Silence Is Golden

Conversations about editing typically delve into arguments about which software is best or news about this or that plug in. These are all valid points of interest. But often overlooked are the tools you may possess that you don’t have to download and install on your computer.

Almost everyone has two of one of these tools: ears. Of course, you use them to listen to dialog, ambience, music and other sonic parts of your edit. But I’d like to talk about one way to strengthen your ears during the edit.

When you edit, you’ve probably laid out your audio elements across multiple tracks. You did this to keep things organized for both the edit and the audio mix. This process also helps you to concentrate on different aspects of the edit.

For example, if you put sound effects on tracks 7-10, then you can solo those tracks and make sure they are properly synced with the action on screen. Or if you put music on 3-6, you can mute the music to see how a scene might play without music.

This method strengthens your editing ability by narrowing your focus—removing distractions. But there’s one more thing you can do: Close your eyes. Just as muting the music track lets you focus on the scene, closing your eyes turns off the video tracks.

Yes, I said close your eyes. It’s quick to do. It’s also better than just turning off the video tracks. Closing your eyes also gets rid of the distracting software interface and the timeline showing you where cuts are actually happening.

If you’re working on a tough dialog cut, close your eyes and listen. With your eyes open you can’t help but look at where the visual cut is happening, and this may color your evaluation of the audio cut.

Or if you’re building up an ambience track, closing your eyes will help you imagine what the ambience suggests to the viewer. It helps you hear where the holes are in your ambience track.

Once the ambience is built and the dialog cut, I still listen—without watching—to make sure the balance is there, without the distraction of the picture. Closing your eyes strengthens your hearing and is a powerful tool that you always have with you.