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Sound of "Lincoln"


Marc Wielage
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Just caught this at a screening a few days ago, and I thought it was the most dialogue-intensive major studio picture I've seen in years. Out of 2-1/2 hours, I think 2 hours and 20 minutes is solid, wall-to-wall, non-stop dialogue. My (stovepipe) hat is off to the crew that managed to record this -- it's a remarkably good sounding movie. It's a long, long movie, but I thought the performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones were really remarkable. It's also interesting to think about the choices made in sound perspective, use of lavs vs. multiple booms, and ADR -- I think you could create a very good hour-long college-level discussion just about how the dialogue was captured for a project this complicated.

Soundworks has an interesting piece as to how Ben Burtt and his crew got the sound effects for the production:

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I didn't see it. My wife did. She actually found it quite boring. Mostly guys talking in rooms.

If that's the case, then it's not that hard really, is it.

Capturing great sound on a sound stage in a completely controlled environment shouldn't be too hard. Especially on a feature where they get the time.

Now,take a film like Michale Clayton, where there is one line of ADR in the entire movie, and it was an added line, now THAT'S impressive.

All the dialog, in even in locations like New York City, completely useable. And it sounded great.

Hats off to that crew.

I've been mixing Sons of Anarchy the last few weeks, and man, they use some noisy locations. Close to freeways. Busy downtown. And their clubhouse/ garage, is down by the Burbank airport.

What a nightmare.

But, we did get lucky. The last three episodes are 90 minutes.

So we got three days to mix instead of two. :)

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For those who find Licoln's personality just too fascinating... This article by Edward Kempf, M.D. covers a lot of ground.

Correct -- Lincoln definitely was beset by quite a few neuroses, including terrible guilt over the death of his son a couple of years earlier, plus he suffered from fits of depression. Not very much of that comes out in the film, but you do get a very three-dimensional portrait of the man.

Capturing great sound on a sound stage in a completely controlled environment shouldn't be too hard. Especially on a feature where they get the time.

I wouldn't judge it until you see it. Check out some of the dialogue scenes in the House of Republicans -- there's some very, very complicated sound going on, with literally a couple of dozen speaking roles in the same scene. Flawless sound design and very, very good dialogue quality throughout.

I caught a couple of intimate scenes where I thought Sally Field was wearing a lav that seemed a little dull to me, and there were one or two ADR lines that stuck out a little bit, but given that this was wall-to-wall dialogue, I thought the crew did an incredible job.

I asked a friend of mine today what he thought of the movie, and he said, "I was disappointed that there weren't any vampires in this Lincoln." ::)

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That's true -- sometimes it's merely an alt or another angle, or even a wild line. But if there's a big change in presence and ambience, you know something's going on, and I did hear a few moments like that in Lincoln -- but only a few.

It's amazing sometimes what they get away with in big budget movies when it comes to ADR not matching 100%

I've heard stuff that would NEVER pass with producers I've worked with.

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I caught a couple of intimate scenes where I thought Sally Field was wearing a lav that seemed a little dull to me, and there were one or two ADR lines that stuck out a little bit, but given that this was wall-to-wall dialogue, I thought the crew did an incredible job.

Interesting, I noticed Sally's lav as well. While I did enjoy the performances, the sound, and the cinematography, I did not enjoy the movie. Hats off to the crew, but the writing was dense and the scenes were hollow for me.

Oh, saw the vampire Lincoln too. Worst of 2012 in my opinion.

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" it is the "job" of the re-recording mixers, to weave the "replaced" lines of dialogue as seamlessly "

don't forget the dialog editors.

" type out the real dialogue with the "telegraph key", as you can see the actors hand is not in "sync" with the typing you're hearing. "

I'd use the terms keying and clicking

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Excellent summation, Rich.

I missed my chance at a CAS screening due to shooting on a Saturday. I enjoyed the book this movie is based upon and was already looking forward to seeing the film, but your account is really making me wish I hadn't missed that screening.

I had the opportunity to work with Randy for a week or two in NY and he is a very nice guy - and very talented too.

Josh

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Excellent summation, Rich.

Indeed. Henchmans comment was flip/caviler at best. I believe he know post sound but his statement showed a lack of production sound knowledge or respect.. Other than that, I can't wait to see the film.

On a non related bit of info, Ron Judkins is up at Skywalker overseeing the mix of a movie he directed. I look forward to seeing that movie as well.

CrewC

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I'm glad you said it, RVD! Well said. Mine wasn't going to be so elegant. I had a UPM say to me after complaining about certain on set noises, that obviously shouldn't be there, "Post wants everything to be perfect. Well, they can't have it! They need something to do." Something I would add to your examples of challenges on set for a scene as described, is throw in 3-4 cameras to cover the scene. Perhaps this isn't the case on features, but happens all the time in episodic land.

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I've seen "Lincoln" and enjoyed it at lot, wouldn't mind seeing it again. Getting the production sound on that does look like it was a daunting task.

Another dialog-intensive major studio picture this year is "Clowd Atlas". I felt the production and post sound was a bit better

and an equally if not more daunting task. And I wouldn't mind seeing it again either.

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I hate to play Scrooge, but I am increasing disappointed in the over reliance on radio mics, which really bothered me in several scenes in Lincoln.

