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Les Miserables, live singing....


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141 replies to this topic

#1
Rich Van Dyke

Rich Van Dyke
  • LocationLos Angeles, CA
When I went to see, "The Master," I also got to see the trailer for, "Les Miserables." The trailer consisted of a performance by Anne Hathaway singing, and quick cuts to show who else was in the film.

This is going to be a "must see" for sound folks, as the performance singing was all done LIVE! The production mixer was the very talented Simon Hayes, "Prometheus," "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," and I have no idea how he ever knew what Brad Pitt was saying in, "Snatch."

Here's a fantastic little short about the LIVE singing.

http://www.goldderby.com/films/news/3401/first-look-making-of-'les-miserables'-as-hugh-jackman-and-anne-hathaway-sing-live.html


This is another, can't wait film.

Cheers,

Rich Van Dyke
The more knowledge you gain...The more you realize how little you know.

Richard Van Dyke, CAS

#2
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA
I think it is fantastic what they did on that movie! What a tremendous effort it must have been but with such glorious results. All of the wonderful creative reasons to do it this way, as the actors talk about the freedom to truly sing a performance, the kind of vitality and life that can be in a scene with live dialog (that we are obviously used to) AND live singing, kudos to the whole movie-making team.

Without being too cynical, I imagine that we may discover that some of the singing was POST recorded (ADR to the song sung live "guide track") but it really doesn't matter --- I don't think anyone will actually be keeping a scorecard. I just find it hard to believe that the production recorded quality of the singing voice could be achieved in all the scenes, all the locations, the likely mechanical special effects (wind, rain, etc.). It is easier to clean up dialog than it is to clean up full range singing voice. In any case, a truly heroic effort that is bound to make the movie that much more involving.
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#3
Eric Toline

Eric Toline
  • LocationCoral Springs Florida
Since all the live singing was done to a piano scratch track fed via ear wigs to the talant, I think the more difficult part was getting full orchestra instrumental tracks in sync with the vocal tracks. Something like building a house from the top down. A complete opposite of the way it's usually done.

Eric
"I push the Record button and hope for the best"

#4
studiomprd

studiomprd
  • LocationHollywood CA
This seemingly "basic" approach probably was made possibly partly by all the great technology that we have today
SENATOR Mike Michaels, c.a.s.
Studio M Productions

#5
Rich Van Dyke

Rich Van Dyke
  • LocationLos Angeles, CA
I had the same thoughts that both you and Eric had, Jeff. In the short you see the camera crew all decked out in slickers, and special effects creating rain, I would've thought the noise from the rain hitting all of those slickers would ruin the performance.

As Hugh Jackman explains, first he's showing what the normal tempo would be for the song he's shown singing, and then how he can change the original tempo, as he feels the emotions within the scene, as it's being shot. Thus causing the on-set piano player, and then eventually the orchestra, to follow his tempo not that of the original song.

For those of you who missed, "Snatch," and were curious as to my comment in regard to understanding Brad Pitt, here's a clip. Brad plays 'Mickey,' who's not Irish, and not English, nor Scottish, he's Pikey.


The more knowledge you gain...The more you realize how little you know.

Richard Van Dyke, CAS

#6
Eric Toline

Eric Toline
  • LocationCoral Springs Florida
Ah of course. He's speaking gibberish, an ancient hibernian slang caused by having your tongue in your eye teeth so you can't see what you're saying.

Eric
"I push the Record button and hope for the best"

#7
jeoh

jeoh
  • LocationLos Angeles
Seriously cannot wait for this. I think the achievement just to get through such an undertaking is astounding. Well done to Simon Hayes and his team.

Julian
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”

#8
dfisk

dfisk
  • LocationUnited States
Having been in many orchestra pits, I can say that is pretty easy to follow the singer, assuming they know what they are doing, which is most likely the case with this film. With enough rehearsals, it's just like playing normally.
bacon bacon bacon

#9
nickreich

nickreich
I do a fair bit of work around filmed stage musicals (actual stage shows being filmed) and it's no big issue to do post pickups of vocal lines that have been trodden on by stage machinery noise and so on - often just part of a line. Very similar to ADR, singers may even find it easier to match performance rhythm. Likewise we have on several occasions augmented the original pit orchestra, and it's not a problem to get the post-recorded Orchestra in sync. Once the songs have been edited (of course with an ear to avoiding jarring tempo mis-matches where a performer changed their delivery from take to take), we use the assembled guide tracks (piano and vocal) to create a matching click track played by hand. That goes to the scoring stage for the conductor to follow. Even if every song in Les Miserables has it's vocal redone in a studio after, I think it's going to be a huge improvement on the sing first - mime on set technique. Kudos to them.

