Apr 18 2008, 8:38am
Sound in movie making can be divided up into different categories: There is sound recorded during filming; Many times dialogue must be replaced after filming (ADR); Foley Walkers make "people" sounds, and, of course, there are sound effects. Music is a whole separate thing and I will talk about that next time.
Movie Tech. Discussion 15 – Post production: Sound
Now, where to begin? How about "Scene 1, take 1?" What is more iconic of movie making than the clapper board?
The King Kong Production Diaries talk about the clapper board on Disk 1, 8 Oct. 2004. The clapper board has certain information written on it such as the scene, the take, lens size, stop, roll number, and so on. When the arm of the clapper board is clapped against the board, you get two things, the video of the arm being clapped and the audio of the clap. Now you have a precise action and a precise sound that you can use to line up the audio recording and the film. Have you ever seen something where the sound was just a little bit out of sync with the picture? Not pleasant!
The King Kong Production Diaries talk about sound recording on Disk 2, 16 Mar. 2005. The person responsible for recording sound during filming is the production sound mixer. On a set there are usually lots of different mics that all go to a mixing board where the volume from each mic can be controlled and the sound from all of the mics combined.
On the productions diaries, they talk about using booms and radio mics. The radio mics are wireless mics like you see on television, but here they are hidden as opposed to being pinned to your lapel. You also have to hide the battery pack somewhere. They commented that they usually try to get a boom mic in as close as possible because the boom mic usually gives better sound.
I was watching the Star Wars Trilogy Bonus Material, "Empire of Dreams" and they were talking about shooting in London and how things were not going very well. They had just finished this one scene and everything had worked and everyone was all excited and then you hear a voice say "The mic was in picture."
The production sound recorder for The Lord of the Rings was Hammond Peek and there is an article about him in The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine. They talk about how a lot of the filming was done near the airport in Wellington and the problems that caused. Peek is quoted as saying, "A lot of the time we would stop and wait until the plane flew over that particular studio. But The Lord of the Rings was such a big production that, often, time was money and it became a money equation. If we spend so much of a day waiting for planes, then that represents so many dollars for such a huge crew and operation and gear hire. It is a lot cheaper just to look at post-syncing those lines [recording them again later in a studio]. The decision was made quite early on in the production that would be a lot of post-syncing because the production had to keep going." (1.)
This "post-syncing" that he is talking about is called ADR. What does ADR stand for?
"ADR, or Automatic Dialogue Replacement, is the post-production process of replacing an actor’s spoken words from the original production track." (2.)
"This process is called ADR (for automated dialogue replacement), although there is nothing automated about it." (3.)
"The acronym ADR stands for ‘Audio Dialogue Replacement’ or ‘Additional Dialogue Recording’ or ‘Additional Dialogue Replacement’, depending on whom you ask." (4.)
So, that is what ADR stands for. It is Automatic, Automated, Audio, Additional Dialogue Recording, Replacement, depending on whom you ask, but there is nothing automated about it.
In The Lord of the Rings, 98 percent of the dialogue was replaced in ADR. Hammond Peek talked about ADR in the previously mentioned fan club magazine article. He said that in the scene in Moria when Gandalf is talking to Frodo about deciding another’s fate, Ian McKellen totally drew him into the performance, but the dialogue was technically unusable. Thus a great performance was lost and McKellen had to do it all over again in ADR. However, Peek tells another story about the scene after they come out of Moria. Aragorn says, "Get them up, Legolas. We have to get out of here because the hills will be crawling with Orcs by nightfall." The dialogue was technically useable, but they did again in ADR anyway. Peek said, "When I listened to the two up against each other, the recorded lines on location were fine technically, but he gave a different style of delivery in the post-sync lines. He was a little bit softer. He wasn’t as hard and as harsh in the way he was asking them to get up. It worked better for the scene to have him slightly more compassionate." (1.)
I think Foley Walkers are cool. If I worked in the movies, I would want to be a Foley Walker (among other things, depending on which extra I’m watching at the moment).
"Taking its name from Jack Foley, the Hollywood sound editor regarded as the ‘father’ of these effects, Foley effects are sounds that are created by recording (usually) everyday movement while watching the edited picture. Different from the environmental backgrounds (‘BGs’) and hard effects (FX), Foley effects are sounds like footsteps, object handling, the rustling of clothing, etc. The people involved in this process are the Foley Walkers or Artists who perform those sounds and the Foley Mixer who records them. After the Foley Effects are ‘shot,’ the Foley Editor will use his/her craft to polish those sounds to ensure that they are exactly in sync with the final picture." (5.)
