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How can sound increase my films commercial viability?
A quality soundtrack is absolutely essential for commercial success. All dialogue must be as clear and smooth as possible, and the backgrounds behind the dialogue should not be distracting, so you never hear a cut.
A Dolby Stereo, Dolby Digital, or DTS mix will increase your chances of being admitted into film festivals, because when they can show films that meet the same technical criteria as major studio features, it increases the festivals prestige There are licensing fees, equipment, and personnel support provided when using these types of mixing systems. Contact the respective service companies for details on current fees.
A 5.1 mix is pretty much a standard component of DVD release, so take advantage of this ever-expanding market and get you mix from Command Post in 5.1, also known as AC3. This system, the most common digital sound format in use today, uses 6 discrete channels to create a surround mix: left, center, right, left surround, right surround, and a subwoofer channel.
Also, I can't stress enough the importance of great music for your film. If you want your film to look and feel bigger (and more expensive), go for a big score. Music is the emotional underpinning of your production, the primal force with which the audience "feels" the emotions you want them to feel. At it's finest level, film music is perceived primarily by the subconscious. A great score can change the face of your film and give it a great feeling and motivation you never knew was there. Spotting and music placement and timing are fascinating and ultra-critical aspects of this process.
But composers and producers don't always see ear-to-ear on music issues, as Dennis McCarthy quoted the producer of a well-known television series he had worked with, "I don't like any music that manipulates my emotions."