#10
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
Hi Guys,

Thanks for the interest in this amazing project.I was very fortunate to be asked to record this movie
as Tom Hoopers vision from the very beginning was a live musical,using the on set vocals as masters for the film
and a very serious attempt not to replace any live vocals with ADR,as he feels the original
performances hold a truth and energy that can be lost during a re-record.

From the outset the whole movie was planned to avoid re-records and ADR,from set design to special FX.
The Production Sound/Post Production Sound and Music depts were all one team who collaborated from the beginning to help Tom achieve his vision.

We had many tricks up our sleeve to achieve the highest quality singing possible on a movie set including
3 Boom Operators on main unit at all times who were part of a 7 man Production Sound Team.

What I can tell you is that there is zero ADR in the 'Extended Trailer'
being spoken about on this thread and if we are to look at just one difficult sequence
shown,which is Samantha Barks singing in the rain I can tell you how we achieved what you hear.
Every roof top and every piece of floor not in shot was covered with rubberised horse hair to deaden the rain hitting it.
Camera was covered with a 'horse hair roof' attached over the top of it to stop the noise of the droplets hitting the polythene bag keeping it dry.
The camera dept were wearing ponchos made from black 'bolton' fabric over their wet weather gear to 'soak up' the sound of the water hitting them.Samantha Barks was wearing 2 radio mics,and they were changed on every take for fresh dry ones to eliminate possible moisture affecting the lavaliers.
The Special FX team made sure that the actual droplets falling around the camera were adjusted into a fine spray to reduce impact noise.

Every scene was approached with this level of attention to detail and when a Sound Dept has the director and the actors working with them and backing them up to try and achieve something extraordinary a lot can be achieved.

I really hope all the members here thoroughly enjoy the movie!

Regards to All

Simon Hayes
Production Sound Mixer
Les Miserables

#11
Olle Sjostrom

Olle Sjostrom
  • LocationStockholm, Sweden
Wow Simon! That sounds fantastic! What a joy! Great job
http://www.tjockishjartafilm.se

#12
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA
WELCOME Simon Hayes!!! You have made my day, or my year, or... Thank you for the wonderful insight into this amazing production right from the horse's mouth as they say. The most important thing you have said, besides the incredibly interesting and useful explanations of how you did the scenes, is the statement:

"From the outset the whole movie was planned to avoid re-records and ADR,from set design to special FX. The Production Sound/Post Production Sound and Music dept were all one team who collaborated from the beginning to help Tom achieve his vision."

The Sound Department, both Production and Post, could never have achieved this milestone of movie-making without the exceptional and unprecedented commitment from the whole TEAM on the movie. It all starts with the director's "vision" and what a glorious thing it is when the director's vision so completely embraces the soundtrack!
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#13
Philip Perkins

Philip Perkins

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the interest in this amazing project.I was very fortunate to be asked to record this movie
As Tom Hoopers vision from the very beginning was a live musical,using the on set vocals as masters for the film
And a very serious attempt not to replace any live vocals with ADR,as he feels the original
Performance hold a truth and energy that can be lost during a re-record.

From the outset the whole movie was planned to avoid re-records and ADR,from set design to special FX.
The Production Sound/Post Production Sound and Music dept were all one team who collaborated from the beginning to help Tom achieve his vision.

We had many tricks up our sleeve to achieve the highest quality singing possible on a movie set including
3 Boom Operators at all times.

What I can tell you is that there is zero ADR in the 'Extended Trailer'
Being spoken about on this thread and if we are to look at just one difficult sequence
Shown,which is Samantha Barks singing in the rain I can tell you how we achieved what you hear.
Every roof top and every piece of floor not in shot was covered with rubberised horse hair to deaden the rain hitting it.
Camera with a 'horse hair roof' attached over the top to stop the noise of the droplets hitting the polythene.
The camera dept were wearing ponchos made from black 'bolton' fabric over their wet weather gear to 'soak up' the sound of the water hitting them.Samantha Barks was wearing 2 radio mics,and they were changed on every take for fresh dry ones to eliminate
Possible moisture affecting the lavaliers.
The Special FX team made sure that the actual droplet around actually around the camera were adjusted into a fine spray to reduce droplet noise.

Every scene was approached with this level of attention to detail and when a Sound Dept has the director and the actors working with them and backing them up to try and achieve something extraordinary a lot can be achieved.

