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Hello Ty, all I gotta say is this:

 

 

I wrote a much longer answer to this question when it was posed on the jwsound Facebook page in December, but I can't find the thread.  In brief, I do have different microphones, gain structures, EQ settings, rigs etc I like for the different members of our cast.  That's a technique that really has to be done by ear to get tailored to the particular voice -- it's not a one-size-fits-all procedure.  But mostly we just have to fight and scratch and kick to get the noise levels down so we can record these guys and gals without a ton of BG noise creeping in.  We ride the frame lines hard, do a ton of carpeting, fight off wide'n'tights, chase away noisemakers and basically fight and kick and scratch for every line.  Like any show, it wouldn't be possible without all the support from a great crew, from 2nd 2nd A.D.s to grips to electrics to camera operators to set dressers to a series of returning directors who cooperate wherever possible.

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You guys do a helluva job, Noah. I burst out laughing when they did a show a few months ago where another character asked Jim Caviezel, "how do you make your voice do that?" And Caviezel answered, "do what?"

 

Great bit, had me on the floor! He's one of the lowest-talking actors in all of network TV. At least Michael Emmerson projects -- that guy is an amazing actor; at least on Lost, he was really consistent and a total pro. 

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Thanks Marc!  Yeah, it was cute that they referenced it...obviously Jim's "speak softly and carry a big stick" routine isn't lost on anyone.  He's the obvious standout, but most of our cast tend to be quiet folks...it does obviously make it more challenging, especially since we spend so little time at the studio.  Michael is a really talented actor, a wonderful guy, a good friend and a dream to work with from a sound perspective...if any of you get the chance in the future to work with him, I recommend jumping at it.  

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Steve, the fight isn't with the actors.  That one you'd always lose, if you were foolish enough to try.  Regardless of how cooperative their attitude is, actors who aren't trained to speak from the diaphragm are not going to suddenly start doing it as a default because you asked them to.  They are in their own tunnel like everyone else, and your needs are not going to be high on their priority list when they are in the moment.  They either have theater training and speak up on their own, or they don't.  Any requests for "more volume", from either you or the director, are usually going to have results for maybe one or two lines before they slip back into their default performance level.  It's a waste of time.  I learned that lesson long before this show.

 

The fight is with the recording circumstances.  That is the only thing you as a mixer can affect, in my opinion/experience.  That is the "technique" Ty speaks of that allows us to "get the good stuff"...do everything you can to eliminate noise from the recording.  Is it fair?  No.  Am I jealous when I hear of other shows where everyone projects all the time?  Yes.  Is that life?  Yes.  

 

.02 nvt

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Not to sound argumentative, but sometimes the fight IS indeed with the actors. I have had an instance or two over the last 20 years when I had a pretty darn quiet environment to record in and the actor was still inaudible. One would surmise that a quieter set will make the talent think they can now deliver a REALLY SUBTLE performance. My worst example was an instance when I was at the end of my fader, the director thought his Comtek was broken and other actors couldn't hear their cues. The solution lies in educating the talent. Instead of protecting imagined delicate sensibilities, talent needs to be told when they are inaudible. We tell them when they miss a mark or a crucial line of dialog. Why not for volume? We can't pull something from nothing. We wield microphones, not magic wands.

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And how often have you been successful at getting an actor to change their volume over a consistent basis by asking, or 'educating'?

My point is that it's a learned skill more than it's a conscious choice. If I can't sing in key, saying to me "sing in key! You're off key! You need to be on key!" probably wouldn't get me any closer. I'd have to learn how to sing and practice scales etc. In my experience, theatrically trained actors tend to project because they've been taught to do so and have practiced that skill. In my experience, it's going to be fighting the current with those without that learned skill who naturally speak from the throat.

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In the instances when the talent was literally inaudible (and I admit I can think of only two) I talked to the director and they were obviously somewhat aware of the issue. When the director was informed I was "out of fader", they took the actor(s) aside and things improved. My success in my two cases was 100%.

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Well, I'm glad it worked out for you. My experience is different, though. I have never gotten a normally quiet actor to suddenly start projecting for any sustained length of time. That's with dozens and dozens of soft speakers on all sorts of movies and shows. Perhaps I've just been exceptionally unlucky...

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Well, I'm glad it worked out for you. My experience is different, though. I have never gotten a normally quiet actor to suddenly start projecting for any sustained length of time. That's with dozens and dozens of soft speakers on all sorts of movies and shows. Perhaps I've just been exceptionally unlucky...

 Likewise,  maybe for a take or two but never, ever more than that for me as well, guess I am as unlucky. 

