The Fine Art of Syncing Video, SFX and Sound

To the casual viewer, there may not seem to be much to worry about with sound and SFX when you’re filming a movie. Roll the camera, and you’ll get picture and sound, right? At least that’s the way it works for them with their point-and-shoot video camera or smartphone. But the reality behind how video, sound, and SFX work together is much more complicated, and demands careful planning from film producers, directors, animation services, and a many other involved partners.
Unknown to many, sound recording, video, and SFX are usually captured and rendered with different gear and at different times during the production process. Putting all of these disparate elements to create the cohesive whole that is the final product involves planning – planning about the production, gear, software, animation services, special effects, sound effects, and more. Keeping the entire production moving smoothly while juggling all of these elements is truly a fine art. Let’s examine some of the fine art of syncing these elements to create the production you’ve dreamed of.
Choosing the gear you’ll work with
Well, if the video and sound aren’t recorded on one camera, what do you use to record the audio for your shoot? In most cases, video makers will utilize a separate multitrack recorder to capture dialogue during their shoot. A variety of microphones can be utilized with the multitrack recorder. Lavalier microphones are often used in interviews or other shoots of a similar style. In the case of dramatic action, a lavalier microphone is too obtrusive, so a boom or shotgun microphone is often employed. Depending on the situation and setup, multiple microphones may be employed, so as to capture the dialogue of several different actors, or to capture ambient sounds that improve the overall effect of the scene.

Pre-production planning
No worse nightmare exists for the filmmaker than to take their work to the cutting room and find out that they’re missing a crucial piece of dialogue that somehow wasn’t recorded during the shoot. That’s why film producers, animation services such as, and others will carefully storyboard out their shoot, and create detailed shot lists.

These lists will be distributed to everyone involved in the shoot, so they can check off in real time that they’ve recorded the required material for each take.
The importance of the slate
The clicking of a slate at the beginning of a take is one of the oldest clichés in movies. But it’s an important action. When the slate is clicked, you’re setting a marker that makes it easier to marry sound and picture on your software’s editing time line.

To make it even easier, it’s a smart idea to have your camera record a video track as well. Then you can more quickly simply line up the sound and video tracks – an easy sync.

Use post-production to iron out any problems
Even after all of your planning and attention to detail during pre-production, production, and editing, you may find that certain elements have not come together as well as you would have liked. This is the time when “we’ll fix it in post” isn’t a bad thing to say.

Some of the problems which often occur may be poor sound levels with the dialogue or sound effects, or SFX that aren’t syncing well with the action. In the case of sound levels, judicious use of EQ settings and compressors may present a solution. In more extreme cases, you may need to rerecord some of the sound track and sync it with the existing material. With SFX, careful editing or reworking of the offending scenes, often with the assistance of animation services may be required.