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I'm currently working on a cinema-verite style feature. It's very low budget and all the production was done with a volunteer crew. The production sound requires a lot of work to reduce noise, keep levels consistent, and try to compensate for off axis mics etc etc. I know how to deal with most of these issues but there is one situation that I don't know how to deal with. What is to be done with sounds that happen concurrently with the dialog? Often these sounds are part of the action - the character unwrapping a package while talking, scooting forward in a chair while talking etc. These sounds are frequently very loud and harsh sounding. Also, since I am doing a lot of aggressive leveling and EQing these sounds are unintentionally effected along with the dialog, further drawing attention as they change in volume and frequency content. Since it was shot documentary style I don't have alternate takes to draw from. What should I do about this?

I have very little experience with production sound recording so I don't know if these things are the result of poor recording technique or not. How are these situations normally dealt with on set?

When preparing tracks for M&E or even just when splitting out PFX from DLG what is the approach taken with concurrent sounds?

Edit - I should also mention that we will be doing some ADR but we're trying to keep it to a minimum.

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4 Answers 4

ADR is your friend, however, since you are keeping it to a minimum ill mention the first things that come to mind.

Multi-band compression - the deadly frequency suppressor

WNS - Good times, great production noise reduction

iZotope RX - able to erase a screaming baby from even the best recorded dialog


Multiband Compression I would say would be great for everything that is making noise AROUND the dialog (around in terms of spectrum)

WNS - your package unwrap - might do wonders since it resembles broadband noise

iZotope RX - grab the eraser and literally scrub out your chair squeak

Let me know if any of this helps.

-C3Sound

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Wow that was a fast response, thanks! I'll have to check out WNS. I've been using RX and multi-band compression a lot. It does wonders for some things but not so much for others. Like unwrapping a plastic package while talking or a number of other broadband and inconsistent sounds. I could put all these scenes on the ADR list, but I was also wondering how this sort of thing is typically dealt with. Are these sounds always removed or are they used sometimes? Do all scenes with concurrent action need to be looped? How is this dealt with on set/in the mix? Thanks. –  Brendan Nov 24 '10 at 20:42
    
@Brendan The statistic of how much a films dialog is ADR happens to be something like 80%. It may have dropped slightly because of better production techniques, but I doubt its been dropped by much at all. A good actor knows how to handle his/her surroundings while giving a clear performance - so its not always the sound guys' fault. Its the directors. Mostly because the director has no idea about sound in the first place if they are starting out and havent run into those problems before. Some sounds are used sometimes yes, and it all depends on how clear you want the dialog. –  C3Sound Nov 24 '10 at 22:29
    
+1 for RX, although if you can afford WNS then a stretch to Cedar's DNSOne will bring much nicer sounding dialogue. –  ianjpalmer Nov 24 '10 at 22:43
    
Maybe my sources are outdated, but i thought the 80% ADR statistic was only really for big studio films, and that it was as much (if not more) about having control over performance right up til the final mix, than sound quality. With the exception of big action scenes, of course. I'd be keen to know if i'm wrong. –  Roger Middenway Nov 25 '10 at 2:19
    
The film I last worked on only required about 30 lines to be looped for the main character - this was for a typical hollywood action movie. The boom op and production mixer who did it are legendary, and did a very good job, and most of the lines were mainly for direction and story plot changes than technical problems, and half of those were just for safety in case the original dialogue couldn't be edited, which, when I watched it in the theater I heard maybe only 5 lines of my ADR I recorded - the rest, the production tracks were used. (stay tuned for part 2 of this message) –  Utopia Nov 25 '10 at 6:14
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The first thing i'm thinking when you say verite, is that you shouldn't overprocess. Because of the style, the audience will be much more forgiving of a slightly dirty track. In fact, that can lend itself to a perception of honesty and truth; particularly to a society that's very accustomed to home videos. So i'd suggest being a bit conservative with what you ADR, and not put your tracks through too much processing. It's tempting to try for the cleanest track possible, but you don't want it to sound too sterile.

As for production sound; a good location recordist should be able to pick up on sync fx overlapping dialogue. But then, if it's cinema verite with non actors and no multiple takes, there's not much he/she can do.

