An account on the sound mix of an action movie
Mixed by Edward Keaton & Darren Jamieson
Sound mix for a living?
It is inconceivable to imagine that some people actually enjoy doing this for a living, this was quite possibly the worst seven weeks of my life. Tedium and repetition atop banality and boredom.
Whilst Daz Jamieson attended an Avid digital editing course at Derwen in Cardiff, Eddie Keaton took a portable DAT (Digital Audio Tape) recorder, and a Hi-8 camera with a copy of the film, and proceeded to spend the next two weeks recording the foley for the movie. Everything from footsteps on different surfaces, guns being cocked, clothes rustling, car doors opening to the inhaling of cigarette smoke. The man was nothing if not thorough. This did mean however that all this stuff had to be cut in to the soundtrack, 8 DAT tapes of 1 hour in length each, we were in for a long trek here.
DAY 1 and beyond
The first day was greeted with enthusiasm, for a new aspect to the project had begun. This enthusiasm was soon to be replaced with suicidal tendencies.
Sure, it was fun at first. Take the first scene, lay over the atmos track, paste in musician Steven Gane’s score for the intro, replace the re-recorded dialogue, gun shots etc. then it gets picky. Jake Cop moves his arm, we need a jacket rustling sound for this, oh yeah, he also moved his gold chains around his neck, cue Jake’s chains (Little tip here, if you ever shoot a film intending to mix the sound yourself and do a thorough job of it, don’t have any character wearing a creaky jacket and gold chains). If I were to hazard a guess, over the course of the whole movie something like 8 hours solid would have been spent inserting the sound of a creaking jacket and jangling chains, whoever does this for a living – get a life!
From here it only got worse.
Packed up tracks
The scene in Tibet (Rhiwderin) required a suitably detailed sound mix to give the illusion of the jungle, with birds tweeting atmos, the occasional wild animal call, Gany’s eerie music and of course those bloody jacket and chains again. The problem was the computer program we were using, ‘Session 8’, meaning you had just the 8 tracks to play with, 4 if you want them in stereo. This meant that we were getting very stuck for space, having to use the 24 track mixer with the computer to create a final mix of the scene. Cues were worked out for volume increases and decreases, pitch shifts and effects, rehearsals were attempted and finally we laid it. Every inch of track was blocked up with a wave file, making us wonder how on earth we would be able to mix the shoot-out scene when we would require at least six tracks for gun shots alone. But that’s another matter.
While Edward Keaton volunteered for the job of jacket and chains, Daz Jamieson had the seemingly difficult task of replacing re-recorded dialogue lines and syncing them to the film. Now, I say seemingly difficult as when we were hoping to get someone to do this for us we were told by the BBC that dialogue replacement was the most difficult aspect of dubbing, one which required years of experience and cost hundreds of pounds per hour. This was of course, a crock of horse shit. It’s exceptionally easy, particularly with the modern age of the computer, matching the new waveform to the original waveform was quite simply, a piece of cake. Indeed quite how films are still released with poor out of synch dialogue is beyond me (Note the film Human Traffic, the introduction of the female lead, Lorraine Pilkington, was completely re-dubbed, badly.)
In this, the jacuzzi scene, the entire soundtrack had to be replaced because of the noise created by the jacuzzi at the time of filming. The jacuzzi sound itself was recorded separately, with the dialogue re-recorded in a sound proof booth, the noise of the glasses chinking, the bottle opening and splashing in the water etc., all pieced together to recreate much the same sound as that originally recorded, but with the overall improvement of being able to hear the dialogue (if that actually constitutes an improvement).