go in after that?”

“Yes,” I say before chuckling, “the punch sound would be spliced in after the ‘2’ beep”.

“So does the ‘2’ beep come after the countdown?” she asks.

“Yep, the ‘2’ beep on the sound reel should be heard when you see the number ‘2’ of the universal leader, and you can’t go wrong there because the ‘2’ is only 1 frame.”

 “Our dialogue is at the very end,” Ben says, “so do we use the white leader until that point?”

“Uh, no,” I correct as gently as possible. “You use slug.”

Ken snorts.

“You know the film you didn’t use or threw away during the picture editing workshop?”

“Yeah,” Tony answers.

“That’s slug. You use that, but make sure you put the shiny side against the sound head.”

Jack and Mark look at me as though confused.

Ken hums.

“What do you mean?” Tasha says, pen poised on paper.

“Weren’t you told one side of film is shiny, the other side dull?”

“Sort of,” Judy says. “But the guy didn’t look like he cared about that. He said that you would be talking about it.”

“Wow,” I tell them. “That’s pretty important at this stage… Ok.” I take the piece of sample film from the table and show it to them. “The shiny side is the plastic part of the film containing the sprocket holes. The silver nitrate, or the chemical which creates the image, is applied to one side, and it’s dull; therefore, that side is the dull side. You need to put the shiny side against the play head, because the dull side, or silver nitrate side….” I flip it around once or twice, trying to see if I can actually see the difference between shiny and dull this time. “The nitrate side will dirty up the play head.”

I get the impression they need to see proof. “There’s a simple way to check for this,” I insist. “Take a key or sharp edge,” I remember house keys in pocket, and take them out. “And rub it against each side. The side where stuff comes off is the dull side.” This slug is a piece of over exposed film without enough silver nitrate to make a good demonstration between shiny and dull side. “Make sure the shiny side is against the play head….” I scratch another section hoping to prove a point, but nothing happens. “Ok this is a bad example.”

They laugh.

“But I’ll show you individually what I mean when you reach that stage in your edit.”

Judy raises her hand. I feel nervous but smile and nod.

“Our film has dialogue only at the end. When do we put in that ‘2’ beep thing, and do we put in slug all the way up until we hear talking? And what is a ‘2’ beep anyway?”

“Ok. Yes. You splice in the slug after the ‘2’ beep, and the beep is really a small piece of a longer piece of magnetic tape which contains the continuous sound of a high pitched beep. You splice in one frame of that tape into the sound reel at the frame which corresponds to the number ‘2’ on the picture reel.”

Jack is reading the course notes, and raises his hand.

I nod again.

“Ok. I can see here that you use one track for sound, one track for score, and other tracks for sound effects.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“But my… I mean our film’s like hers. We put in the talking at the end. I know the notes say we’ve got to put the talking on one track and the special effects on another… etc., but we’ve only got but one sound effect to put on and it’s in the middle—“

“Uh--” Ben interrupts. “We’re actually thinking about putting another effect in when she’s blowing a bubble.”

“What? When did you guys decide that?”

“This morning, before the workshop started.”

Jack shakes head.

“We were going to talk to you about it later,” Tasha remarks.

“Ok. Whatever. But anyway, why not put the talking and the sound effects in the spaces between the talking?” He looks at me. “Sorry, I meant dialogue.”

“I know it sounds like a waste of resources doing things the way the instructions say,” I tell them, “but it’s just to give you an idea of how things work in the industry, at least when you’re working in linear as opposed to non-linear.” I pause, waiting to see if someone understood the last two terms.

“I beg your pardon?” Tasha says, scribbling notes. “What did you say? Linear and… what was the other one?”

“I said linear as opposed to non-linear.”

“It means the Steinbecks instead of Final Cut or Premiere,” Josh tells them.

“That’s right,” I confirm. “Does everyone know what they mean?”

“Heard of Final Cut, but never used it,” Josh adds.

“In simple terms, linear means you’re putting film together on an editing table, physically cutting and splicing the film. With non-linear you’re using the computer and cutting and pasting digital video and audio clips together at will.”

In one way or another, the discussion always reaches the point were students make comparisons between the two mediums. I try to not discourage them for the work they will do that weekend.

“To put things into perspective, what you will be doing in about eight hours on the Steinbeck, you could accomplish in anywhere from two to three hours by computer.” I leave out things like fades, dissolves, special effects and credits.

Tony and Tasha appear flustered, but I emphasize working with film brings a unique feel to a movie, and until High Definition was accessible to the average consumer, no other medium could compare to the visual quality and versatility of film.

