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No one goes to listen to a movie


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#1 michael a brierley

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:03 AM

I don't know if this is the right forum for this topic, forgive me if I am posting in the wrong place.
I am scouting for locations for an upcoming feature to be shot in Dubai. The city streets are amazingly lit at night especially downtown, problem is the traffic (and of course the crowds/lookers on-but we will surround our principles with extras). There are a lot of 'walk and talk' shots in the movie that we will cover on a Steadicam and with a handheld camera from across the street (we cannot lock off traffic). How sympathetic should I be to the sound man when pushing for certain locations?
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#2 Steve McBride

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:26 AM

I'm just about 100%, if not 100% positive you'll have to ADR the dialogue. Get the sound on location anyways, make sure you get the background and ambient noise as well, then in post have your principals come back in and ADR so you can actually hear it. Then just add in your background, ambient and foley in to make it all work.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 01:17 AM

Any decent professional sound person knows that an interesting location with bad sound wins out over a boring location with good sound.

If they see a noisy location and sense that something equally good but better for sound exists, then they will ask for that change in location -- just as a DP, if you were offered two similar locations and one was easier to shoot in, and to light, you'd choose the one friendlier to your interests.

But most sound people know that when presented with a great one-of-a-kind location for the project, that they will just have to do their best and get a guide track at least. I mean, if the story calls for the people to walk through Times Square in Manhattan, then shooting it in some quieter street elsewhere isn't going to be the same.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 02:27 AM

Often what I've done on low budget stuff, if possible, is hiding wireless lavs in the actors hair. If you're far enough away and they don't turn their backs to the camera, you'll probably never see it. It'll help with the Signal/Noise ratio a bit.
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#5 Tim Tyler

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 12:54 PM

...How sympathetic should I be to the sound man when pushing for certain locations?


After the sound department says the location is too noisy to get good dialog recorded then it's up to the director and producer to decide whether or not you shoot at that location. The decision to shoot there will be based on many factors, not just sound.

If it is expected that the good/bad sound is the tipping point, then you could send the audio guy out to that location days before you shoot and have him record a test. If that's not possible, the sound department can always provide the director and producers with headphones on the noisy set and they can all listen to just how good/bad it is sounding.

And for the record, I certainly do go to a movie to listen to it.
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#6 Paul Bruening

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 10:52 AM

They have "talkies" now? When did that happen?
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#7 Hal Smith

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 04:51 PM

They have "talkies" now? When did that happen?


Gene Kelly invented them for "Singin' in the Rain".
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#8 Dan Goulder

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 02:37 PM

I disagree with the subtitle of this thread, "No one goes to listen to a movie". Bad sound will undemine a movie every bit as much as bad cinematography. In fact, bad sound tends to be the hallmark of amateurish productions.
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#9 Benson Marks

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 06:04 PM

I disagree with the subtitle of this thread, "No one goes to listen to a movie". Bad sound will undemine a movie every bit as much as bad cinematography. In fact, bad sound tends to be the hallmark of amateurish productions.


I second that. Just because movies are visual doesn't mean you should get lazy with sound. It was only about a year ago I heard someone say "I finally saw a digital film that I could hear." Just as bad music can ruin what could've been a great movie, so can bad sound. If you can't hear it, it's awful. It's even more important that you pay attention to sound if you're shooting a movie on digital video (or HD), because while the video quality may be good, the sound that comes from that camera stinks.

Anyhow, I need to ask this. What is the budget for your film, Michael?
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#10 David Rakoczy

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 06:43 PM

It is quite correct that most people don't go to the theatre to listen to a film... however, bad audio can be (and often is) the first thing to take you 'out' of the film.

Mr. Marks.. pros won't reveal their budgets.. it is becomes counterproductive during the 'selling' phase of a Films life.. and if you do hear a number it usually is a lie. Remember El Mariachi was done for $10k :blink: ... ya right!

Edited by David Rakoczy, 12 January 2009 - 06:47 PM.

