Monday, 30 July 2012

Building sound-castles

Bloody kids.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the ADR process – gathering all the replacement bits of bad-quality dialogue and miscellaneous bonus grunts and groans from the cast.

Automated Dialogue Replacement, although I’d be interested to know how the word “Automated” found its way into the acronym as it was a far from straightforward exercise. But Sunday was decided to be the moment to take a day off from watching people running around on the telly to kick-start the process of making Glen-the-sound’s life easier.

Step forward Rachel Nottingham and Joe Rainbow, Zombie Resurrection’s naïve teenager Becca and officious party leader Gibson respectively. Good solid professionals to call upon to play the part of cast guinea pigs. Nothing too strenuous missing from their collection of on-set dialogue; just some extra sounds of weeping, grunts associated with various zombie bludgeonings, and long swathes of the deranged kind of Tourette’s that arises during the slow transition to zombiedom.

And a couple of lines from the first act of the film, where the extraneous noises evident in pre-apocalyptic Portsmouth woodland simply couldn’t be scrubbed out.

There is, it seems, an adage in getting good quality ADR – if you’re replacing lines originally spoken outside, you need to get the sound recordings done outside too. Unless you’re doing all your ADR in a perfect anechoic environment, there will always be a little room reverb evident in what you record in a recording studio. It’s OK for all the inside stuff, as you’ll then be adding a whole load more reverb to the ADR tracks to make them match the rest of the dialogue from the shoot (simples), but once even a little bit is on there it can’t be taken off.

And in the great room-less outdoors, these lines will stand out like a green sock on a bloodied stump.

And so we face problem number one – is there really anywhere in Hampshire that is suitably quiet? Somewhere acceptably close to a car park, but away from planes, trains, automobiles, dog-walkers, fields of livestock, chirruping crickets or forest birds looking for a shag?

Or, more importantly, bloody kids?

There is something about the eager squeals of children that carries for miles. Too much car noise? Just head deeper into the woods. Aeroplanes? Hang back for 20 seconds and it’ll be gone. But the sound of an under-eight having fun anywhere in the same postcode? You’re waiting for nap-time before that’ll get any better. And while I can’t blame any parents for wanting to take full advantage of the few days of actual summer that we’re going to get this year, please know that your selfish pursuit of fresh air and exercise is making our lives really tricky.

But, a hundred takes of all the swapped-out dialogue later, and Glen-the-sound was finally happy that he’ll be able to fabricate quiet versions of all our troubled chat, even if it’s a syllable-by-syllable Frankenstein agglomeration of acceptably noise-less moments.

And so we get to head indoors, over to the recording studio built at the back of Dale-the-tunes’ garden.

This is where all the movie music magic happens; a grown-up potting shed into which Dale can escape from the wife and kids, and actually do something worthwhile other than sipping scotch and pretending to whittle away at a piece of wood while listening to the Archers. Sound-proofed, covered in acoustic absorbers, and with a bloody-great piano in the middle where the lawn-mower should be.

And it was at this point that everything took a turn for the smooth. As Rachel screamed and Joe sweated, we powered through the rest of the list with grace and agility; three metres away outside on the patio no one was any the wiser about the cacophony of shrieks and growls that have left me with slight tinnitus this morning. Anybody needing to gut a pig or torture a POW in a residential setting could do a lot worse than phoning Dale-the-tunes up for copies of his architectural plans.

And at eight o’clock last night we stepped outside into a welcome cool breeze with 2/9s of our ADR firmly in the bag. To Glen-the-sound and Dale-the-tunes, it’s an enormous Charmed thank you for giving over your Sunday to our screamy silliness; to Rachel and Joe, it’s our eternal appreciation for coming back to Winchester almost a year to the day after we started shooting to re-enjoy the horrors of life on a zombie set; to all the other cast members, prepare yourself for a phone call.

And to the parents of small children in the environs, what’s wrong with the X-box or the cinema? If it’s fresh air and running about in the countryside you’re after, open a bloody window and see how quickly they can water the pot-plants. Incredulous.

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