Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Few Rules of Thumb

Here's a rule of dialogue editing: They wrote the scene, they shot the scene, they have to live with the scene.

Can I clean up the pinball game noise that runs through the entire scene? Put it this way: I can probably make it a little less worse. But they're playing pinball. Or they're bowling. Or whatever they're doing. It's been written and shot. I can't fix it, I can only try to make it so nobody realizes how bad it is. But if it can't be done... I can't do it.

They can always replace all the dialogue. But here's another rule: the performance the actor gave when he was on the set is going to be better than the performance he gives when you ask him to drive to Burbank a month later, stand in front of a mic in an empty room, watch himself on a video monitor, and repeat his original performance. So it behooves you - I'm talking to you, yes - to make sure that original performance is usable. That mean no grips dropping C stands, no extras banging their props, wait till the airplane noise goes away, and for God's sake, don't use a radio mic unless you Abso. Lutely. Have. To.

Which brings us to another rule. Hire somebody who knows what he's doing to record your sound in the first place. And let him hire somebody who knows what he's doing to hold the microphone boom. The less money you have, the more important it is to hire a good production sound recordist. Why spend money when you don't have any money? Because it saves you money, duh. The better recorded the sound, the less time someone like me has to spend fixing it.

And remember, a lot of the time when I'm fixing something, I'm not making it more better, I'm only making it less worse. So... don't make me have to fix it in the first place, that's your best bet. Why are you making this movie, in the first place? So people can sit down and watch it and go "What'd he say?" Recording the sound is the one job you pay for, even if everyone else on your crew is working for peanut butter sandwiches and their names in the credits. You can often find a good cameraman who'll work for free, just to get a credit; it is nearly impossible to find a good location sound recordist who'll work for free. Unless it's a really good friend. And you don't have any friends that good. I know I don't. (My wife does, though.)

So let's say you screw up the recording, or somebody screws it up for you (it only takes one person, they say, to wreck your movie.) If you do have to replace the dialogue, can I match the original sync so it looks like he's really saying the original words? Yes, I can - unless somebody managed to screw up this recording, too. Can I make the actor's new performance better by editing it? No. No, I can't. (Well, sometimes I can. But don't count on it.)

Anyway, who the hell plays pinball anymore? No wonder people say Hollywood is out of touch.


At 8:10 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

My question is how you make the audience buy popcorn and vote Republican with that subliminal backward masking stuff. Where does it go and how much of it do you need?


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