In every sound workshop taught to date, most of the groups need to complete what they started in the picture editing workshop. In the first couple of attempts as instructor, I would let the students work with the picture reel throughout the workshop.

That was a mistake. They spent Saturday afternoon fast forwarding and fast rewinding through their sound reel, and searching the audio archives at the coop looking for the best possible sound effect to coincide with a specific moment in the picture reel they were watching. That led to frustration and incomplete films by most of the groups on Sunday afternoon, and that frustration led to arguments about artistic differences.

I wanted to avoid that potential chaos on the 3rd attempt.

“You’re going to hate me for this part,” I tell them.

You can imagine their reactions.

“I want you to do exactly what you did in the picture editing workshop for this workshop with the sound reel.”

They seem puzzled.

“What’s that?” Judy asks.

“You’ll take your magnetic reel, go through it, listen for the start of a take, label it with a vertical line and arrow showing it as the start, go to the end or tail, and label it the same way to show it as the end. When you’re finished doing that you’ll cut each take and line them up over the bins you were using during the picture edit workshop.”

They seem puzzled again.

“How you supposed to know when it does that without seeing the picture?” Ken sounds sarcastic.

“Good question,” I tell him, somehow knowing someone would ask that. “You’ve only got one line of dialogue and a few songs. Is that right?”

Most nod, Mark and Josh mumble in agreement.

“Ok. Did all of you use a slate or a clapboard?”

A slate or clapboard is a dual purpose tool. It provides detailed information about the production, such as shot number, scene number, name of production, and it serves as link between audio and visual. The production assistant --or producer at the odd time-- places the slate it in front of the camera before each take is to be shot, and after saying specific information about the production, he or she will snap the folding arm down. That motion and resulting ‘bang’ or ‘clap’ sound will aid in aligning the sound reel to the picture reel. Digital clappers show more complex information such as time code.

“Actually,” Tasha says, raising pen, “we sort of forgot to use one, so we used two sticks we found outside.”

Judy giggles and Tony laughs as they mention a similar moment in their shoot.

“Really,” I say, “well, you’ll go through many more experiences like that. But the point is, when you listen to the sound reel and you hear the sound of the sticks hitting each other, you’ll know the action starts at that point. Just rewind the magnetic reel to a few seconds before that moment. You’d be surprised at what you remember of that shot and you’ll probably find the start to that take.”

Judy giggles when Mark tells her something.

“Can we get to it?” Ken says impatiently.

Tony and Josh appear concerned as they close their manuals.

“Ok. Just one more thing. Again, once you’ve labeled your mag reel, and cut the individual takes, line them up over the bin. After that, splice in the ‘2’ beep and start assembling things.”

I doubt they heard any of that.

The clock on the wall shows 11:30 am.

I am handing out the picture reel to the groups not completed that part of their work. “Bring it back to me when you’re finished and I’ll give you the sound reel.”

I can tell Ken resents this way of doing things.

“Once you start with the mag reel, I expect you’ll be finished cutting the individual takes in a couple of hours.” They seem doubtful. “It’ll be a lot easier than you think.”


Three hours later, I am enjoying a chocolate bar and about one quarter of the way through one of the movies I brought. Andrea, a young black woman with pink hair, is the monitor. She arrived at lunch.

Monitors are usually asked to clean dishes, make coffee and learn as much about the coop as possible before taking the workshops. But with this workshop, I hate the stigma associated with the role of monitor, so I let her do what she wants. She is standing tippy toes at the shelf, looking through the library of DVD versions of films from current and past members of the coop.

My assistant is in one of the editing rooms, and for some reason I am being made to hear him trying to give advice.

Tony appears from the corner. He approaches me and asks to show them how to set up the “2” beep.

I follow him to the editing room 1, hearing laughter from editing room 2. It sounds like Ken but much more exited, like something naughty is going on.

Tony and Josh seem to like a tidy work environment. Their magnetic reel is now reduced to half a dozen strips strung along hooks over a bin beside the editing table they are using, and I swear they cleaned every open surface on the editing table. The viewer on the table displays the number “2”, and both boys seem eager to push on.

Laughter is coming through the walls.

I am trying to focus on the promising work being done in front of me. “Ok, put two turns of the white leader on the spool,” I am looking at the sprockets, and spool on the post to the spinning wheel on right side of the table, “and draw enough out to reach the sound head.”

Josh tapes the white leader to the spool and turns it three times like an expert.

“Now the fun part,” I look at both before pointing to the frame of picture on which the viewer light is beaming. “See how the frame on the picture reel is centered on the light?”

Both nod.

