One thing is killing your movie

You would be pleasantly surprised at what cinema goers are willing to tolerate; bad popcorn, loud foul-mouthed visitors, even terrible VHS quality projections, but there is one thing people will simply not sit around for. This one thing should be on every filmaker’s priority list.

In the age of CGI and special effects-laden projects, the majority of audiences are willing to accommodate blurry or not-so-great images as long as the “SOUND” quality and rendition is tip top. Audio remains the single most annoying element of the entire film making process and will drive people out of the cinema faster than you can say jack!

Filmakers are often busy with their creative process and neglect this important aspect of the project. Since the first roll of film was projected, the great directors of old, recognized how sound could shape the mood of a cinematic work. Charlie Chaplin was such as innovative thinker in his days and utilised sound to his advantage. He maximised the value of sound in his projects and dug deep into the emotions of his patrons.

2001: A Space Odyssey is a magnificent film and more so because of its use of sound; beginning with the introduction sequence and “building music”. The power of sound was made spectacularly evident by American experimental composer John Cage with his Four thirty-three composition. The score instructs performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece and throughout the three movements. The silence, so to speak is made surreal by people’s willingness to sit through the muteness.

“No sound is better than bad sound”. This would be the appropriate way to describe the issue of sound. Fast-forward to today and the plethora of cinema projects of which sound is so poorly used. A quick view into the problem reveals a trend; whereby filmakers invest money into powerful sound equipment and personnel with the “guarantee” that: “all would be well”, only to find out later that the sound “sucks!”.

Whilst a filmaker can hide bad sound with background music and scores, they cannot hide badly recorded DIALOGUE. Conversations in cinema projects is important in storytelling and for people to hear all the subtleties, innuendos and jokes. The budding filmaker who wants his creative project to stand out from the rest should take sound very serious, especially dialogue. Luckily, the big studios have shown us how to achieve this objective. It is called ADR (automated dialogue replacement). The process usually takes place on a dubbing stage and can be easily emulated in any garage or small studio.

Including ADR in your film making process will enable you to differentiate your project from others. With ADR, sound editors will re-record dialogue, prepare all necessary tracks and most importantly BALANCE all of the elements into a top-quality soundtrack which will render perfectly in a cinema and on a home-screen. If you were ever wondering why your movie sounded weird in a cinema hall, even though you used a professional microphone, then you missed one more step. ADR is laborious but is too powerful to ignore. Viva la Cinema!

About the author: Sal Souza is an International Designer (Cinema, Graphic, Visual, Multimedia, Broadcast Media, Industrial, User Interaction, User Experience) and IT Consultant with expertise in New Media, Web 3.0, IPTV, DTV, Media Production, Product Prototyping, Desktop Software, Interactivity, Mobile Applications, Traditional Knowledge, Geographical Indications and Cultural Goods. He lives and works in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Follow me on @sldsouza

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