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#11 Benson Marks

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 08:57 PM

Mr. Marks.. pros won't reveal their budgets.. it is becomes counterproductive during the 'selling' phase of a Films life.. and if you do hear a number it usually is a lie. Remember El Mariachi was done for $10k :blink: ... ya right!


Confound it! How did I forget that?

I might as well tell the guy what to do. Michael, if your budget is low, you can't really do such fancy shots without going over budget. That includes across-the-street shots like you were describing. I hate to tell you this, but if your budget is low, all you can do is just have the camera facing the actors and hope you have a good soundman who has good microphones. That's really all you can do.

If your budget is larger, you can just simply do an ADR like Steve just said (It should cost about $2,000-$3,000 american).

Hope this helps you, Michael.
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#12 Paul Bruening

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 11:43 PM

I also agree with Mr. Goulder. Bad picture may be merely an artistic decision. Bad sound always stinks of amateur.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 01:59 AM

Yes, but bad production sound is easier to fix or replace in post than bad cinematography and poor locations, hence why when push comes to shove, get it right in camera, get the best sound you can, and then deal with it in post. It's silly to compromise the image for the production sound when that can be replaced if necessary, but the image itself cannot (easily).

I'm sure the production dialogue recording for "Lawrence of Arabia" would have been near perfect if they just shot the whole thing on a stage in London...

If good production sound was the number one priority on a shoot then you'd never have wind or rain in shots and actors would always have to speak at a decent volume.
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#14 Paul Bruening

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 08:35 AM

Yes, but bad production sound is easier to fix or replace in post than bad cinematography and poor locations, hence why when push comes to shove, get it right in camera, get the best sound you can, and then deal with it in post. It's silly to compromise the image for the production sound when that can be replaced if necessary, but the image itself cannot (easily).

I'm sure the production dialogue recording for "Lawrence of Arabia" would have been near perfect if they just shot the whole thing on a stage in London...

If good production sound was the number one priority on a shoot then you'd never have wind or rain in shots and actors would always have to speak at a decent volume.


Agreed. I spend two to three times more time in post on sound as I do on picture. As you say, David, the time for picture is during the shoot. Massaging the sound often ends up in post. Hours and hours, days after days, months even, pumping dialog tracks through various combinations of filters to get them up to snuff... running and re-running actors across an ADR screen until they whine, bitch and complain. Sound may be the worst ratio of appreciation-to-value category in movie making. When it's right, nobody notices. When it's wrong, everybody notices.
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#15 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 12:53 PM

Heavy trucks are the real killers for sound recordists. Best get your sound man to run a test in your location to find out how cleanly they can record the dialogue using various miking techniques.

As long as the dialogue itself is clearly understood and well miked you can get away with surprising amounts of background noise if the source itself is in shot. However, it's not the best if you're having a quiet emotional scene.

Sorting out the sound can take considerably longer than it took to shoot the scene in the first place. You do need good sound, it's half the movie as I believe George Lucas once said.
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#16 Paul Bruening

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 04:09 PM

Heavy trucks are the real killers for sound recordists.


By far, the most common out-take in my rolls is someone turning their head and complaining about a pickup truck's loud pipes. I live in the heart of the South where the pickup is king and rumbling pipes are the norm. That sound pushes through brick walls. When you try to filter it in post the filter carves enormous chunks of signal out leaving only warbled dialog. We burn up a ton of tape just standing around waiting for a window in between the pickup truck drive-by's. I could make a whole other movie consisting only of actors, sound crew and director cursing like sailors about pickup trucks.
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#17 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 14 January 2009 - 04:47 AM

By far, the most common out-take in my rolls is someone turning their head and complaining about a pickup truck's loud pipes. I live in the heart of the South where the pickup is king and rumbling pipes are the norm. That sound pushes through brick walls. When you try to filter it in post the filter carves enormous chunks of signal out leaving only warbled dialog. We burn up a ton of tape just standing around waiting for a window in between the pickup truck drive-by's. I could make a whole other movie consisting only of actors, sound crew and director cursing like sailors about pickup trucks.


Every location has it's unique problems, be it 40 ton trucks, trains, that man with the strimmer who always seems to turn up or aircraft landing or taking off.
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