Page 7





Every Word Counts
“This is not an action movie,” says Hallberg. “It’s big, spectacular, and has all those elements, but it’s really about a family and about values. That’s the heart of it, and that’s where we need to make it feel right. The whole setup is for us to connect with the father and his family living a beautiful life, so we make it sound soft and beautiful. It’s about emotion, and you need Mel’s voice to have that chesty, rich quality coming through in the quiet dialog scenes.”

“Mel’s voice is edgy, deep and rich,” adds O’Connell, “which is why I like it. Everything in production was so well recorded that it captured that warmth and richness. I plan to just play it on the screen that way. There was surprisingly little ADR in this movie, which is a credit to Lee [Orloff] and his crew. We had a lot of group ADR, but not a lot of principal ADR. These tracks are stellar.”

A Scene Made for Sound
A viewing tip: Watch for the scene where Colonel Tavington, on a search-and-destroy mission with a small cadre of British troops, enters the home where Gibson’s family is hiding. It takes place at night, with torches blazing. At one point, Tavington thinks he hears a sound and silently enters a room where the family, except for one son, has just fled through a trap door.

Re-recording mixer Greg Orloff (left), who handled the Foley predubs, and Foley supervisor Craig Jaeger of Soundelux.
“At that point, it will be all-Foley,” says Foley supervisor Craig Jaeger. “Tavington’s movement from his gear, big, ominous footsteps with a little bit of spur, and a big wood floor creak.”

“I started with Tavington’s footsteps,” says Foley artist Gary Hecker. “He’s the villain, and he’s wearing these big horse-riding boots. The feet are critical because he’s in stealth mode, walking with giant close-ups on his feet. After his boots, I put on headphones and topped his footsteps with spurs—just enough ring. Then I did leather creaks of his belt in sync with his feet and spurs, for every move. He stops, bends over, looks around, turns his head. Then I went back and added his scabbard, then his pistol movement. After that there’s a giant close-up of his feet, and a dirt spray where the kids can see it from underneath the floor. Then I went in and added floor creak under his feet. When you play back this scene, it just comes to life and creates all the tension and drama.”

“I think we’ve all had the experience where we’ve hidden with people in the room, and all you hear is the sound of your own breath,” adds Kevin O’Connell. “The kid is stuck under the table, and I’m planning on focusing on his timid, scared breath and the sound of the bad guy’s feet. Everything else should be distant, echo-y and surreal at that point.” —Tom Kenny

Production mixer Lee Orloff recorded digitally to a 4-channel Nagra D and was able to use boom mics (boom operator Knox White and assistant David Acord) a majority of the time, which accounts for some of the richness and naturalness in the tracks “When you look at the work tapes that we’re cutting to and you see the boom [mic] in the top end, just out of the frame line…well, it’s very seldom that you see that these days, with somebody who dares to get in there and stay right on the edge,” Hallberg says. “A big hats off to Lee and his crew. Every time I see that boom above the frame, I think, ‘That’s my man!’”

“Bringing the shoot to the Low Country of South Carolina, where the actual events took place, was one more example of the filmmakers’ desire to maintain historical accuracy throughout the production,” Orloff says.

“We reduced intrusions of 20th century life onto the track by the typical road closures and by keeping a handle on local train and plane scheduling. But we also had to eliminate the hazards of ‘friendly fire’—maintaining tight base camp lockups and generator baffling, and control over special effects foggers, smokers and wind machines. We would often hand out Comtek wireless recievers with dialog feeds to the effects operators, along with ‘sides’ for them to read so that they could help pull down particularly noisy elements on cue in an effort to keep the dialog clean.

“Stereo mic configurations were used extensively during the battles and were laid down on two of the four channels,”
he continues. “Once the atmosphere had been tamed, the ambient levels supported the use of multiple booms for the majority of the principals’ dialog recording, ensuring proper perspectives on those tracks. The multichannel format allows us to deliver a mixed mono for dailies and editorial, while at the same time preserving clean pre-fader outs to protect the inevitable overlaps and paraphrasing, which occur from time to time. The higher bit rate of the Nagra enables a natural, fuller and more dynamic recording to be made than is possible with 16-bit mastering formats. We then made certain to interpolate, rather than truncate, the additional information contained in the longer word length when the tracks were loaded digitally into the DAWs.”

All four tracks were loaded digitally into WaveFrames for editing, then laid back to Sony DADR-5000 playback machines. It was the first time Hallberg had a completely digital dialog chain, with no analog conversions.

“My biggest goal as the dialog mixer is intelligibility,” O’Connell says. “You have to understand every word, and I live by the fact that there are no rules to doing dialog right or wrong. I’ll use fractions of words from the loop, fractions from production, and I’ll use crazy EQ in order to understand the line. But I probably process the dialog less than anybody I know. When I first started mixing dialog [in 1987], I would take out every hum, buzz and rumble at the predub. I would use dip filters, CATs [43 or 430 Dolby single-ended noise reduction units], compressors, de-essers. But over the years, I’ve literally got down to using almost nothing except a little compression and de-essing in the predubs. By the time you put in the music, BGs, Foley and everything else, you can’t really hear those extraneous sounds in the dialog track, and by stripping them out, you can’t help but strip away some of the richness. Once I’m in the final mix, if a sound still pops out, I’ll address it then.”

Like most dialog mixers, O’Connell finds the intimate scenes more of a challenge to mix than the battle scenes. At one point in the film, Mel Gibson’s character is talking to his sister-in-law in a refugee camp near the beach. The surf is present, and O’Connell found that he needed to brighten up Gibson’s voice just a tad, without brightening the water. “I’m going to try to combat the water with an ultrahigh-frequency attenuation technique,” O’Connell explains. “At the final, I’m going to reach up for some high freqs between 12 and 15 k and roll off. When you do all this EQ below 10 k, you ultimately contribute to high-end ‘rizz.’ But if you attenuate considerably at, say, 12 to 15 k, you can round the track to where it doesn’t feel so edgy.”

Page 8: Teamwork

© 2000, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved

Post a message in the Digital Post Production World Wide User Group!