Friday, December 22, 2006

“Heart of the City” - audio edit day 4

Having worked on a number of films of varying size and magnitude over the last several years, I’m still amazed and awed by the process and I enjoy every bit of the various processes involved. Yes, having a finished film and a DVD sitting on a shelf is rewarding and feels great, but often for me, the ride is the fun part. And even at my level of knowledge on each of the steps that it takes to get a film from concept to completion, I still completely dig each of those steps. The only analogy that I can think of right off the top of my head is a magician doing a trick and being impressed by his own trick, even though he knows how he does it. Okay, that sounds a little weird as I type that, but hopefully it makes sense.

So with the film “Heart of the City” (as with all of the films I shoot) we took great pains and many steps toward getting the field recorded audio as clear and pristine as possible given whatever time/financial/skill level/gear/etc. constraints you have on any given project. We use a boom pole and a shotgun mic or lavalieres to get the dialog delivered by the actors, and hopefully ONLY the dialog and not all of the ambient sounds that every location offers you. This audio is recorded directly into the camera as a scratch track on the tape and also recorded through a field mixing board onto DAT tapes which are what end up being the actual audio used for the finished film. The sound guy’s world exists in the cans (headphones for you non-film types) and at the end of the microphones. If we pick up too much ambient sound, if too many cars drive by, if a plane flies overhead, if kids are lighting firecrackers (remind me to never shoot a film in late June, early July), if someone is mowing their lawn, you end up redoing takes until the audio is as good as you can get it (given the constraints listed above). When you’re editing, you fly all of your audio into your software and then go through it and make every attempt to clean it up as much as possible. Worst case (and often times) you have to ADR (automated dialogue replacement) a scene (also called “looping”) where you go into a sound studio with your actors and they watch the completed scene on a monitor and try to match their on-screen mouths with their dialog. Sounds tough, right? Yeah, it ain’t easy. Ask any actor that’s done it. Ask any director that’s had actors in to try to do it. But the net result is audio that’s as clean as possible.

All this and now you’ve got nice clean dialog for your film. But wait, life isn’t perfectly clear all of the time. In the real world, there ARE cars driving by, planes flying overhead, kids lighting firecrackers and people mowing lawns as well as rain, wind, thunder, etc. So to make your movie sound realistic, you have to artificially CREATE all of the stuff that you’ve painstakingly tried to get rid of! That’s the fun of the last several days. Create and add in “room tone” which is the sound of a particular room. This creates the “beds” that I mentioned previously. Get all of your beds created for a small office, a large living room with high ceilings, an auditorium that’s full of people, a restaurant full of customers clanking knives and forks, a busy skateboard park (for crying out loud), a city street, a city park, a country park, and the list goes on, then you can lay each bed under each scene and it sounds like your actors are in that environment, but YOU control the environment, it doesn’t control you.

On top of each bed lies all of your other sounds including all of your foley and EFX tracks, the soundtrack and the score. This has been the fun part for me this week, creating a false environment for our characters to exist in that we create. Adding in traffic sounds, birds chirping, crickets, etc. and in particular all of the sound effects that are required to match the action on screen like fists hitting faces and skateboards hitting heads (wow, this sounds like a violent film) as well as various footsteps, opening and closing doors, phone rings, car engines, and if we get enough time, possibly and entire dinner scene with nothing but bodily function noises. I will probably fight to see that this doesn’t happen, but I fear I will be outnumbered and there will be nothing I can do about it.

We’ve got one more official day with Jeff in town and we’ve striped the film with six passes of audio processing steps (organizing, aligning, beds, score, soundtrack, mix) and we have one final pass that should complete all of the EFX. One more day. We can make it.


Post a Comment

<< Home

free web page hit counter