Serial Audio Innovator

by Nakiesha Koss

posted on 07-11-2017

A distant siren. Leaves rustling in the wind. A woman’s heels clicking down a long hallway. In films, television shows, and even commercials, viewers often take for granted how what they hear helps to set the tone and tell the story just as much as what they see. Frank Serafine, a Supervising Sound Editor and Sound Designer who has worked in Hollywood for more than 40 years, understands this relationship between sight and sound better than almost anyone.

Serafine began composing music for the Hollywood community in the 1980s. In addition to working on more than 65 films, including the Star Trek and Tron films, Poltergeist, Lawnmowerman, Virtuosity, Orgazmo, and The Hunt for Red October, he’s done sound design for more than 300 national and local television commercials.

Over the years, Serafine has helped lead the progression from analog to digital sound editing. He was part of the team that first edited sound digitally on The Hunt for Red October, which won a sound editing Oscar. Next, he moved on to editing dialog digitally on Lawnmowerman. Today, he does the majority of sound design and editing using Adobe Audition CC.

Powerful editing platform

With so many editors making the move to Adobe Premiere Pro over the last few years, Serafine also needed to find a new solution for audio and was happy to see the direction that Audition was taking. “I look at Audition as the leader in the race for audio and audio technology,” says Serafine. “In Audition, the technologies developed over the past 30 years for digital editing are now on board in one system.”

Serafine is on a mission to broaden the role of Audition in the audio editing process. For the recent “Mercury Insurance Covers Superhero Damage” commercial, Serafine worked with the agency that produced the commercial and the spot’s editor to help them get comfortable with his decision to use Audition. After cutting the commercial in Premiere Pro, the editor sent him the Audition files, including some sound effects that were already approved by the agency.

The premise of the commercial is that Mercury insurance agents are visiting the home of a customer whose house has just been destroyed by an epic superhero battle. With only a green screen shot of the set and dialog to work with, Serafine’s job was to add ambient sounds to makes the environment seem realistic. He created Foley sounds of a dog barking a block away, a siren approaching, glass and drywall crunching beneath the feet of the agents walking through the house, and special sound effects that were needed for sparks, laser zaps, and other high-energy connections.

After matching the sounds with the visual effects, Serafine prepared the tracks in Audition, and then exported them to Pro Tools for the final mix. He anticipates that as more companies see what can be done in Audition, they will begin adopting this hybrid workflow. For now, he’s focused on making inroads with smaller projects and demonstrating what is possible.

“Pro Tools is a religion, but once people start to see how we can complete the editorial process in Audition for much less money, they will start to convert,” says Serafine. “There are so many features in Audition that don’t exist anywhere else, such as the Doppler effect, spectral patterns, and spectral editing, that don’t cost extra. We cut our teeth on this action-packed 30 second spot; the next step is a feature film.”

The future of audio and video

In addition to working with Audition, Serafine is increasingly editing his own educational materials in Premiere Pro. He’s able to handle a lot of sound editing in Premiere Pro, such as breaths, pauses, and other unnecessary audio to create leaner presentations. When he needs more, he can easily jump to Audition.

“Editing video is kind of the same as editing sound because it’s done in clips,” says Searfine. “The audio editing capabilities in Premiere Pro are really great, and help me tighten things up really well.”

Serafine imagines a future where video and sound editors are working on the same project files using Premiere Pro and Audition. “We encountered a lot of resistance when we first wanted to use Pro Tools, but we spearheaded it and brought it into the mainstream,” he says. “Pretty soon, we’ll be able to convince directors who are editing in Premiere Pro to mix their films with Audition.”

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