In the special features disk for Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, Foley Walker Jana Vance said that the purpose of a Foley Walker is to "flesh-out the characters" and that Anakin Skywalker’s sound consisted of a leather jacket, a rifle, and a drill. (6.)
In The Two Towers Extended Edition appendices, Disk 4, "The Soundscapes of Middle-earth," they show the Foley Walkers stomping around to make the foot step sounds while rattling a chunk of leather, a piece of chain mail, and a sword. Foley Artist Phil Heywood remarked, "We actually assume that the movie is filmed mute, because we aren’t hearing any sounds, and we are assuming that everything that we do is all there is."
There are three things that I have heard are supposed to be on the list of "guy things." These are: 1. eating cold pizza (preferably for breakfast), 2. watching The Three Stooges (and enjoying it), and 3. making sound effects. I do happen to fall into that category, but I also know some women who are exceptions to at least two of these.
According to Star Wars producer, Rick McCallum, "Sound works almost subliminally in a movie. In the best case scenario, you are not even aware of the texture and the combinations of sound." (6.) The sound designer on Star Wars, Ben Burtt, feels that, "Many of the best sounds are not things that you think of and imagine and go out and search for, but rather, discoveries you make." (7.)
NOW FOR A QUIZ:
Don’t worry; the answers are below, but no peeking.
In the Star Wars movies how did they make the sound effects for the following?
1. A blaster being fired.
3. A light saber being waved about.
4. Darth Vader’s breathing.
In The Lord of the Rings -
1. A Ring Wraith scream.
2. The Watcher in the Water splashing about.
3. Screaming Orc.
4. Moria Orcs scuttling.
5. The Balrog roar.
6. Wargs barking.
7. Fell Beast cry.
8. Fell Beast tail swishing about as it flew over Osgilioth.
9. Skulls falling in The Paths of the Dead.
10. Chunks of Minas Tirith hitting the ground.
11. The Dark Tower falling.
Ok, here are the answers.
In the Star Wars Movies:
1. To make the sound of a blaster being fired, tap a guy wire while holding a mic near it.
2. To make the chirps and whistles of R2D2 they used a synthesizer, but that didn’t have any emotion, no acting ability, so they blended the chirps and whistles with Ben Burtt doing baby talk.
3. I think that the light saber sound is so cool and it was discovered accidently by Ben Burtt when he got a microphone with a broken wire too close to a TV set and the microphone picked up a hum from the set. As he waved the microphone about, the hum would intensify and lessen.
4. Darth Vader’s breathing was done by placing a microphone in the air regulator of a scuba gear and Ben Burtt breathing through it.
In The Lord of the Rings:
1. The scream of the Ring Wraiths was Fran Walsh screaming, doctored a little bit.
2. The Watcher in the Water splashing about was done with a rubber mat and a toilet plunger being splashed about in a creek.
3. One of the Orc screams was a blend of a pig squeal and a dog. They called the sound "pigdog."
4. The Moria Orcs scuttling was done with bottle caps fastened to the bottoms of peoples shoes.
5. The Balrog roar was done by dragging a concrete block across a board.
6. Wargs barking was done by the sound effects guy barking like a dog.
7. The cry of a Fell Beast was the braying of a donkey.
8. The Fell Beast tail swishing about as it flew over Osgilioth was someone swinging a cheese grater on the end of a string.
9. The skulls falling in The Paths of the Dead was done with walnuts (rented ones).
10. The sound of chunks of Minas Tirith hitting the ground was two ton blocks of concrete hitting the ground.
11. The Dark Tower falling was grinding broken glass.
For more information about sound in the movies here are some links.
First question: I saw somewhere in some extra where they talked about making the sound of pulling a sword out of its scabbard. They said that audiences have come to expect this metallic sliding sound that a sword does not really make, but you have to use it. I have looked high and low for that and cannot find it. Has anyone else come across that and knows where it is?
I have always been intrigued by the sound effects of Star Trek, particularly the original TV series. I have never been able to find out how those sounds were made. Are there any sound effects that you have always wondered about or that you thought were really cool and know how they were made?
Any comments or thoughts about The Lord of the Rings sound, ADR, Foley Walkers, or sound effects?
Then there is The Hobbit. Let’s see, you’ve got dishes rattling at The Unexpected Party (that shouldn’t be too difficult), spiders hissing, barrels splashing, and then there is Smaug. What would be some of the sound effects needed for The Hobbit and any ideas on how to make them (including the above)?
Finally and most importantly, is eating cold pizza, liking The Three Stooges, and making sound effects really a guy thing?
1. The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, #12 (p. 20-22).
6. Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, Special Features disk, "Within a Minute: the Making of Episode III," Sound Mix
7. Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, Special Features Disk, Web Documentary #7