Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You're A What?

What the heck do I do for a living? Well, since you asked...

I'm a dialogue editor for film and tv. Mostly, my job consists of doing two rather mundane things: first, removing extraneous sounds from the audio that was recorded during production, and filling in the holes so you can't tell that anything was ever removed; and second, making sure there's no jarring discontinuity when cutting from one sound take to another. (As a rule of thumb, whenever there's a picture cut, there's also a sound cut. Yes, it's a lot of cuts.)

Dialogue editing is subtle, painstaking, and, yes, a bit dull; but occasionally I get to perform heroics... the entire point of which is that they pass unnoticed. When the actor playing a doctor can't pronounce "defibrillate," and the producers don't think it's worth bringing him into the studio to re-record the line, I'm the one who fixes it and keeps him from looking like a big idiot before millions of people. When the picture editor decides to use the close-up take where you can hear a car alarm going off outside - did I mention the show was set in the 1920s? - I'm the one who pieces together a clean line reading out of half a dozen other takes and makes it work. When you don't hear off-camera footsteps, dolly creaks, and the director's voice during the intimate love scene, I'm the one you should thank... if you only knew. But that's the point: that you not know.

Dialogue editing isn't as sexy as sound effects editing, but it's sneakier. I like feeling sneaky. Anyway, I'm not all that interested in creating artificial soundscapes; I prefer the real. I honestly can't stand most of the movies that have high-profile soundtracks with lots of "design" work. For starters, the movies are mostly lame stories, slicked up with camera trickery, visual effects (almost always unconvincing), and plenty of volume. The Chronicles of Narnia? War of the Worlds? Give me a break. For my money, one of the most interesting sound design jobs in years was Punch Drunk Love. Did it get any attention for sound? It did not. (Well, not much.) Maybe because the music was so annoying... maybe because it just wasn't loud enough, didn't cost enough money, and didn't have aliens or giant apes in it. But check out the scene where he beats up the bathroom, and really listen to it...

But I digress. My point was... well, no point, really. More of a biographical aside.

What does this profession have to do with law school? Almost nothing! Isn't that great? It sure makes me happy.


At 7:21 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

That was you? Motherfucker! I can't tell you for how many love scenes I've strained futiley to figure what the others in the room are doing. That's the most interesting part! And you've been suppressing it?! Well, "following orders" counts for something in my book. Maybe you'll go into public interest law and stop this reprehensible practice.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

"What does this profession have to do with law school? Almost nothing! "

Aw, come on! Tell us what you said on your law school applications.


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