I gave up a quasi-staff position nearly a decade ago in order to pursue a career as a freelance sound effects editor. Certainly, there are positives and negatives to both of these paths but, at the time, I was being offered a one-film job at a different facility from the company where I’d been working for a few years. I had pretty much reached the highest plateau available to me where I was so I decided to head out and explore the freelance world for awhile. The film was John McTiernan’s “Rollerball” (2002), and I’ll be discussing that in a little more detail in another article dedicated to editing crowds for sports, concerts, and riots. Scott Hecker was supervising the sound crew at Soundelux in Hollywood and I was given a more or less permanently set up edit bay to work in for the duration of the project. One of the things Soundelux does really well is that they set up their edit bays in a highly professional manner. The effects rooms are typically 5.1 monitoring systems with up-to-date Mac computers containing all the appropriate software bells and whistles, and server access that is, literally, worldwide.
To be fair, I’ve worked at several facilities which offer first class edit rooms but that is not always the case and that’s the point I wish to make with this article. As a freelance editor, I never know from job to job what the system I’m assigned to will offer in terms of gear, monitoring, Pro Tools software version, plugins, etc. There’s not much I can do if the room is set up for monitoring left/right only, or even less, set up only for headphone monitoring. I could bring in my own speakers and rewire the room, I guess, but most people don’t take kindly to having their facilities remodeled by a short-term editor! Since there are no particular constants between rooms, I’ve developed a bit of a survival strategy at least as far as plugins are concerned.
There are probably hundreds of different plugins available ( maybe more!), but every system out there has a specific set of them that comes with the Pro Tools software. I won’t be dealing with quite all of them here but I’ll go through a few of them in terms of what they might offer if you need to come up with some design elements in a hurry and don’t have access to all the really Super-Cool Turbo Nuclear Firestorm Plugins that are available in the market today.