I really hope all the members here thoroughly enjoy the movie!

Regards to All

Simon Hayes
Production Sound Mixer
Les Miserables


(Applause!)

phil p

#14
studiomprd

studiomprd
  • LocationHollywood CA
BIG Welcome Simon, and looking forward to learningmore about this project, perhaps a combination of posts, and some magazinel interviews.
I too applaud the statements JW highlighted, and this one: " Every scene was approached with this level of attention to detail and when a Sound Dept has the director* and the actors working with them and backing them up to try and achieve something extraordinary a lot can be achieved. ", which is the philosophy I try to convey in teaching my production sound classes to folks who plan to become directors; you have summed up my entire 12-14 week term in those statements, and I hope it is OK to quote you!

* it seems you also had the DP and camera crew on-board, too.

Edited by studiomprd, 22 September 2012 - 09:52 AM.

SENATOR Mike Michaels, c.a.s.
Studio M Productions

#15
old school

old school
  • LocationSo Cal
Congratulations to Simon and his crew on this once in a lifetime job. Going to work each day must of been great. I can't wait to see the film. Cheers.
CrewC
So beautiful or so what.

#16
Don Coufal

Don Coufal
  • LocationAgoura Hills
This is exactly the way I would want to do a musical. Simon you have had the opportunity to work on one of the few truly wonderful film production sound projects of modern times. That Trailer made me smile and feel good about what we do. I hope the commitment and understanding of everyone involved in that project rubs off on other directors, producers and crew members. It proves that the seemingly impossible can be achieved when it's well planned and supported by all. I can't wait to see the film. Congratulations to you and your entire crew.

#17
Jan McL

Jan McL
  • LocationNY Metro
Simon, your experience on this film gives us all hope :)

Bravo to all who decided and helped make it so.

Let this be both lesson and high barre.

Sweet sound dreams for us tonight and for the near future to be sure.

Delighted to have you aboard JWSound.

Hip-hip, hooray!
Jan McLaughlin, CAS
http://janmclaughlin.tv
FCC LP Call Sign WQOF571
914-509-4661

#18
Rich Van Dyke

Rich Van Dyke
  • LocationLos Angeles, CA
Wow, I never expected to hear from Simon himself, so grateful to have you post within this great topic. What a wonderful time we're all living in, to be able to connect with people in other countries, and to hear first hand how things were done. Brilliant!!

Your post Simon, speaks to the very word, collaboration. It's unfortunate that on occasion sound is not given the respect that it deserves. If you might could you elaborate on what you called, "rubberized horse hair." In the states here we refer to it as "hog's hair" and it's usually a synthetic material that I would not call "rubberized."

I don't think I'm being too bold when I would say that you're easily the "hometown favorite" for the BAFTA this year, and I would say that they can go ahead and engrave you an Oscar as well, to go with your Orange. Clear the mantel!!!

If my history is correct, Simon is also the first mixer to work on two films with Ridley Scott, he's currently shooting the film, "The Counselor," an original screenplay by the great writer Cormac McCarthy. Good on you Simon, Ridley is certainly the taskmaster for a sound crew, and I'm sure he has nothing but the greatest of respect for you and your crew.

Here's the trailer I first saw of "Les Miserable," that made me want to seek out further information. Anne Hathaway's voice was just so pronounced in the trailer.



Finally, for those of you who think Russell Crowe is an unusual choice for a musical. Russell has had a rock band for years, "Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts."



Cheers,

Rich Van Dyke
The more knowledge you gain...The more you realize how little you know.

Richard Van Dyke, CAS

#19
Marc Wielage

Marc Wielage
  • LocationNorthridge, CA
Incredible job, Simon. Many, many years ago, I worked on the home video transfer of the American movie At Long Last Love, where director Peter Bogdanovich also tried to have the actors sing "live" on the set. It was a total disaster and resulted in the film going way over schedule and budget. The director was so chagrined, he took out a full-page ad in Variety the week the film came out to apologize to all the technicians who told him it would be impossible to do what he wanted. But that was then and this is now.

It just shows that with the technology and lessons learned that we have today, it's now actually possible to pull this off if you have talent at a very high level and state of the art equipment. It's an absolutely amazing achievement, and I can't wait to see and hear the film.
www.cinesound.tv | location sound • post-production consultant

#20
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
Wow,i am so honoured at this warm welcome to your community Jeff and the kind words by the members who have posted.
The film truly was a labour of love.Extremely challenging yet from the outset the challenge was inspiring.
I am busy on location on The Counselor,shooting 4 cameras but i will try and write some more posts soon about Les Miserables but for now i thought you guys would enjoy this picture.This picture does not include any of the protools/music dept rig and just features the Production Sound equipment we used every day on Les Miserables.

