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Soft dialog


Ty Ford
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I was up on Sounderday this morning and one of the many cans we were kicking was movies with soft dialog and how difficult it was to capture.  Tonight I watched the 2019 film "Poison Rose" with John Travolta and Morgan Freeman. Will Loftin was the mixer. Scott Johnson was the boom op. Are they around to ask question of concerning the soft dialog? 

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5862166/

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I'm obviously not one of the people working on that movie, but I've worked on lots of sets with soft spoken of mumbled dialog; 

Soft dialog isn't really an issue on a quiet set where you can get up close. I can really see why actors want to play it like that. Sure, it's hard to mix but intelligibility wise it's fine as long as you can get it clean and close, and as long as the directors and actors are aware that you, in a sense, are locking the mix. 

The bigger issue with soft spoken dialog is the fact that you need to be so close, so booming is really tricky. Some actors don't like getting a mic all up in their faces, duh, but at least then you can tell them you can back out but it comes with a cost ;)

 

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My pet-peeve was always dialog in those loud ambient scenes; loud bars, intense sporting events and rock shows come to mind.  "Extras, don't make a peep.  Just look like you're yelling, talking loud, laughing 'til the cows come home."  You know, pretend to be loud.

 

Now principals, have your dialog.  No, you can't talk in normal on-set levels.  It'll never mix with the SFX and sound right.  Oh, you just can't talk like you are in a loud bar?  That's "acting" numbnuts.  Please try again and do it better!

 

D.

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A couple movies ago, I'm doing this intimate scene on a rooftop (for some reason). It was so windy the crew had to be harnessed in. The two actors are right next to each other and whispering almost inaudibly, for the sake of intimacy and for no other reason. It was a "very emotional scene" (I hate that line - they're almost always emotional...). After take 1, the director calls out for me. I run over. "I can't hear them," he says. "Neither can I." I say. The director asked them to speak up a little but they barely gave me any more signal. At that point, it was what it was.
 

I might be in the minority here but I try to never interfere with or adjust the performance unless it's going to be ADR or otherwise mess with the suspension of disbelief (like the loud bar scene example). I want the scenes to be what the actors and director intend as long as it plays well within the rules of physics. Sometimes I ask for more level and the answer is no. They always assume the wires will capture it all. I sometimes have to explain that I, like everyone else, am limited by the laws of physics. In a weird almost nihilistic way, I enjoy the absurdity of it all (sometimes).

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8 hours ago, tourtelot said:

My pet-peeve was always dialog in those loud ambient scenes; loud bars, intense sporting events and rock shows come to mind.  "Extras, don't make a peep.  Just look like you're yelling, talking loud, laughing 'til the cows come home."  You know, pretend to be loud.

 

Now principals, have your dialog.  No, you can't talk in normal on-set levels.  It'll never mix with the SFX and sound right.  Oh, you just can't talk like you are in a loud bar?  That's "acting" numbnuts.  Please try again and do it better!

 

D.

 

I am working right now with a director which says to extras to talk like in real life and we have scenes with dialogue. He prefers realism. Guess what, actors perform like in situation where would be like in crowed restaurant - so they turn up (natively) their voices. Rule #1 for extras: Mumble loud, not audible words (like fuck, oh shit and whatsoever).

 

They pays us, every 1st on the month (it's director-producer). We all happy. Hahaha

 

From the other hand, watching the episode; isn't so much bad the background noise against the dialogue. Learnt something, but it's risky for a director (and his team) how to handle it, if he doesn't doing it before.

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10 hours ago, tourtelot said:

My pet-peeve was always dialog in those loud ambient scenes; loud bars, intense sporting events and rock shows come to mind.  "Extras, don't make a peep.  Just look like you're yelling, talking loud, laughing 'til the cows come home."  You know, pretend to be loud.

 

Now principals, have your dialog.  No, you can't talk in normal on-set levels.  It'll never mix with the SFX and sound right.  Oh, you just can't talk like you are in a loud bar?  That's "acting" numbnuts.  Please try again and do it better!

 

D.

 

I just have to like (or likeTM?) what Doug has said 'cos it's so simple yet still can happen (...after 1931...)

 

I'm not a PSM but a post soundie but I'm happy to report when 'guiding' actors for on set ADR they have been very responsive to exactly the same guidance - might have well been the lack of stress when the camera isn't rolling (often very much not the case when camera stops either I'm well aware) - or I might just have been luckily blessed with talented talent

 

ha, Doug, I just noticed you wrote, "Now principals..."

 

J

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