The Point & Click of No Return - Audio Reflection 1

Aiming for Hollywood

So we received the final edit as agreed on the 10th of March, the day after my birthday and it was fantastic because we could get straight to work. Or could we? The file was going to take 2 hours to load. We took a copy anyway so that Jamey (director) had back up so we had a meeting and went over out plans while it loaded. Once that was done we took the folder of audio files and the ProTools session and made a smaller workable file for the audio team. We received the session with most the audio files all in place lined up with the video, except all the audio was missing so we had to find and relink them which was more work than it should have been, finding many of them manually. This became quite the task. Anyway, once we had the session setup we watched the video and then started to make a really detailed asset list. Adam left for work and Pat went home, but since I knew I would not be able to attend on Wednesday I stayed back till close and finished the whole asset list with Jamie.

On the next session Adam and I were both at a Whiskey & Speed Rehearsal in preparation for the recording and Jaxon was working with Izaac, so Doctor Duck (mixing engineer) and Jamey Brown (director) were on the task. They took all the music that Jamey had chosen and moved them into time throughout the film. So when we returned to work on Monday to start tidying up the on set sound, the soundtrack was already well placed. We set out to go through all the audio, salvage what we could and just tidy the session up ready for the ADR session on Wednesday.

We still had some audio matched to the wrong shots, but for the most part we could figure out where it was supposed to be and line it up pretty easily. We then sorted out which audio files we wanted to use for which shots and took out anything that didn’t really need to be there. We then consolidated our files, lined them up, in time and then started working on them in Izotope RX. I had never used RX before and it absolutely blew my mind. I mean this program is so beautifully designed and easy to use. It has a waveform in the centre which represents the amplitude of the audio and all the fire behind it represents the frequency spectrum. So if you understand what these 2 things are then this is a very cooperative way to interact with the audio.

We kept the original audio files just in case and we closed ProTools to work on the audio files one by one in RX. We had a system that worked for us, renaming each file with the same naming convention as the ProTools session but just adding RX to the end which allowed us to import or finished files back in, line them up with the original and clearly be able to see which one has been RX'd.

Firstly, we cut everything below 150 Hz and then took a piece of silence, learnt it and de-noised the whole file. We did this to lower some of the floor noise. We were not worried about keeping ambience or room tone as we will be creating our own ambience, using the impulse response sounds we recorded in each room as a reference for the reverb. This was a decision we made in order to keep things clean. We were ruthless and fast in our decisions, keeping and cleaning only what we needed.

There was a lot of distortion on some of the screaming scenes we did try to de-clip it and we improved those sections a lot, but to me, it was still obvious that the equipment was struggling to handle the volume. During most of the shots with yelling though there is music playing in the background on set. I made that call on the night to play the music on set because the music was important in that scene for the performance of the actors, so we knew we had to re-do these shots anyway. in order to separate the voice and the music and to use a finished clean version of the song, not the sound of it in a shed through boom and lapel mics which would sound crap and cause huge continuity issues.

The same was true for the scene where the protagonist is typing on the keyboard while talking on the telephone. We knew he needed to be typing and talking during the filming and we also have a guide actor reading the lines from the other end of the telephone call for him. So we knew that we would need to redo this whole section to separate the voice from the sound of his fingers typing. We still tidied up these sections as a guide, but we didn’t spend as much time on them as we did on the more isolated lines of dialogue and sounds that we could potentially use. We did spend a bit of time tidying up sounds such as chair creeks, cigarette case open and close, zippo lighter, knives on metal tray etc. We have these sounds tidied up with the intention of layering up foley sounds with the original sounds.

Here is a short article on using RX which has some good common sense advice.

5 Steps For Succesful Audio Repair

Most our decisions have been based on common sense, and the ability to brainstorm and problem solve as a group. Adam Higginson, Doctor Duck, Jaxon Arrundell have worked on so many projects together now and have all offered support to each other's individual projects also. Jamey Brown has fit right in with our team and we are soldiering forward, taking no prisoners. After this weeks session, we have a clearer vision of what's coming next.

We copied the session 3 times and made a master session, an ADR session and a foley session. So that we can work on things separately and bring it all together at the end. Our aim next week is to record the dialogue for scene 2 and scene 4. We will ultimately re-record all the dialogue so we have consistent, clean recordings. We will take a similar approach with foley, recording every sound we need ourselves first and then layering and blending a combination of location sound, foley and samples to give things depth and texture. So far we are right on schedule and figuring out how to approach things really well. I can’t wait to start recording the voice acting next week. Keep your eye on my blog for more updates soon.

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