“You want to mark the corresponding frame on the sound reel. That’s where the ‘2’ beep will be spliced.”

Both nod.

“Is the dialogue in your film at the end?”

They nod again.

“Ok. Get some discarded picture film, and splice it in making sure the dull side is facing you, and the shiny side is against the play head,” I emphasize again.

“Damnit! Josh says. “I don’t have keys with me.”

“Ok. Have you got any change?” I ask him.

He searches his pockets and pulls out a dime.

“That’ll do,” I reassure, “you just need an edge sharp enough to scrape off the silver nitrate from the film.”

“How much slug do we use?”

“As much as you need to reach the point where the shot begins, because at that point, you’re going to splice in the audio that corresponds to that section of picture.” I point to the picture reel. I pause, wondering, knowing this group shot another script. “Did you guys use a slate?”

“Yep,” Tony answers confidently as he rummages the bin, “and we made damn sure it was completely in frame.”

You find the odd take where the slate is placed too high, and the folding arm is not seen making the sound of the clap.

“Great. That’ll make your job a lot easier. Just remember, and this is really really important, to cut and splice from the left hand side of the table.”

“Why?” Josh asks.

 “Assume that everything on the right side of the table, meaning after the beep, is in sync. You want to continue that way, so you want to cut and splice from the left side of the table.”

“Ok,” Tony answers. “That makes sense.”

“What?” Josh asks. “How?”

Tony looks at me. “It’s OK. I’ll explain it to him.”

“Really?” I ask. “Ok. Explain it to me.”

He pauses. “I think it’s because if you edit from the right, you’ll be messing up your timing.”

“Ok. Why would you be messing up your timing?”

He looks at the table. “Because everything to the right of the sync points is…. Well, in sync. If you add sound after the sync mark, everything gets out of sync.”

“That’s good,” I tell him. “How did you figure that out?”

“It’s just logic.”

“Good one,” I reaffirm.

He turns and mumbles to Josh about what he hopes to find in way of a sound for a stretch of walking in a shot.

I leave them at that point, knowing Tony is ‘in the zone’ and Josh will follow soon.


Mark and Judy are beside them, and appear to be halfway through listening to their magnetic reel. Mark is at the controls, moving footage forward and reverse while Judy is leaning to the speaker.

“I think it stops there,” she says. Mark stops and labels that section of the reel.

“Are you two taking turns at the controls?” I ask them.

“I told him to do it. It’s not my thing.”

 I know better than to correct someone in that frame of mind.

 “Are you Ok with that?” I ask Mark as innocently as possible.

 “Fine by me. I love doing this.”

I hear loud laughter coming from the other room.

“Ok. Just let me know when you’re ready for the ‘2’ beep.”

“Sure,” Judy replies.

More loud laughter from the other room.

“Could we just do what were supposed to do!” I hear another voice say.

Not something I want to hear and I am wondering what Jonathan is doing right now.

I try to enter editing room 2 as casually as possible.

Jonathan appears busy with Jack, Ben and Tasha, but I get the feeling he is trying to avoid Ken and Larry.

“Hey guys, how are things coming along?” I ask, heading to Ken and Larry.

Ken coughs and snorts. “Not much man. Just having fun with the sound.”

The reel of magnetic tape is on one of the side posts, but a good portion of the reel is on the floor. “Ok. How so?”

“I found another tape of weird stuff in the corner and it sounds grounchy when you play it backwards.”

“That’s sort of Ok,” I tell him. “How’s it going with labeling your magnetic reel?”

“Not so good. My buddy here and me don’t really like what we did on it. We’re doing another thing.”

Larry seems too quiet.

“Are you Ok with that?” I think he wants to object, but he seems too reserved or subdued to say anything.

“Sorry, but part of the reason for the workshop is to learn how to match the picture reel to the sound reel using the clapper.”

“Right on,” Ken blurts, playing with the controls, “So just give me something decent to work with and I’ll do wonders for yah.”

Larry shifts, like he is about ready to explode.

“Have you had your turn at the controls yet?” I ask him.

“A bit”, he responds.

I look at Ken looking at Larry as though daring him to talk.

“I don’t mean in the picture editing workshop,” I stress, “I mean in this workshop.”

Ken snorts and looks away, bouncing leg like he is sending fast and steady beeps of Morse Code.

Silence from Larry tells me everything.

“Ok. Switch,” I tell them.

“You gotta be kidding me!” Ken protests.

“No, I’m not. You’ve got one line of dialogue to remove and three….” I think, trying to make things easier for them. “Tell you what. Find the line of dialogue that corresponds to the clip you’ve got on the picture reel, remove it and then start your edit.”

