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Jay Rose

Why almost-good actors may be hardest to record

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Article in today's New York Times about projection levels, reporting on a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. (Journal is paywalled, so I'm going by the Times reporter's summary.)


Apparently, research found that someone appears more confident and persuasive when they project louder, which is certainly intuitive. But it went further to show that you're even more persuasive when you break things up with softer-than-normal volumes, as well. Trained actors probably know this -- think Richard Burton -- and know how to modify it to keep the variety while filling a theater or filming a line. The great film actors of the past could vary their projection a lot, even while respecting the requirements of a boom and optical recorder.


Not-so-trained actors might know it as well. But might not have learned to seem loud and soft while keeping levels good for the track. There's a wonderful spoof somewhere on YouTube of a Richard Burrton-wannabe constantly blowing out the mic and then dipping into the mud during a speech. To emphasize the point, his on-camera boom is constantly swinging up and down.


Any experiences to share?


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I had the great pleasure to work with some great old school actors some yeas back. Ernest Borgnine was the consumate pro, and a lovely guy. He had the uncanny technique of delivering his lines, either  loud or a stage whisper, and still hit the same mark on my meter. He made my life easy. Never a line overlap either, unless it was called for. Eli Wallach was great to work with too. In one scene, in a super market, I asked him to please give the line a little louder. He said "It'll be OK Kid". It was, and he was nice about it too.

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I have worked with NZ and America actors (usually young) who are so quiet

because they think that is "dramatic"

OK it can work in a closeup or dramatic scene but when they do not match the

other actors or they cannot be heard then thy need constant advice from the director!

I one said to a young actor I knew that there was nothing to record - too quiet!

"do it know or do it later"



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