Automated or automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) is a process whereby dialogue is re-recorded in a studio during post-production to match picture filmed during principal photography. As the name implies, this better quality re-recording of an actor’s dialogue replaces the previously recorded poor quality audio. ADR is necessary when, for one reason or another, no suitable dialogue was recorded during principal photography. [Read more…]
Welcome to the Sound Series, where together we’ll go over some of the basic aspects of film production and appreciation in relationship to sound effects and music, including gear and industry best practices. Collectively, these elements form the soundscape or sound design of a film.
To kick things off, check out our article on Sound Design, where you will understand why sound is so important, especially when contrasted to the raw, unedited audio:
Once you’ve read that article, you can go more in-depth here:
- Music in Film
- Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound
- What is Foley?
- The Boom Microphone
- Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR)
Foley is one of the components of a film’s sound design. Foley effects are sounds recorded during post-production to give weight or oomph to subtle sounds that appear on the screen during an actor’s performance and other scenarios.
The Craft of Foleying
Music is one of the elements of a film’s sound design. It is different from dialogue and sound effects in that usually it does not have its source as part of the filmic space. Gunshots and door slamming, for instance, are heard when they happen on the screen (diegetic sound).
When Should You Not Use Music?
Too much music can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is preferred to let the audience hear the dietetic noises and sounds of the film world. In the documentary The Cutting Edge – The Magic of Movie Editing, it is discussed how music implemented over a specific scene of Dante’s Peak made the scene less effective because the music disguised the eerie sound of settling dirt in a mine shaft about to collapse. In this scene, music was a distraction that minimized the audience’s reaction.
Remember: as a filmmaker, your goal is to immerse the audience in your film. Music usually does just that. But if the sounds of the film world can achieve a similar effect, then you should ask yourself if you need music at all. As a general rule, you should never replace a visceral sound, like a woman screaming or a building exploding, with music. Maybe you can use music to augment the emotional beat, yes, but don’t let it overwhelm your sound.
And then there’s contrapuntal music, which goes to other extreme, countering exciting, sometimes even explosive scenes with mellow music.
Sound is called diegetic when its source is visible or implied in the world of the film. Common diegetic sounds present in most films are:
- actors speaking to each other (dialogue)
- sounds originating from any object on the screen, like footsteps and police sirens
- music that comes from a sound system or orchestra
- music or score, used to augment emotions
- actor’s commentary or narration
- any extra sound added for effect
Combining Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sounds
In the textbook Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, Herbert Zettl explains:
“Most often literal and nonliteral sounds are combined in the same scene. Assume that we see a mother and her son walking along the beach. We hear their dialogue (literal, source-connected), the pounding of the surf (literal, source-disconnected). When their conversation turns to the recent funeral of Gradma, music comes in to underscore the sad memories (nonliteral). Such a mixture of literal and nonliteral sounds communicates what the event is all about and also how it feels. It “shows” the outside and the inside of the event simultaneously.” (Zettl, page 337)
Boom microphones have long reigned as the superior choice for filmmaking. Why? A few reasons:
- In double system sound recording, the microphone works independently from the camera, so that noises made by the camera or operators are not recorded in the sound file.
- It has a long pole that allows “easy” access to the sound source. Boom operators often have a very specific sound they are trying to capture. The most important one for narrative films is, of course, dialogue. With its long pole, the microphone can be suspended overhead, above actors. Additionally, if the sound source is on the move (like a walking actor), operators can follow them with the microphone.
- It is highly directional, meaning that it has a narrow pickup pattern. This allows the operator to isolate the other unwanted sounds. For instance, while recording dialogue next to a busy street, the boom operator will aim the microphone away from street to avoid noises.
- Most professional boom mics sound better than any built-in mic your camera may have.
Usually – but not always – filmmakers fall in love with the medium because of the visual aspect of film. Photographers, for instance, sometimes grow up to find themselves interested in cinematography or videography. While this is all fine and dandy, the issue becomes a problem when budding filmmakers neglect sound in their productions. In fact, it’s not rare to find young directors who have a camera but not a microphone. While that’s not a crime, this does illustrate the problem. In a nutshell, sound design is the many flavors and colors of the sound spectrum of an artistic work: [Read more…]