“I know where it is,” Larry says, biting a nail.

“Great. Go to it.”

Ken curses rudely and loudly.

Tasha looks our way. I give her the warning sign to stay out of it.

“That’ll take forever and what I’m doing is more fun!” Ken protests.

“Yes, I understand, but these workshops are also about teamwork. You have to remember that.”

He stands slowly.

I like being sized up, especially when the other person is bulkier and appears less agile than me. Being a former stunt performer I think I might stand a chance at throwing him across the room if need be.

“Screw this,” he says. “I’m taking lunch.” He looks at Larry. “You do the crap work. I’ll be back when you’re ready,” emphasizing to Larry, “to do the sound effects.”

He storms out of the room.

Larry shifts to the chair facing the table.

“Do you need any help?” I ask him.

“Nah. Just show me how you put the sound tape through the gears and I’ll do the rest.”

“Sure, and let me know when you’re ready for the ‘2’ beep.”

He nods, watching me loop the sound reel through the sprockets and to an awaiting spool on a post on the other side.


I am in the main room, popping a few last pieces of celery while reading a book about metaphysics. Andrea is leafing through another magazine.

Ken returns from his lunch and approaches me, but stays far enough away to make me think he is not staying.

“Uhm, excuse me,” he says with great severity. “I cannot work this way.”

I know what he means, and I am not trying to be mean. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

“Listen to me. I can’t work with sound unless I see what the hell’s going on with the image.”

“It’s not that difficult. It’s just a matter of listening for sound when it starts, labeling its start and end points, and then cutting it out. Your partner… I mean Larry, finished that five minutes ago.”

“You ain’t listening. I can’t work that way. It’s insane for me to do things that way.”

You never imagine yourself facing a moment where you know the student will leave the workshop if you force things or conditions on them. You know if you do, he will leave and complain about you being inflexible after he paid for the training, and you know if you do find a way for him to produce something, he will, at this stage, be working by himself.

“All right,” I say as calmly as possible, thinking. “Tell me, have you ever watched a movie or a TV show, turned off the sound, and you made the special effects as you saw what was going on?”

He looks at me like a six year old being given a new bike.

“God! I love doing that!”

“Ok. Let’s try that. Go through the bins and find as much slug as you can, and what the other groups aren’t using, and make a thirty second story with it and the sound effects from the library. Try to make the sound sync with the action taking place.”

“Thank you!”

“No problem.”

“You’re a genius!”

“No. I just don’t want to see this weekend be a complete waste for you.”

“Ok. So where’s my table?”

I want to laugh at him for being so self-absorbed. “Take the spare one behind where Larry is working. I can set up the two beep for you if you want.”

“You are the man! You will not regret this.”

“OK, thanks.”

He walks away whistling.

I turn to the television to pause the movie knowing Ken will need help. I notice Andrea is holding a magazine open at one page or another, but frozen, staring at me as though not believing the scene. “Oh my God!”

“It’s not like that all the time, but he’s going to need help,” I tell her, hesitating. “Did you want to watch the movie?”

“Uh, no. But if it’s OK with you I’d prefer to leave. I only needed 3 more hours of volunteer time to make it to full member status.”

I stop DVD player, turn off TV and prepare for Ken. “Sure. Not a problem. I hope you enjoyed your time here today.”

By then 3 groups are almost ready to remove the slate from their film, and that will involve more rudimentary math.

You want to remove all footage before the slate, and in the real world, the director and producer decide how much to remove after hearing the word “action”. Therefore, if you remove --or splice out-- 10 frames of the image, you will want to remove the corresponding number of frames from the sound reel. However, should you want to mix and match various takes from the same angle, be diligent and open-minded. 

Two hours later, Ken is humming as he splices various lengths of slug from what appears to be a handful spread out around him.

So ends Saturday.


You arrive at the same time Sunday morning, expecting to see the class waiting for you at the door.

When I was the student, I was there half an hour earlier than the instructor.

Ben is the first student to arrive, and 15 minutes late. He appears too groggy to do anything constructive. He lies on the couch and covers his eyes. Moments later I smell stale beer.

Judy and Mark wander in, Mark with a coffee from Tim Horton’s, Judy, a travelling mug, and both sit at the table, talking about the additions they want to make to their edit.

Tasha arrives and approaches the table, “Can I start editing right away?”

“I like your enthusiasm,” I tell her, “and I’d say ‘yes’ but you’re missing a team member.”

She curses. “Can I at least put my coat and bag there?”


She walks away like she is visualizing a full agenda ahead of her.

“Really?” Judy responds. “We could just go straight to the table?”

