Creative production

Audio post-production: everything you need to know

We often refer to “seeing” or “watching” movies, but the truth is that much of a film’s artistic impact is felt through our ears, too. As the acclaimed director David Lynch once said, “Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual.” 

It takes a large team of engineers and artists to ensure that all audio elements work together. The dialog should be crisp and communicative, the Foley sound should subtly enhance the believability of the film, and the effects and music should support the director’s vision. All of these elements then need to be mixed so they’re both audible and enveloping on any sound system, from a phone’s speaker to a theater’s massive surround-sound setup. 

The work that goes into this phase is called audio post-production. It occurs in some capacity on not just films but pretty much any professional video content, including commercials, TV shows, video games, documentaries, and higher-gloss YouTube streams. Let’s dig in a little more to better understand what audio post-production is, who the key players are, and how it’s done.

What is audio post-production?

What is audio post-production?

Audio post-production is the process of refining and enhancing the audio elements of a recording or production through tasks such as editing, re-recording, mixing, and adding sound effects. The aim of audio post-production is to enhance the overall quality of the audio experience, removing inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and flubs, as well as to better reflect the creative vision of the production. For example, the director Robert Altman famously mixes his movies such that incidental and overlapping dialog gives viewers multiple threads to follow. Christopher Nolan, on the other hand, lets sound effects and music overpower the dialogue

Audio post-production is just one element of the broader post-production phase, which encompasses not just audio elements but also editing footage, color correction, and the creation of visual effects. Together, these elements turn the raw materials of a film shoot into the polished product consumed by audiences.

Understanding the audio production workflow

The name “post-production” implies a few earlier phases, which are worth touching on briefly. 

What is audio pre-production?

Audio pre-production is all of the work that goes into a film’s audio before production begins. The main goal here is to build a team — including figuring out exactly which roles are necessary for the given project, given its scope and budget — and laying the groundwork for a successful post-production phase. Common tasks include: 

  • Analyzing the script. 

  • Visiting shooting locations.

  • Procuring microphones and other equipment. 

  • Designing any sounds necessary for the shoot. 

  • Planning for post-production sound work. 

  • Technical setup in DAWs.

What is audio production?

This is the actual recording of the audio and video. On-set work for this phase includes operating boom mics and other recording equipment to attempt to capture as much usable recorded dialogue, sound effects, and music as the pre-production plan called for. Raw audio material — like birdsong for a scene set in the woods, or the crash of waves on a beach — can be captured here to later be refined in post-production.

Roles in audio post-production

Roles in audio post-production

Before we jump into the actual steps of audio post-production, let’s get to know the key players on the team. It’s worth noting that in many situations one person may wear multiple hats, while in others, the team may include dozens or even hundreds of workers. Think of these less as discrete jobs and more as the sort of roles that help make audio post-production happen.

  • The supervising sound editor oversees the audio post-production process, coordinating the work of the entire team to meet the director’s desired vision. 

  • Dialogue editors clean up, synchronize, and optimize recorded dialogue tracks. 

  • Sound effects editors design and edit sound effects, whether created custom for the project at hand or pulled from a library of sound effects. 

  • Foley artists perform and record live sounds, like footsteps and the rustling of clothes, to sync with actions on screen. 

  • Foley mixers, meanwhile, oversee the recording of these sound effects, and foley editors select and fine-tune them so they match their given scenes.

  • Sound designers create and assemble audio sounds, such as sound effects into a coherent whole.

  • ADR supervisors oversee Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR) sessions-actors recording replacement audio after production because the original audio was unusable. 

  • Music composers create original compositions to heighten the desired aesthetic effect. 

  • Music supervisors oversee the selection and licensing of preexisting tracks to play during the movie, while music editors ensure all of the music (original and licensed) is appropriately synchronized and edited to the action onscreen.

  • Re-recording mixers, sometimes called dubbing mixers, balance all of the audio elements in the final mix. 

Mastering engineers prepare the final audio mix by applying adjustments to optimize the audio across all possible setups.

How does LucidLink connect everyone involved in the audio post-production workflow?  

LucidLink allows distributed teams to work simultaneously on the same files. If you’re attempting to assemble a band of extraordinary contributors based around the globe, all of them can simply open the project in a given workstation and contribute to the session. 

A sound effects editor could begin designing the roar of a monster from their location in Stockholm while a composer wrangles musical contributions from handpicked session players across the globe. Meanwhile, the sound designer could review and even mix these right in the same DAW where they’re recorded, or suggest replacements in a MIDI configuration.

What are the phases of audio post-production?

Now that you know the different roles, we can dive into the wildly creative process of audio post-production, which blends creativity, technological expertise, original live performance, and meticulous attention to detail. It’s worth noting that several of these processes are likely to occur simultaneously. For example, foley recording may be occurring alongside ADR recording, and music composition could be occurring during production. It’s only once all of these elements are locked in a “final cut,” though, that mixing and mastering can take place. 

What are the phases of audio post-production?

Dialogue editing

Dialogue editing consists of trimming, cleaning up, and otherwise improving the recorded audio from the actual performances. This may occur at almost microscopic levels, taking individual syllables from one take and splicing them into a different take. Unwanted noises (like air conditioners or sound on set) can be eliminated through careful dialogue editing, and performances can be heightened through these nips and tucks. 