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I did a movie with Caviezel in 2013 and he literally yelled at my boom op for asking for more volume. The funny thing was, IT WAS IN THE SCRIPT! The script actually said he was supposed to yell, and the other actors were yelling.

He is like you said Noah, a tone deaf person being asked to hit a key.

On the other hand, I have had lots of success working with other actors, and have had raised voices make the sound work. I go to the director and say (without emotion) "If you want to save the sound, they must raise their voices."

It galls me to no end all that stuff that Steve is saying. They let camera put them in awkward positions, make them deliver lines to a piece of tape, change how their standing, make then use their left hands, etc. How on Earth can these actors not want their performance to be heard?!! Isn't the point of acting to be seen AND heard?

When I whisper, it's because I don't want anyone to hear me!

Dan Izen

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Dan, it's not just Jim -- like I say, most of our regulars are soft speakers and I've had plenty of experience with others in movies and other shows.  When they don't project, no amount of asking/demanding/suggesting has gotten them to do it for more than maybe, MAYBE the moment it's being asked for, in my experience.  The funny thing is many of them have naturally loud speaking voices, but when the camera starts rolling those loud voices disappear.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm sure you guys are already practising this, but it's still worth mentioning.

Making the artist drink just a sip of water before a "delicate" scene can make their voice more intelligible. It's a good practice and can sometimes subconsciously make them project their voice better without any extra effort. As long as it's just water that is. :-)

Cheers

Fred

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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On the other hand, I have had lots of success working with other actors, and have had raised voices make the sound work. I go to the director and say (without emotion) "If you want to save the sound, they must raise their voices."

It galls me to no end all that stuff that Steve is saying. They let camera put them in awkward positions, make them deliver lines to a piece of tape, change how their standing, make then use their left hands, etc. How on Earth can these actors not want their performance to be heard?!! Isn't the point of acting to be seen AND heard?

When I whisper, it's because I don't want anyone to hear me!

Dan Izen

 

+1 !!!!!!

 

An actor, if good enough, can change his performance. I, on the other hand, no matter how good I become, CANNOT change the laws of physics. Part of of the JOB of an actor is to be heard. I am NEVER afraid to make a simple statement of FACT to a director: "This performance WILL NOT BE understood by the audience." (I'm a bit more cautious about going directly to the actor unless I've been working with him/her and the director for a while. One CAN crush performance mojo with the wrong words.) Sometimes it's O.K. for the dialog not to be understood because the content of the dialog is not important, only the tone/mood/gist is important. But in any event, the director needs to know. It is my job as a left-brained audio geek, working with right-brained artsy-fartsy people like directors and actors, to understand and communicate the limitations and realities of physics and technology. (please don't misinterpret that last statement as derogatory. I LOVE right-brained artsy-fartsy people. I just recognize that they have a different talent set.)

 

It sounds like Noah has mastered that art of fighting the good fight along all the technical lines of framing and noise reduction. But I also argue that it's always worth the effort to at least point out the obvious, "We wouldn't have to shoot everything in close-up, move all our locations 20 miles from the nearest airport, and ADR half the performances if the actor would speak up just a little." Perhaps for a particular actor it just doesn't work, but, for an actor that can pull it off without blowing his performance mojo, it is by far the most straightforward solution in most cases.

 

On a related side note, I reserve my deepest professional disdain for acting schools that teach that the job of an actor is to to be natural. NO! NO! NO! NO! An actor's job is never, ever, ever to BE natural! An actor's job is to APPEAR natural - while doing extremely unnatural things, (like hitting a mark or restricting movements inside a frame, or raising the cup with your left hand, or speaking so people can hear you.) Most of the things an actor MUST do are VERY unnatural. That is why we have so much respect for actors who can do all of the difficult work it takes to make a performance APPEAR natural no matter what discomfort they have to go through to create that appearance.

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+1000 for what "sdog" has said:

 

"On a related side note, I reserve my deepest professional disdain for acting schools that teach that the job of an actor is to to be natural. NO! NO! NO! NO! An actor's job is never, ever, ever to BE natural! An actor's job is to APPEAR natural - while doing extremely unnatural things, (like hitting a mark or restricting movements inside a frame, or raising the cup with your left hand, or speaking so people can hear you.) Most of the things an actor MUST do are VERY unnatural. That is why we have so much respect for actors who can do all of the difficult work it takes to make a performance APPEAR natural no matter what discomfort they have to go through to create that appearance."

 

My father famously said one day, "filmmaking is an un-natural act". What you are saying about acting is so true but also applies to everything we do in production. Truly creative movie-making produces, if done right, the feeling by the audience of reality, natural and authentic performances, but this is achieved by an endless number of totally artificial and un-natural activities by the movie-maker.

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