Posted Image

#21
Jan McL

Jan McL
  • LocationNY Metro
Tonight's sound dream is to figure the how and why of all this image represents.
Jan McLaughlin, CAS
http://janmclaughlin.tv
FCC LP Call Sign WQOF571
914-509-4661

#22
Vasileios Alexandris

Vasileios Alexandris
  • LocationThessaloniki, GR
:blink:

Vasileios Alexandris

1st Assistant Sound / Boom Operator

Greece, Thessaloniki


#23
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA
O M G (as the young people text) --- what an incredible line up of equipment, multiple carts, so many things to do everyday...
and you're smiling, I think!
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#24
stevegrider

stevegrider
  • LocationNashville, TN
Wow. I want to be Simon Hayes when I grow up.

#25
Philip Perkins

Philip Perkins
No computers in sight! (Yay!)

phil p

#26
Malcolm Davies Amps CAS

Malcolm Davies Amps CAS
  • LocationThe infamous Saddleworth Moors in the UK
Seeing Simon amongst all his gear for Les Miserables made me think back to all the gear we had on the UK end of Heavens Gate.
Seven thousand watts of playback, An induction loop that was half a mile long with fifty five earpieces and fifteen radio mics, and this was in the early 80's.
Malcolm Davies. A.m.p.s.

#27
Henchman

Henchman
  • LocationEncino, CA
Thank you Simon.
As a re-recording mixer, as some have noticed here, I complain about a lot of the quality of production sound I receive on the stage these days. Especially the scenes where there are two people in a room, and the whole scene has to be ADR-ed.

This is just proof that it IS possible to get quality, completely useable dialog under the most difficult circumstances.

IMDB Credits

Living the Dream

#28
Henchman

Henchman
  • LocationEncino, CA
I will have to somehow convince Tom Hooper to do my Musical "London Calling".
He sounds like the guy to do it.
I loved The Kings Speech as well.
IMDB Credits

Living the Dream

#29
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA

Thank you Simon.
As a re-recording mixer, as some have noticed here, I complain about a lot of the quality of production sound I receive on the stage these days. Especially the scenes where there are two people in a room, and the whole scene has to be ADR-ed.

This is just proof that it IS possible to get quality, completely useable dialog under the most difficult circumstances.

Again, Henchman, I feel sorry for you, all the jobs you have had to do with bad production sound. I think Simon Hayes and everyone involved with Les Miserables have done something very unique and wonderful but I don't think it is the "proof" that you need to soothe your mind. I can tell you from my own personal experiences over the last 42 years that it is absolutely possible to get completely useable (even really great) dialog in most circumstances. Had you been working in post on any of the 70 or more movies I have done you might not be so angry and bitter.
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#30
old school

old school
  • LocationSo Cal
"London Calling", I'll be there for that film if it ever gets made.
@ Simon, as impressive as all the gear is, I am most impressed that you are dressed like a SoCal sound mixer.
CrewC
So beautiful or so what.

#31
studiomprd

studiomprd
  • LocationHollywood CA
" I don't think it is the "proof" that you need to soothe your mind. "
I understand Henchman's issues, but even he agrees that there is probably "more to the story" in these cases, and on the projects he is working on, it may be a combinations of numerous factors that probably boil down to unreasonable expectations (of all kinds) in production and on sets, as well as false economies...
in one particular case that irritates him, he has not been able to contact the production mixer (unnamed at this time) who did the show, and discuss the circumstances --back story--, but Mark has had enough experience with good production sound to know what is possible, and thus lament the crap he is hearing all too often.
I have a definite feeling that that particular production was probably as far different from Simon's situation on Les Mis, as could be possible on a professional shoot...no time, no money, no cooperation, no patience, no: "going again", no planning, no preparation, and always making choices that are cheapest, etc.

Edited by studiomprd, 24 September 2012 - 11:14 AM.

SENATOR Mike Michaels, c.a.s.
Studio M Productions

#32
Henchman

Henchman
  • LocationEncino, CA

. Had you been working in post on any of the 70 or more movies I have done you might not be so angry and bitter.


