Best Sound Editing vs. Best Sound Mixing

Every year the Academy Awards cause a furor over nominations or the spectacle itself. And, every year, when the telecast reaches the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories, viewers give a collective “Huh?”

What is the difference between sound editing and mixing?

Sound Is Like Cooking

I asked four-time Academy Award-winner Mark Berger the same question when I took his course on sound design two years ago. He likened the process of sound editing to cooking. Sound editors collect all of the unique sounds for the film, which is like a chef organizing all of the raw ingredients; sound mixers then take those ingredients and put them together into a cohesive whole. During a lecture, Berger said that a film like “Saving Private Ryan” will easily have hundreds of audio ntracks — no small feat.


The food analogy is elegant but somewhat reductive. Documentary filmmaker and sound designer Michael Kowalski clarifies that mixing isn’t a matter of simply adding a bunch of sound effects together; it’s ultimately a subtractive process.

“The key to mixing is to remove [sound],” he said. (Kowalski is the associate dean and chief academic officer at Chapman University, which I currently attend.) A film like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” probably has hundreds of tracks. But, surprisingly, the final film probably has less sound material than what the filmmakers started off with during the editing process.

Check out coverage of the 84th Academy Awards on Yahoo! Movies

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