In a dialog driven drama nothing upsets me more than a 'throaty' choker mic burried underneath period costumes with lace and other clothing noise makers when we are looking at tight two-shot.

I know, it's probably a result of multi-camera compromises or mumbling actors or both. But that's why there is ADR!

It should NOT be up there on the screen, especially on a big budget, high profile feature. It hurts my ears and distracts me from the story. I don't necessarily blame the production sound guys, they are trying to their best under difficult conditions.

But, with so much attention spent on authentic sound effects, why not give equal attention to the dialog tracks?

OK, I'll stop now. Maybe it was just the theatre (Archlight Hollywood), but I doubt it.

As the saying goes ... "The Audience Is Listening"

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@headpooch, there's no need to qualify your opinion as being "Scrooge," it's your opinion and you're entitled to it.

I too was surprised by some scenes, that I thought were started with lavaliers, and then close-ups that seemed to be "boomed." Of course I'm just guessing, with no first hand knowledge, of how and why what microphones were employed.

Please explain to me something that you stated, "I know, it's probably a result of multi-camera compromises or mumbling actors or both. But that's why there is ADR! It should NOT be up there on the screen, especially on a big budget, high profile feature."

From your comment, are we to believe that you expect every "...big budget, high profile feature..." to employ only boom mics and when necessary to use ADR to replace sound that is not boomed? I'm of the opinion that ADR is there to replace what is considered to be unusable sound, rendered as such by either filming conditions or some other extemporaneous noise that couldn't be controlled on set.

I'm not attacking your opinion, just asking for you to expand your opinion, to explain what it is you expect to hear from a film.

I'm sure that the greatest of attention was given to the editing of the dialogue tracks, and the greatest effort given to preserve the original performance given by the talented cast. You must remember that we, the JWSound group, are listening at a much more critical level than the general public, the general public doesn't hear half of the things that we might complain about.

Spoiler alert: If listening to bad lavalier sound "...hurts my ears and distracts me from the story..." I suggest you pass on seeing and hearing, "Skyfall." The scene where James Bond meets Silva, and Silva walks across the room towards Bond, speaking the entire time, is most distracting, due to clothing rustle and I imagine the noise coming from the many "machines" in the room. I was shocked at the noise, and the post folks worked hard to use only the spoken words from the production track, but to me that made it more apparent.

Hi RVD

No, I understand that sometimes it's absolutely necessary to use wireless lavs. I do it all the time. But as we all know, there is a difference in quality. Some wireless situations can sound pretty good, in fact.

I may be hyper-sensitive, and may the ghost of Robert Altman, and dozens of wireless dependent reality shows haunt me for life, but I don't think a scratchy, throaty piece of dialog should make it to the final mix of a big budget Spielberg megapic. They should have all the necessary monetary resources to fix that.

I enjoyed the picture, but I also cringed more than a couple of times.

Thanks for the heads up on the Bond "Skyfall" feature/commercial. I'll probably go see it as part of my holiday viewing entertainment.

I hope that clarifies my post.

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Wireless microphones are part of the tools we have to use today and that is really that. In Lincoln, I do remember that one moment I was taken out of the film by the wireless sound in just one shot, where Mary Lincoln enters a room. I watched the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater - THE best sounding room in the city.

I certainly do not fault the Production Mixers, Ron Judkins (Lincoln) and Stuart Wilson on Skyfall. There may not have been any close ups to get the boom microphone in tight enough to be used in both cases.

With the popular use of Izotope RX 2 in just about every dub stage - I'm more surprised that the "buried" sound of Mary's dialog wasn't dealt with better. I've been at many dubs and I've heard it's "magic" done. It just might have been overlooked - that happens too.

But let's not be so critical that we throw the entire soundscape out because of one small distraction. The dialog editors and the dialog Rerecording mixer have all the tools and tracks available to attempt to make these types of issues seamless.

Their only "enemy" is time and the possibility that the Director is sitting right behind them and likes what he hears. I've been there at final mixes and witnessed these situations, where both the Supervising Sound Editor and the Lead Mixer have been over ruled by an insistent Director.

As the late cinematographer, David Watkins used to say, "Footsteps on the Moon."

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ADR is always the last result.

I will go with a noisy mic, or a lav over ADR almost everytime.

As far as my previous comment. It reminds me of how everyone gushed about the sound of "No country for old men".

I found all the praise completely over the top.

So, I'm not saying that the guys on Lincoln didnt o a good job. But I personally think those challenges pale in comparison to the challenges of a movie like "Les Miserables" or a movie like "Michael Clayton" that had one line of ADR in the entire film. Andvitcwas an added line.

Even all of the scenes shot in downtown New York were all production.

So, forgive me if I don't get excited about good sounding dialog that was recorded in a completely controlled environment.

It better sound good.

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So, forgive me if I don't get excited about good sounding dialog that was recorded in a completely controlled environment.

It better sound good.

Please don't assume because it was shot in a soundstage that it is easy to get good dial. There may have been super techno cranes and stabilising heads humming and buzzing, noisy lights, zenon arc lights and countless other bg noise, Ironically sometimes your downtown NY locations are easier as they can hide a lot of sins and you have traffic Atmos to hide behind.

Tony

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