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What is a Scratch Track & Why is it Important?

Scratch tracks are used in the film production process to provide key details on timing and content for use in producing the final audio files for a film. The scratch track is especially common when filming on location makes it difficult or even impossible to record adequate audio for use in the final cut.

Audio Editor

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Whether you’re new to film production and just wondering, “What is a scratch track?” or you’ve been here for a while but you’re just wondering why scratch tracks are so important, follow along as we dive into the details regarding scratch tracks in film production and what makes them so important.

What is a Scratch Track?

an SD card with film scratch track audio

The scratch track is the initial audio file capture that will be used in later stages of film editing to synchronize the audio back to the video footage.

Unfortunately, many consider the scratch track as basically the rough draft of the audio and don’t put emphasis into ensuring quality sound capture which is actually a problem as, in some cases, the scratch track could wind up being good enough to keep for the final audio if steps are taken to ensure appropriate recording early on.

We recommend going into the set up for scratch track audio recording as if it is set to be your final recording to be used for your film. This way, you capture the highest quality of audio and, in the event that you can use parts or all of the scratch track in the final cut, you’ll have valuable audio already captured and ready to go.

The Reality of Location Audio

When shooting on location various conditions can interrupt the ability to capture top-quality audio. Things like a nearby street with passing cars, a building next door that happens to have loud tenants, or even the consistent humming of an appliance that you have no control over can interrupt, creating unwanted and uncontrollable noise that renders much of your audio recording of little to no use.

Even ambient sounds, such as those of the generators as they hum away sending power to your set, may lead to an unexpected need to replace dialogue in your film. But, how will you replace the dialogue and synch it so that the actor’s mouths and movements align with the audible words spoken?

This is where the scratch track and later synchronization via ADR techniques come into play. Although ADR is certainly not the “ideal” method of producing top-quality audio for your film production as it is costly both in terms of time and money, it will allow you to recreate audio delivery that is essential for the final cut–but ONLY if you have access to the scratch track.

Without a scratch track, ADR is a complete nightmare and may even be a waste of time altogether.

Why Are Scratch Tracks Important?

editing video on computer

Scratch tracks are an essential element of film production that can be used to ensure pristine audio regardless of conditions relative to your location. These audio files are also a necessary element for animated films in which final animations often include voice overs from famous talent.

Again, in this kind of situation, without a scratch file, coordinating the final audio with the delicately synchronized visual footage is at best a nightmare and at worst-case scenario, downright impossible to achieve.

Scratch tracks have the following benefits or important elements in film:

  • They provide a rough outline by which actors and talent can use in the studio as a reference when providing voice overs.
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  • They provide a point of reference to create final voice dialogue recordings for film footage that is captured on location where interrupting noise makes using the original sound file impossible.
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  • They allow for capturing of initial audio which, with additional time and when no longer under the pressure to get it all right at once, allows the talent to later use the scratch as reference when preparing final dialogue.
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  • They are spontaneous and sometimes result in usable dialogue that is added to a film devoid of the original script.
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  • Provides a reference for animation voice over.

Get in Touch with Team Beverly Boy

The most important thing to remember is that sometimes the scratch audio winds up being the best performance of the talent and, therefore, may wind up making the final cut. Therefore, as you prepare to record scratch tracks for your production, make sure you’re both thorough and prepared to show your best work.

Set all microphones up properly, test and takes full steps to rehearse before production begins. There’s no telling which audio, scratch or ADR, will wind up being the best performance of the talent and most useful for the final editors cut.

Looking for a film crew that has a sound editor that is ready to capture the absolute best audio for your production? Contact Beverly Boy Productions today and we’ll work with you to produce the film of your dreams. We really can’t wait to get started!