I agree. And I'm not bitter. Just frustrated.
And I wish a lot of today's sound guys could have trained under guys like you.
When it's advisor a lot of them have gotten not it, by buying gear. And never had the advantage of training under experienced, talented mixers.
IMDB Credits

Living the Dream

#33
Henchman

Henchman
  • LocationEncino, CA

I have a definite feeling that that particular production was probably as far different from Simon's situation on Les Mis, as could be possible on a professional shoot...no time, no money, no cooperation, no patience, no preparation, making choices that are cheapest, etc.


Probably true.

I think some of you would be appalled at the stuff we get on the Dubstage.
And we don't have the option of just moving on. We HAVE to make it work.
And producers want their shows to sounds like features. So we work our asses off to make them happy.
9 Hours of non stop audio cleanup to make a 42 minute show sound like a feature that gets weeks, sometimes months to mix.

So yeah, one does get a little frustrated at times.
IMDB Credits

Living the Dream

#34
Henchman

Henchman
  • LocationEncino, CA

"London Calling", I'll be there for that film if it ever gets made.


Think of a cross between Trainspotting and Quadrophenia.
IMDB Credits

Living the Dream

#35
Whit Norris

Whit Norris
  • LocationAtlanta, GA
Simon,

Thanks for the post and info you put on this group! Looking forward to the film. Outstanding! TEAM effort! I was just very happy today when the director and and actors were concerned with the air traffic and all wanted to wait and did! It takes a team and a crew to achieve great sound.

Cheers,

Whit
Whit Norris C.A.S.
FCC LP License WQOE682

#36
mikefilosa

mikefilosa
  • LocationAtlanta, GA
I did a film last year with an impressive Korean director who actually did not want to wear a headset.
Shooting RED, he would not roll until he got the "quiet" he needed, and would stop if new noises intervened.

Refreshing to say the least.

MF
Michael Filosa, CAS
Atlanta, GA
www.afpusa.tv

#37
RPSharman

RPSharman
  • LocationCambridge - UK
Saw the extended promo for "Les Mis..." at the theater this weekend. It looks pretty amazing. I'm a fan of big musicals(live and cinematic), and the idea of "live" performances in a movie musical is fantastic.

Even if there are overdubs (not necessarily ADR) later, the opportunity to perform the song as dialog unrestricted by tempo must give the actors great freedom.

Really looking forward to it.

Hope to meet Simon when I make my move back "home" in the not so distance future.

#38
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
Well,i'm just checking back in and i'm overwhelmed by the comments on this thread.

I have some exciting news,i will be in LA to do a Q&A session after the C.A.S & M.P.S.E screening of Les Miserables
on the 14th December.I'm really looking forward to meeting lots of you guys and being able to give an insight on the exact methodology we used to enable the actors to sing live from start to finish.

Regards to All

Simon

#39
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
When we were planning the film,i had a meeting with the engineers at Abbey Road Studio's in London who would eventually be working on the my production tracks.After extensive testing on mics during which i demonstrated to them the mics we would be using and got feedback from them they asked me to record the movie without ANY limiters in the chain.
As well as testing our 'film industry' mics up against their 'music industry mics so they could really get a feel for the differences they
decided that we needed to use the complete 24 bit dynamic range of the Deva's.

Now,i have never been a fan of using limiters and infact i have the Deva limiters turned off at all times but with the limiters in my Audio Developments 149 mixers i have had them adjusted to a higher than standard engagement point.

The standard place for them to engage is +4dbu,but i have always felt they destroy the very headroom they are there to protect so i have had mine set to +10dbu before they engage,so they are there to protect at the absolute upper end of the dynamic range of the mixer.

Anyway,the guys at Abbey Road asked me to record the whole of Les Miserables without the use of limiters and that in itself was a fantastic challenge,because there was no safety net,the actors were trying different performances (volumes!) on different takes,but the results were worth it.

Using the complete dynamic range of the equipment and trying not to ride the gain gives a more real and truthful performance ultimately because when the actor goes quiet you are not "equalising" their performance by bringing them up,and by the same token
when they go loud,you are not eroding the dynamic of the performance by 'bringing them down'.

The whole process was exciting and a lot of fun and the mics,mixer and deva's showed superb dynamic range and signal to noise ratios in the real world!

#40
Mark LeBlanc

Mark LeBlanc
  • LocationCajun Country
Simon, from we who toil in the realm of low budget! Thanks for the tidbits of info.. Looking forward to seeing it!


#41
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA

Well,i'm just checking back in and i'm overwhelmed by the comments on this thread.

