Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sounding Out on Christian Movies

I've written about it in the past, and I'm sure it will keep coming up.  I'm not here to write about how awesome the faith-based films are... we all know the reputation-- bad writing, bad acting, bad lighting... and so on.

Looking forward, these things will improve.  A year ago there were less than half a dozen contemporary movies on the shelves at the Christian bookstores.  Today, there are dozens.  And that number will increase.  And as it does, the better movies will rise to the top and the quality will improve.

Regardless, I'm watching a Christian film.  The Director of Photography is pretty good (except for color balance, which could be a post issue).  But as beautiful the pictures are, the sound is atrocious.  The director picked some extremely noisy locations and looks like he didn't do any ADR  (for those that don't know, that's where the actor's recreate their lines in a sound booth in post production and also called "looping").  Most movies have some ADR-- it's difficult to get away from it.

When I decided to shoot Rising Stars around a water fountain, I understood that I would be looping the dialogue.  It can be very difficult to do, especially for heavy dramatic stuff.  And the more experienced the actor, the better (more convincing) the ADR. 

This movie has pretty good location sound.  In quiet locations, it's clear they've done a good job mic'ing the actors.  The best mic for location recording (most natural) is a boom mic.  Secondly, a lav or clothes mic is used.  This is usually hidden inside the shirt or jacket.  Third, a plant mic might be used.  This is where a mic is hidden in the set near the actors-- sometimes in an actual plant.  The mark of total amateur filmmaking is to simply use the mic on the camera.  Big no-no.

So what do you do if you shoot in a noisy location?  Know that the dialogue you record is "guide track" dialogue.  Later, after you've locked the edit, you'll bring the actors back to record lines that need it.  In Sound Design, the dialogue will be carved out and put onto it's own tracks.  Everything else will be on the effects tracks.  This includes footsteps, glass clinking, or key rattling-- basically, *anything* not dialogue.

Room tone will then be laid down consistently over the scene.  Listening to the Christian movie right now, you can hear the room tone change on every edit... a sign that dialogue hasn't been cleaned up and separated.

So hire an experienced Sound Designer.  It can make all the difference.

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