Foley recording

Named after the pioneering sound effects artist Jack Foley, Foley recording is the process of recreating live sounds to synchronize with on-screen actions. These sounds typically involve humans interacting with their environment: walking on different surfaces and at different speeds, shifting in their clothing, picking up objects, or opening doors. Foley sound also encompasses people interacting with other people, whether fighting or hugging. Foley artists perform in real-time to edited footage, staying keenly attuned to the action onscreen such that their sound effects feel as if they’re coming from the actors themselves. 


ADR corrects for shortcomings from the production phase by rerecording unusable audio, whether due to background noise, inconsistent quality, or poor syncing. The ADR phase recreates the performance in a studio environment, with actors closely watching their onscreen performance. ADR mixers ensure that new dialogue matches the lip movements and emotions of a filmed performance, and that the sonic quality is similar, so the re-recording process isn’t noticeable to the viewer. 

Sound effects editing

Anything that people need to hear that can’t be created via Foley artists must be made via sound effects. In movies, many of these are unreal or otherworldly, like spaceships taking off or massive explosions, but they can also be subtle ambient sounds, such as highly designed birdsong or underwater bubbles. They can also create “spot” sound effects, which cover up unwanted sounds in the mix. Sound effects editors either create their own sound effects, using DAWs, instruments, and blended field recordings, or they draw from sound libraries containing extensive pre-recorded sound effects. 

Sound design

While sound effects editors create and choose effects, sound designers begin to draw many of these elements together. They weave effects and ambient sounds into a more cohesive whole that will enhance the storytelling, emotion, and atmosphere of the production. They may create rumbling soundscapes to build tension leading up to a more dramatic individual sound effect, like an explosion. Sound designers creatively blend all of the recorded and created elements listed above, including dialogue, foley, and effects. 

Music scoring and supervision

Composers are sometimes the stars of the audio production world, creating iconic themes to be replayed at awards ceremonies. They work alongside other creative leads to create musical cues that match the tempo of the onscreen action, and can oversee the performance and recording of the music, too. However, their work is balanced by music supervisors — who select pre existing music to be licensed — and integrated by music editors, who synchronize all of the chosen songs to fit the timing and mood of scenes. 

Mixing & mastering

Mixing and mastering are related phases that draw together all of the elements into a final whole. First, a pre-dub mix combines all the elements — sound design, dialog, and music — for the first time. From there, re-recording mixers balance all of the disparate elements to achieve the desired impact. Perhaps the music should rise to meet the dialogue, or one sound effect is overpowering the percussion in the original composition. The mixing engineer performs fades and swells and makes sure everything is blended in such a way that the desired aesthetic effect is achieved. From there, the audio project is mastered. This means the audio as a whole is further fine-tuned to provide consistency across the entire audio project. 

Finalizing and exporting

Finally, the finished audio must be exported so it can be distributed or integrated into the final project. In addition to quality assurance and final EQ checks, multiple versions and file formats may need to be created, in order to play well in different platforms (like theaters, TV, VOD, OTT, and more). All audio files must be saved in appropriate formats, and relevant metadata must be  added. The audio is often backed up to secure against data loss and delivered either digitally or physically to the client or greater production team.

Helpful software for audio post-production

A job as big as audio post-production requires appropriate tools, and fortunately, there are a lot on the market. Let’s take a look at some of the software you’re likely to run across in the process. 

  • Steinberg Nuendo is also tailored for this phase, offering features such as surround sound tools and ADR management. 

  • Logic Pro X is widely used by music composers and sound designers thanks to its comprehensive set of virtual instruments. 

  • Pro Tools is a DAW used widely across the music and film industry, with tools associated with recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio. 

  • Avid Media Composer is a video editing platform with some integrated audio tools.

Helpful software for audio post-production

Reaper is a more budget-friendly DAW with a free trial.  Some more specialized tools to consider include: 

  • iZotope RX, which is designed to help repair and restore audio, making it ideal for dialogue editors in particular.

  • Synthetic sound libraries like Sound Ideas, Hollywood Edge and the BBC Sound Effects Library contain vast libraries of pre-recorded sound effects.

  • Soundminer, Wwise, and FMOD Studio are products popular among game audio designers, with specific features built out for interactive audio design.

  • Virtual instruments and synthesizers such as Massive and Serum can be used to create original music or sound designs. 

  • Hindenburg audio editor is specially designed for audio-only storytelling, like radio, podcasting, voiceover, and audiobooks.

  • Audio plugins can help process audio, adding grit or warmth, for example, while mastering plugins like iZotope Ozone can add polish.

All of these professionals working simultaneously with massive files can lead to massive headaches. Uploading and downloading huge files takes time, as does ensuring appropriate version control and security. 

LucidLink eliminates these issues by giving all users instant access to media assets of any size without downloading or syncing. Producers and artists can work from wherever they like rather than being on-site during production or post-production. A sound designer in Stockholm can work right alongside a sound effects editor in Sydney, tweaking waveforms in the DAW. Additionally, LucidLink can minimize the need for expensive recording studios, allowing engineers and artists to work wherever they are. 

LucidLink in Audio post production

For digital workflows and distributed teams, storage collaboration is an essential element of your creative environment. LucidLink enables you to: 

  • Optimize your storage and pick the right capacity for your team’s needs.

  • Protect data privacy through best-in-class security for all of your work.

  • Collaborate on the same files at the same time, from any location, like colleagues working in the same room. 

  • Eliminate tedious work, like uploading and downloading or ensuring version control, so creatives can focus on creating.

If you’d like to learn more about how LucidLink can streamline your audio post-production workflow, sign up for a free trial.