I have some exciting news,i will be in LA to do a Q&A session after the C.A.S & M.P.S.E screening of Les Miserables
on the 14th December.I'm really looking forward to meeting lots of you guys and being able to give an insight on the exact methodology we used to enable the actors to sing live from start to finish.

Regards to All

Simon

This is great news! I hope to meet up with you in December.
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#42
Jan McL

Jan McL
  • LocationNY Metro

Now,i have never been a fan of using limiters and infact i have the Deva limiters turned off at all times but with the limiters in my Audio Developments 149 mixers i have had them adjusted to a higher than standard engagement point.

The standard place for them to engage is +4dbu,but i have always felt they destroy the very headroom they are there to protect so i have had mine set to +10dbu before they engage,so they are there to protect at the absolute upper end of the dynamic range of the mixer.

Anyway,the guys at Abbey Road asked me to record the whole of Les Miserables without the use of limiters and that in itself was a fantastic challenge,because there was no safety net,the actors were trying different performances (volumes!) on different takes,but the results were worth it.

Using the complete dynamic range of the equipment and trying not to ride the gain gives a more real and truthful performance ultimately because when the actor goes quiet you are not "equalising" their performance by bringing them up,and by the same token
when they go loud,you are not eroding the dynamic of the performance by 'bringing them down'.

The whole process was exciting and a lot of fun and the mics,mixer and deva's showed superb dynamic range and signal to noise ratios in the real world!


The above paragraphs are going to haunt my sound dreams this week.

Without any custom limiter adjustment on my AD255, I stopped using the limiter on it long ago since to my ears, dynamics pushing the edge squished and muddied the tracks.

Have been playing with limiter options on the Zaxcom TRX's for my two most unpredictably dynamic performers and been pretty happy with how they save the peak words from digital hash oblivion. Will revisit the settings Monday morning just because :)

Devastated that I'll be working during your LA visit, but hope CAS will narrowcast the event.
Jan McLaughlin, CAS
http://janmclaughlin.tv
FCC LP Call Sign WQOF571
914-509-4661

#43
Jan McL

Jan McL
  • LocationNY Metro
By the way, the amazing camera operator Larry McConkey has joined our camera department this season and I've been following him around this week like a happy puppy to listen to his stories. After 4 days of input from him, and just after he finished drilling down into the specifics of how they set up the cameras and re-learned how to think steadicam in 3-D for "Hugo," I told him that the most exciting thing to happen to film sound lately was your work on "LM". Truth.

Larry's the kind of guy IMHO that when I happen to chat up a fellow on the streets of NY who turns out to be a State Senator, I tell him the most famous fellow on our set is that guy right there, Mr. Larry McConkey.

Have experienced more than a few lightbulb moments in recent weeks, and being exposed to Larry and the thinking behind innovations as you and he and Wexler and others here and in our industry have pushed gleefully forward makes me inordinately happy.
Jan McLaughlin, CAS
http://janmclaughlin.tv
FCC LP Call Sign WQOF571
914-509-4661

#44
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
Jan,

You're too kind,and you are right about Mr Wexler,without his support and lobbying for non linear multi track in the film industry we would almost certainly not be using such superb recording equipment which has made projects like Les Miserables possible.
The thought of trying to go on location with 26 tracks of tape based recorders fills me with horror (respect to those that did on the DA88 system :blink: )

