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Adding Sound to a Stop Motion Production

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/15/2010

So, you’ve just a made a stop motion project and now need to add in the voices, sound effects, and music. Here’s how to add dialogue to a stop motion video.

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    Adding the Dialogue

    Whether you’ve created the stop motion production in a special software application, more than likely the program will also provide you the capability to record and embed audio tracks as well. Other options include adding audio through a soundtrack software program, or you want to use an external source, such as a Merantz Portable Recorder. Whichever way you choose to add or capture audio, please keep in mind that the process becomes tedious and having patience will be a great virtue! To read more about what the post-production process involves, read this article.

    Software applications that allow you to record audio directly into multiple tracks will be your most convenient option. However, if recording audio into an external source, you’ll need to sync the audio footage with the visuals. When syncing, create temporary digital slates on your editing program. It doesn’t matter what or how you do it as long as you know the beginning of each take for both, audio and visuals. Also, the voice talent needs to know when to begin. A visual slate should be a simple cue such as a colored matte, text, a countdown, or timecode. The audio slate can be a simple clap, either made by hand or with a clapboard, at the specific point the visual is slated. Be sure to state the scene and/or shot before the clap.

    Set looping points in the video ready for syncing, whether an entire scene or just a section of one, and play it over and over again. As the video loops this gives the voice talent(s) enough takes to make the sync look great.*

    Watch the footage a few times and have the voice talent do ‘dry runs’ (testing) before actually recording the audio.

    *If you’re recording the audio into an external source, there’s no need to do a vocal slate for every take, just be sure you include a vocal slate just before your clap before the first take. (ex. you say in the mic “Looping for scene 3." Then clap on visual cue. Every take there after, just clap as the visual slate loops back around.)

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    Adding Sound Effects

    More than likely, just as it is in reality, there are more sounds alive around us, no matter the location. This is when sound effects will come in handy and will help liven up and enrich the audio in your project, creating 'audio dimension'. Audio effects include ambience and background and/or location noises, such as crowds talking, dogs barking, cars, room tone, etc. Most soundtrack and audio applications already include a variety of these effects. However, if needed, you may need to go out and capture your own. If possible, use a good quality microphone.

    When importing sound effects into your project, keep them on a separate track from your main vocals.

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    Adding Music

    It’s amazing how much of an affect music has on a finished production. Consider the many different types of music out there, each will ultimately give your entire project a different attitude and feel. For example, comical-sounding music on a serious scene will make the entire scene quite comical--even if that’s not your intention (who knows, it may work!). Try out different types and genres until you’re satisfied with the mood.

    You have different options when adding music: buy the rights to use it, use public domain, create your own, or use a family member’s or friend’s. Be sure to get proper permission beforehand. Copyright law, especially music from a well known artist, can result in serious legal issues.

    Again, just as when you store special audio effects separate from vocals, do the same with the music. The music track should be set below the other sounds. In this order, it’ll be more convenient for you, especially if you have to go back and work on a separate track, or even if your stop motion production will later be used for syncing in multiple languages.

    Finally, play your stop motion production with the audio you’ve mixed. You may need to go back and tweak the audio levels. Be patient! Good work takes time and you’ll be proud of your work if you've made the effort!