2 beep or NOT 2 beep.

I don’t like ‘2 beeps’. I don’t think they have any place in 2014. They’re not hard to add to deliverables when a job is done. It’s just that they’ve lost their relevance. Twice in the past year I had an editor (or assistant editor) follow up on a job to say “Can you make a new set up mixes and splits with ‘2 beeps’?”. The answer is sure. But my underlying question is “Why???”.

We work in an age where we can now see on the screen the entire file we’re working with as soon as we add it to our job- be it in Pro Tools, AVID or any other production workstation in the digital age. But this wasn’t always the case! It’s wasn’t all THAT long ago that audio mixes and splits were being played out to DAT tapes. Sure- properly set up Timecode DAT machines allowed for pretty solid synchronization. But to be safe- we always added the 2 beep. What if that tape was being sent to a place that DIDN’T have a Timecode DAT? They need to have SOME way to line things up. So the tried and true ‘2 beep’ method was very important.

But that old way of working leaves room for error… and it’s an error I still see in 2014. You see, AVIDs STILL only let editors cut on the nearest frame. So it’s possible, if an editor or assistant editor is not diligent, that the 2 beep might be clipped or not lined up as precisely as you’d want them to be. That frame slide one way or the other can lead to that ever so annoying question of “Does that sync look right?”. There are times when I open an AAF/ OMF that has a music track (for example) with a 2 beep at the head. But when I zoom way in to that blip… I can see that we’re actually almost a full frame out from where it was intended to start. Sometimes that could mean the that opening note of the music will sound clipped when bounced out later. A slight slide to the right makes it all better. So did that ‘2 beep’ help at all? Sometimes that ‘2 beep’ wasn’t even a true ‘2 beep’ to begin with!

So what’s the solution? Years ago I stopped making mixes and splits with ‘2 beeps’. The logic is simple: I received an AAF/OMF from the editor and delivered back a file that is 30 seconds long EXACTLY. There is no air at the end. There is no silence at the head. There is no ‘2 beep’ to wonder if it’s in the right place or not. Take that file, drop it at the start of the hour in any platform you’re working in and PRESTO: 30 seconds of audio matches your 30 seconds of picture. We’ve eliminated all doubt.

Earlier today I chatted with Fred Ruckel of Rucksack NY who put it this way: "2 beeps are definitely something we never want. There is a chance of a slight offset based on the pinpoint of the edit. We always use an exact file for the mixes. Basically a :30 spot is 720 frames long. I want a mix that fits that exact length. Now audio doesn't care about frame rate so one can apply to a 24 fps version or 30. I can't imagine a need for having a 2 pop anymore. Even with a lot of tracks, if its the same length- there is no chance of being out of sync”.

Several other editors I checked in with shared the same sentiment. When asked why ANYONE would still be asking for a ‘2beep’, one editor said “It could just be on the specs they were given for deliverable, and they’re only following orders”. That’s fair enough. Another editor said “Adding a ‘2 beep’ creates extra work in making sure the beeps are accurate”. Sure, it’s not the hardest thing in the world… but it seems that everyone I spoke to agrees- why leave room for error?

Everyone has their own preferences and everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences.. and of COURSE I’m always going to deliver what I’m asked to deliver. That’s what I’m paid for!

So I ask you other editors out there- what’s YOUR take on it? 2 beep- or NOT 2 beep??

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Frank Verderosa

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Mixer, Sound Design, Composer