12/17/08

FINDING HIS VOICE: FUN AND GAMES AT THE RE-RECORD



Day four of the sound mix proceeds as the previous three days have; much detailed back-and-forthing over individual lines, effects and music cues, often to the point of losing the thread of what's going on in the course of the actual movie. Nothing unusual. Sidney Lumet, in his book "Making Movies", says that God punishes directors for getting to work with beautiful actresses by making them endure the sound mix. Frankly, I rather prefer being in this darkened room, watching my movie over and over than being in a trailer trying to talk a neurotic actress into coming to the set.

But the downtime is extreme for those not actually operating the mixing console. In the pre-internet era, one did crossword puzzles by the dozen. Now I watch youtube. And lo, what have I found and posted below other than an old Max Fleischer cartoon documenting the arrival of the talkie. "Finding His Voice", released in 1929, is a marvelous introduction to now ancient technology--though the optical soundtrack is still extant, most of the rest of the sound on film technology belongs to the ashtray of history. The film stars two rolls of film, "Talkie" and "Mutie". Obviously one represents silent film and the other the new-fangled talking picture. Talkie takes Mutie to see Dr. Western (as in Western Electric) and gets him all voiced-up. According to the helpful youtuber who posted this rare and delightful animation, the film--which details optical sound--was, in fact, released via the sound-on-disc system that I discussed in the previous post.



To answer a couple of reader's questions: Sound mixing is a long and arduous task that involves a number of steps, among them: the recording of lines of dialogue that didn't turn out clearly enough (known as ADR--additional dialogue recording); the building of reels of sound effects--not just the obvious explosions and trick stuff but the tedious and important small stuff...the clinks of glasses, the sounds of traffic, "atmosphere"--the creation of the environment in which the story of the movie takes place. There's also stuff created that you probably wouldn't think needed to be created to begin with, like the sound of shoes walking, people sitting down and standing up etc. This is called "Foley"--a group of "foley artists" stand in a room watching the film projected on a screen and imitate the body movements of the actors, matching the action of their hands, their feet etc. thereby achieving a clean track of the simple body actions. Along with new dialogue, background tracks and Foley, there is also something known as "Group", wherein you bring in a "group" of voice artists to add a layer of background voices to scenes that can use them--people talking in the background of a restaurant etc. This is necessary as its important to control the sound on the set while shooting a scene in--say--a restaurant. You want the background to look like they're talking but not to make any noise so as to keep the actors dialogue tracks clean. Then there's the music. The composer delivers the score, which also needs to make its way into the whole sh-bang. But even that isn't as simple as it sounds. For the music editor has to be on hand to make sure the cues fit, to rearrange them to the director's (and sometimes producers) whim. And while the process of ADR'ing dialogue (also called looping) is almost as old as the talkie itself--I don't know exactly when looping began but I imagine it was in the mid-thirties--it is a process that is gradually on its way out. Actors increasingly object to re-creating their performance on a stage, devoid of motivation, other actors, the setting and being forced to be more aware of their lip-syncing abilities than their performance. Further, the advent of digital technology is making it increasingly easier to clean up dirty or muddy individual lines. Sound people don't like to hear this--a sound mixer's dream movie would be to have each word isolated on its own track--but ADR'ing dialovue will one day be as quaint as using rear-screen projection for driving scenes.

Re-recording is the name given to the process in which all sound elements are mixed and combined together--dialogue, music, sound effects, are literally "re-recorded" by the sound re-recording mixer(s) to achieve the desired end result, which is the final soundtrack that the audience hears when the finished film is played in a theater (or on a DVD) near you. Thus the process that I'm now in the midst of is the final pulling together of all kinds of disparate elements. It is often said that the last five percent of the making of a film can be the make-or-break five percent. This is a bit overstated, but there's some truth in it. I put more stock in the musical score than in any other part of the finishing of the film--our score, by Jan Kazmaryck ("Finding Neverland", "The Visitor") is giving the film a real lift, tone, texture.

Oh, and Marianna: we're not having a proper "premiere" of this film until its sold to a distributor. But we have had "work in progress" screenings for friends in order to see the film with an audience and get a feeling of what's working and what's not playing. That ship, however, has sailed. Picture was locked a few weeks ago and now we live with whatever decisions have already been made...




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5 comments:

  1. goodmorning and thank you very very much for the analysis on...sound matters.

    I never realised how much work is being done after filming is over. Next time I go to see a movie...I will watch the end-credits and pay some respect to all those people who worked hard for it(do people in the USA leave immediatelly after the word "end" appears? That is what we do here-bad, bad,bad).

    Thank you for answering my question, too! Enjoy the rest of your movie-making-journey:-)

    Take care
    xoxo

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  2. Great clip thanks......

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  3. Thanks for the info to my question! I really never knew so much work into the sound of a movie. I'll know it now! I also loved the music in Finding Neverland so I'll be excited to hear the music for "City Island". Thanks again for all the info you provide.

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  4. Okay, my hands are sweating, with just the mention of the word 'ADR'.

    Fingers slipperily crossed.

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  5. Poor little Mutie looks like Bill from Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill."

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