“Yes. You’re done with the theory part,” I tell her.

“Let’s go,” she tells Mark. He follows her.

Ben groans, struggles to push himself up, and cradles his head.

Jonathan arrives, followed by another monitor.


Mid afternoon, and I and watching another movie I brought from home.

Jonathan is dramatic in telling Randy, the monitor, his experiences in shooting his 1st movie. Randy smiles and laughs occasionally, trying to relate that information to his experiences as a graphic artist. 

I hear laughter coming from editing room 1. I stand to go there, but stop as the laughter is followed by discussions about things other than film.

Jack and Ben are laughing hard in the other room. I am guessing everyone is tired and each group is trying to outdo each other from the point of view, ‘I’m having more fun than you are’.

I enter editing room 2 and find Tasha alone at the editing table. Jack and Ben are standing over Ken, watching his work and laughing.

Ken looks at me with an ‘I told you so’ expression.

Larry, in the corner, appears to be bothered by the laughing, and Tasha is at the controls and seems insulted ‘her boys’ are more interested in what ‘he’ is doing.

I return to the main room to gather the course evaluation sheets, distribute them to each student and ask them to be gentle.

 “Michel?” Larry says gently. “Could you help me with the dialogue?”

A sinking feeling takes hold thinking he spent the weekend working only on that footage. “Did the music and sound effects work out the way you hoped?” I ask him.

“Yeah. That was the easy part.”

I can relax for a minute.

“But getting the words to sync up with the image is really tough, so I decided to leave it to the end.”

A young guy who knows how to use his time wisely. “Ok. What’s going on?”

He sits and rewinds picture and sound a few seconds. “I used the dialogue from one take and put it to the image for this take.” He switches the lever to forward. “It starts off Ok, but the second part is weird. I made the words start when he starts talking but when he looks at the camera later in the take, the words aren’t following. It’s like I’m hearing the words before he’s saying them.”

I look at the footage and know I went through that situation at least 3 times with 3 of my own movies. “Ok. This could be one of two things. Either the actor is saying the dialogue at a different speed in each take, or he is saying more dialogue in the take of the picture. Did you listen to both takes before splicing this one together?”

I see him looking at both reels of waste and I sense his enthusiasm dropping.


“Not a problem,” I reassure him.


“Yes. You can make these work together. I think he is saying more in this picture clip than what we’re hearing from the sound clip.”

We look at the footage again, and the actor in the image continues to talk after the dialogue stops.

“Ok. Re-splice the dialogue to make it in sync with the picture when his face is on camera, and add slug at the beginning.”

Larry looks at the viewer. “But won’t it look weird to see him talk before hearing him talk?”

“I agree it would if he were facing the camera from the start. But since he is turned away until the middle, you can cheat. Hollywood does it all the time.”


“Yep. Really.”

“Bingo!” Ken says loudly.

I turn to him. “What’s up?”

“I’ll show yah,” he says proudly. He holds the sound track away from the play head as he rewinds his project quickly, like I showed him, and he stops at the number “6” on the universal lead. “Feast your eyes on this piece of art.”

“Hold on a second,” I tell him. “I want the class to see.”

He starts to whistle.


The students are astonished at what Ken accomplished. Although a lot of the footage is sporadic in lighting due to over or underexposure, the sounds are spliced in a way to make them seem like they were designed for what he put together. He explains in vivid detail what is going on, and in an odd way it makes sense.

To be honest, I can see why he would hate to do things according to rules. You meet people like him once in a while; loud, arrogant, impatient, but you let them do what they want, in their way, and they create unusual and interesting things, like the pioneers.

The last few seconds of film shows one of the students in the workshop waving at the camera. I smile.

“Can I keep this?” he asks me.

“Well, actually, you’ll all get a DVD copy of your work.”

“Really?” Jack asks.

“Sure. That’s part of the package. Don transfers your projects to digital and provides you a copy on disk”.

“You guys are dudes, man!” Jack says.

“Thanks,” I tell him.

“Excuse me.” Judy taps my shoulder. I turn to her. “I think we’re finished. Can you come see?”

“Sure.” I speak to all people in the room, including Jonathan now talking to Larry. “Ok, it’s time to see another finished film. Follow me please.”


Most groups finish their edit well before the allotted time, and Randy and Jonathan are gone at this point. Phone numbers are exchanged and discussions start about what they want to do for their next film or movie.

I slip the envelope containing the completed surveys under the door for the administration to find the next morning (Monday). 

They leave thanking me for helping them. I bid them good luck knowing I may never see them again, but thinking I may see their work out there some day.



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