And, finally, how sure are you that you need an M+E? You'll only need that if you secure distribution deals in other countries (although it would be a good exercise). You would need to do full foley cover, as well as go through your location track and find any sync fx you've left in under the dialogue, and slot something similar into the FX track for the M+E. Sounds like it'd be a pretty big job so, personally, i'd leave it for now. Talk to the producer and explain how much extra work it is, and that if you guys do make any international sales, you'll need some more budget to do a full M+E.

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Thanks Roger, you're absolutely right on your first point. I made certain the producer and I were clear that this would never sound like a feature and would maintain a documentary feel. That's why we want to keep ADR to a minimum. As far as M&E goes I was simply curious. This particular project is just for local festivals. Would an experienced director then always try to get a take without any overlapping noise? One take opening the package and talking and another just talking? Or would a good recordist be able to get a better recording of both simultaneously? –  Brendan Nov 25 '10 at 6:57
    
Unfortunately, in my experience, sound isn't a huge priority for most directors. And i've come to believe that it's fair enough: maybe the actor speaking lines around the package opening sounds would stilt the flow. Of course, if there was a CU take, actual package handling wouldn't be needed. In any case, i have to give the usual boring answer: it depends. A good recordist should push for some separation of dialogue and sync fx, but it doesn't always go down that way. –  Roger Middenway Nov 26 '10 at 6:39
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Get a hold of the production recordings if you can. Whenever you get a line that has something overlapping it, check the other takes (known as ALTS) for a reading without the overlap. Will probably cover 50% to 70% of your issues. This is part of the craft and skill of Dialog Editing. Check out John Purcell's book if you haven't already. A good Dialog Edit makes a mix 100 times easier. Other than that your options are:

  1. ADR (as mentioned)

or

  1. Fix it the best you can and live with it. For M&E purposes, cut a similar FX in the FX tracks which you can then use when creating your M&E. But do check out what Roger mentions in his post... A "fully filled" M&E may not be a necessity at this point.
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Thanks Sonsey. I just got Purcell's book. It's so great I wish it covered mixing as well. Unfortunately there are no ALTS for this project given the documentary style of shooting. I have replaced words from other sections of the movie, but that takes a lot of hunting. My question was half "what to do about this project?" and half "how is this handled in other situations?" I didn't do a good job making that clear. –  Brendan Nov 25 '10 at 7:11
    
totally agree re alt takes - should be first port of call before calling ADR, obviously check any changed performances with the director though, but sometimes you may only need a fragment of an alt take to fix a problem... –  user49 Nov 25 '10 at 18:00
    
@Brendan, you might want to check out Jay Rose's book I suggested here: socialsounddesign.com/questions/1945/… . He says there is "no recipe but a cookbook", and for every section you have a little "cookbook" giving you some tips about a particular task. It might not save your dialogue now, but at least it's worth a read :) –  Justin Huss Nov 26 '10 at 23:33
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A couple of points that may be helpful for your ADR session:

  • Try to make sure the reading is performed with the same energy as the shoot. Unexperienced actors can be nervous and tend to strain their voice during a shoot, whereas in an ADR session the setting is different and the performance may be more relaxed resulting in a different tone.

  • Try to use the same or similar microphone to the one used in the film shoot. The issue is that a different frequency response will highlight the transition between original dialogue and ADR.

  • Be mindful of distance and the proximity effect, and compare the original to the ADR during the session.

These are small points that will help maintain a natural feel and minimise the use of processing later on. I am sure these are all things you are aware of, but just wanted to point them out as I learned the hard way i.e. my dialogue track sounded pants.

When it comes to editing, try looping some of natural room ambience from a non-dialogue section underneath the ADR. As Roger pointed out the audience will accept a continuous dirty track.

Also, when it comes to audio restoration I found Adobe Audition to be very good. It has a noise reduction tool similar to Waves Z-Noise, a spectral editor and some pretty clinical EQ's. Think it might be PC only though?

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Theres a beta version for the Mac I've had a go with. Looks quite promising. Reminds me of my old Cool Edit Pro days ;) –  Andy Lewis Nov 25 '10 at 13:19
    
All good tips. The ADR fake yell is a special pet peeve of mine. When actors project to the microphone instead of how they projected in the scene. For this project we're going to try to recreate the original situation as much as possible. Even using some of the same or similar locations. Taking the time to A&B with the original during the session is a good idea. I'll keep that in mind. –  Brendan Nov 25 '10 at 17:59
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