#45
Simon Hayes

Simon Hayes
  • LocationLondon
One of the questions Tom Hooper asked me in the very early stages of pre production on Les Miserables was whether i would prefer the to record the exterior scenes on real exteriors and contend with the background noise issues,or whether i thought we could get better results on the vocals by building the exterior sets on an interior.My answer was i would definitely prefer to build the sets in a sound stage where we could guarantee quiet backgrounds.He told me the sets would be so big he didn't think there were any sound stages in the UK big enough to house us.He was of course talking about the Rue Plumet set which is the Paris street where the barricade is built,the battle is fought and there are many scenes there.
Of course we have 007 stage at Pinewood but it isn't a Sound Stage and frankly has an awful acoustic,with reverb and you can hear the backlot studio traffic and a distant motorway.
I told him that given the choice between a 'warehouse' like 007 or a real exterior i would go for a real exterior but the big issue would be aircraft.Wherever you go in the UK,because we are such a small island,aircraft noise is a big problem.
A couple of weeks later Tom gave me some great news.Pinewood were building a new Sound Stage called "The Richard Attenborough Stage" and it was going to be the biggest in the UK,and it would be ready in time to shoot Les Miserables.
Infact,much of the shoot was planned around the availability dates of the stage and we watched it being built with daily updates of whether the builders would hit their planned finish date because if they hadn't it would have caused huge timing problems with our shoot.
Eve Stewart,the Production Designer,built a fabulous set,which literally filled this huge stage with the buildings going all the way up to the space lights! It was truly a sight to behold.
So,we had a great,dead acoustic to record the 'exterior' Paris street scenes in,which really helped with our effort to capture superb live vocals from the cast.
The first step to being able to use the live vocals is making sure the backgrounds are not polluted and when editing between shots there is no background change,and the stage build allowed us to do that.
Speaking of Eve,she asked me how to approach building a set that was going to be helpful to record live singing on and my reply was to try and build everything for real.When she put cobbles in,they were REAL cobbles,and the same for flagstones.She used a lot of big heavy timber frames so the sets sounded natural and unlike a movie set, so that the foleys that we picked up under the vocals would at least sound real if we had to use them.
Of course there was some cheating,like the fantastic idea of putting rubber shoes on the horses and replacing the steel wheels on the carriages with rubber.This allowed Tom to build up busy background action in the street scenes which didn't compromise the vocals.I also use rubber backed carpets whenever actors feet are not in shot to again allow cleaner vocal recordings and give the foley editors the chance to use some really beautiful foleys.I am a great believer in getting the dialogues (vocals) as clean as possible to allow the re-recording mixer to push the fx,music and foleys more.That is impossible if the vocals are already swamped with 'onset' background noise.On Les Miserables we had a dedicated truck that was full of rubber backed carpet and sound blankets, and one of my sound team's whole job was dedicated to getting that carpet onto the set as soon as the lenses were tight enough to allow it.

We also had an extremely helpful Special FX team.One of the systems i have been using on films in my collaborations with Matthew Vaughn is something we call 'silent wind'.When you build an exterior set inside,or work on a green screen interior that will become an exterior scene when CGI is added,one of the main issues for sound is the actors needing wind in their hair and on their costumes.
What we developed is a system where the wind machines (fans) are left outside the studio and the air is piped in through holes in the wall inside flexible air conditioning tubes.Then a special fx technician holds and points a tube at each actor.
This means the director gets the realism of wind,but the Sound Department only needs to deal with the actual noise of air moving rather than the electrical engine noise and rotor noise of the fans.The wind noise is just a high frequency constant that can be adjusted later,whereas the engine noise is so loud and broad frequency it usually leads to ADR (post syncing).
On Les Miserables we used silent wind,and with careful special FX technicians with precision aiming,and the use of wind gags on interiors we managed to get clean vocals even when the wind was blowing!

Regards to all

Simon Hayes

#46
RPSharman

RPSharman
  • LocationCambridge - UK
Silent wind! Brilliant.

I had a scene recently that took place on a high-rise balcony, built on stage. The DP barked in the ears of FX guys walkies "more wind". The wide and tight shots, insisted upon by production as we approached a 15-hour day, kept the fans far and high, and insured plenty of ADR for a quiet and intimate scene. Clearly it was more important for the actress' hair to be moving than capturing a real performance. Ugh.

It must have been so rewarding to work in cooperation with everyone on "Les Mis" to capture "real" performances.

I hope I can make the screening on the 14th.

