Before reading this book, I did what most readers would do before purchasing a book: I thumbed through it. When I noticed schematics for building your own audio studio, I nearly had a panic attack. How could a book on audio that’s supposed to make sense to video people have schematics for audio studios??? Even though I’ve learned a lot about audio since I started my filmmaking career, the visual filmmaker in me is still extremely skittish about reading books that are written for audio people and audio studio schematics ward off video people about as quickly as crucifixes ward of vampires. As such, I immediately started to wonder if I could get John Howard, our audio analyst, to review the book. However, I quickly recalled that John is buried with work until the end of summer, so I decided to man up, get over my visual fears, and actually read the book.
To my wonderful surprise, I discovered that I had massively over-reacted. Provided you’re willing to sit down and read the book through, you’ll find that the audio concepts, terminology, and schematics are all explained in terminology that visual people can grasp pretty easily. Jay Rose is one of those audio technicians that’s had to work with visual people long enough to learn how to speak in such a way that their eyes don’t glaze over.
Once you delve into this book, you will really find that it’s quite understandable. It does take visual people a little while to get into the audio headspace, but not nearly as much time as for many other books on audio for film. Once you get the theory elements down, the rest of the book becomes increasingly easy to understand. Additionally, most video people will find their useable vocabulary noticeably expanded. (And, if you’re like me, and have a weakness for using words whose meaning you only partially understand, you will find that your consciously understood vocabulary goes up in regards to audio terminology by a huge margin.)
Depth of Information
Jay is smart enough to realize that many video people will only delve into the world of audio once they’ve screwed up their audio in production. (Not unlike a knight errant venturing into the dangerous wilds after his land falls into eminent danger from some menacing monster who can only be vanquished by some far-off magic talisman.) While this is not the optimal situation, obviously, Jay provides a great opening chapter that basically sums up the most common problems you might have with your audio in your film and then directs you to specific parts of the book that deal with your dilemma. Obviously, not all of these problems are easily fixable, which is why there is a lovely chapter on ADR and setting up your own home ADR studio to re-record necessary audio. (To prevent issues with audio in the first place, Jay has also written a book called Producing Great Sound for Digital Video, which we plan to review in the future.)
Once you get through this first analysis chapter, Jay encourages you to read the book straight through so that you can actually learn why audio behaves as it does. It’s sort of like learning the concepts behind cooking at a culinary school, rather than just using recipes you find on the internet. Once you understand how flavors work together, you can blend them in an intuitive way that is not constrained by the written recipes. For video people who often find the world of audio to be mystically inscrutable, understanding how sound works and why it works the way it does can be invaluable in getting the best possible product.
If you’re curious about some of the specifics Jay covers, he starts with how sound behaves so that you have a good grasp of why things happen and then moves on to things like setting up a studio for getting good audio, audio software you may want, planning out the track, ADR recording, editing dialogue, incorporating music, blending in sound effects, utilizing plug-in effects like equalizers, time-domain effects, and noise reduction, and then, finally, mixing everything down.
A specific example that I found quite useful was the inclusion of some pretty detailed information on how to find music that you can actually use in your film, with everything from the likely types of contacts to get popular music to how you pay for royalty-free library music. What was especially helpful about this was that he explained terms like Sync Rights, Master Rights, and Needle Drop Fees in a way that make much more sense to video people than I’d ever heard before. I was actually surprised to find out how much information I had been a bit vague on myself prior to reading this.
To further help you refine your audio skills even more, the book includes a CD full of very helpful examples of different audio situations. This really adds to the depth of information found in this book.
While audio concepts tend to be a bit dry, Jay manages to keep the material interesting by peppering the book with interesting facts, audio urban legends, and anecdotal information in small sidebars that are titled: “Gotcha!” Additionally, as you leave theory and get into practical application, the book becomes increasingly interesting and compelling. Unlike many audio books that I’ve read, where I was wading through them, APDV manages to stay fascinating in a way that’s quite impressive not just for audio books, but for any instructive book. Plus, lots of pictures and the aforementioned audio CD help keep things interactive and engaging, as well.
Due to the sheer scope of what’s covered in this book, it’s extremely reusable. If you use it the way it’s intended, it’ll be a good inspiration that you’ll want to refer back to from time to time. If you don’t use it the way it’s intended, choosing to use it as a problem solving book, reading only the sections that apply to a current problem, then you’ll actually re-use it even more often, because you’ll come back to it every time you have a post audio problem. Either way, this is a very reusable book.
Value vs. Cost
While $45 is a bit hefty for a book, coming uncomfortably close to college text book prices, the amount of information packed into it make it worth the price. Still, I would love to see the price reduced to the $35 range, as I think this would enlarge the audience that would actually spring for purchasing the book, rather than just checking it out from the local library.
This is really an excellent book for understanding audio post production and getting the best possible mix for your film. As such, if you want to create the best possible film you can, then you owe it to yourself to pick Audio Post Production for Digital Video up!