#47
Philip Perkins

Philip Perkins

One of the questions Tom Hooper asked me in the very early stages of pre production on Les Miserables was whether i would prefer the to record the exterior scenes on real exteriors and contend with the background noise issues,or whether i thought we could get better results on the vocals by building the exterior sets on an interior.My answer was i would definitely prefer to build the sets in a sound stage where we could guarantee quiet backgrounds.He told me the sets would be so big he didn't think there were any sound stages in the UK big enough to house us.He was of course talking about the Rue Plumet set which is the Paris street where the barricade is built,the battle is fought and there are many scenes there.
Of course we have 007 stage at Pinewood but it isn't a Sound Stage and frankly has an awful acoustic,with reverb and you can hear the backlot studio traffic and a distant motorway.
I told him that given the choice between a 'warehouse' like 007 or a real exterior i would go for a real exterior but the big issue would be aircraft.Wherever you go in the UK,because we are such a small island,aircraft noise is a big problem.
A couple of weeks later Tom gave me some great news.Pinewood were building a new Sound Stage called "The Richard Attenborough Stage" and it was going to be the biggest in the UK,and it would be ready in time to shoot Les Miserables.
Infact,much of the shoot was planned around the availability dates of the stage and we watched it being built with daily updates of whether the builders would hit their planned finish date because if they hadn't it would have caused huge timing problems with our shoot.
Eve Stewart,the Production Designer,built a fabulous set,which literally filled this huge stage with the buildings going all the way up to the space lights! It was truly a sight to behold.
So,we had a great,dead acoustic to record the 'exterior' Paris street scenes in,which really helped with our effort to capture superb live vocals from the cast.
The first step to being able to use the live vocals is making sure the backgrounds are not polluted and when editing between shots there is no background change,and the stage build allowed us to do that.
Speaking of Eve,she asked me how to approach building a set that was going to be helpful to record live singing on and my reply was to try and build everything for real.When she put cobbles in,they were REAL cobbles,and the same for flagstones.She used a lot of big heavy timber frames so the sets sounded natural and unlike a movie set, so that the foleys that we picked up under the vocals would at least sound real if we had to use them.
Of course there was some cheating,like the fantastic idea of putting rubber shoes on the horses and replacing the steel wheels on the carriages with rubber.This allowed Tom to build up busy background action in the street scenes which didn't compromise the vocals.I also use rubber backed carpets whenever actors feet are not in shot to again allow cleaner vocal recordings and give the foley editors the chance to use some really beautiful foleys.I am a great believer in getting the dialogues (vocals) as clean as possible to allow the re-recording mixer to push the fx,music and foleys more.That is impossible if the vocals are already swamped with 'onset' background noise.On Les Miserables we had a truck that was full of rubber backed carpet and one of my sound team's whole job was dedicated to getting that carpet in as soon as the lenses were tight enough to allow it.

We also had an extremely helpful Special FX team.One of the systems i have been using on films in my collaborations with Matthew Vaughn is something we call 'silent wind'.When you build an exterior set inside,or work on a green screen interior that will become and exterior when CGI is added,one of the main issues for sound is the actors needing wind in their hair and on their costumes.
What we developed is a system where the wind machines (fans) are left outside the studio and the air is piped in through holes in the wall inside flexible air conditioning tubes.Then a special fx technician holds and points a tube at each actor.
This means the director gets the realism of wind,but the Sound Department only needs to deal with the actual noise of air moving rather than the electrical engine noise and rotor noise of the fans.The wind noise is just a high frequency constant that can be adjusted later,whereas the engine noise is so loud and broad frequency it usually leads to ADR (post syncing).
On Les Miserables we used silent wind,and with careful special FX technicians with precision aiming,and the use of wind gags on interiors we managed to get clean vocals even when the wind was blowing!


God, I think I'm going to cry. This is like a communique from a parallel universe, the one in which production sound is important to anyone who matters on a film. Is it possible that only the Brits can and would work this way? Does anyone have a story similar to this about a film recently shot in the USA? We seem to be the home of general hostility to production sound, anymore....

philp

#48
studiomprd

studiomprd
  • LocationHollywood CA
" I think I'm going to cry. "
me too...
there is a heaven on earth...
SENATOR Mike Michaels, c.a.s.
Studio M Productions

#49
Jeff Wexler

Jeff Wexler
  • LocationSanta Monica, CA USA

God, I think I'm going to cry. This is like a communique from a parallel universe, the one in which production sound is important to anyone who matters on a film. Is it possible that only the Brits can and would work this way? Does anyone have a story similar to this about a film recently shot in the USA? We seem to be the home of general hostility to production sound, anymore....
philp

I'm with Phil and everyone else here reading this almost magical account of your experience on Les Miserables. Your last post highlighting all the clever and creative tools and procedures you were able to employ, with cooperation at an unprecedented high, is just downright amazing! I am going to make my own list and description of all the things you have told us (with "Silent Wind" coming in first place on the list). I am also so pleased to read that all the efforts on your movie adhered to the simple core principle, for me at least, of production sound recording: it is much easier in post to ADD things you want in a scene than it is to remove things you don't want. You, your team and everyone else on that movie, elevated that principle to the highest degree.
Jeff Wexler, CAS
Santa Monica, California
 
"I don't care if you've got ninety tracks... what does it sound like, baby"
- Ray Charles

#50
Vasileios Alexandris

Vasileios Alexandris
  • LocationThessaloniki, GR
I'm cry...

1) I will go to see it at cinema.
2) I will bought it in DVD and after 40 years I will present it to new age sound mixers.

Vasileios Alexandris

1st Assistant Sound / Boom Operator

Greece, Thessaloniki