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Sync Tanks

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Today, one of the first jobs of dialog editors is to split spoken lines (usually from different camera--hence microphone--angles) onto separate tracks. Doing so, says Kirchberger, "makes them as independently controllable as possible, so that we can later 'massage' them in such a way that they fit together seamlessly." This is not to say that filmmakers can't do creative things with dialog.

Robert Altman, most notably, developed with rerecording mixer Richard Portman atechnique for creating his unique multilayered dialog style. During the shoot Altman, who allows a lot of improvisation, mikes each of his simultaneous speakers on separate tracks (sixteen for Pret-a-Porter). Later the rerecording mixer can raise and lower the relative volume of each track to create a weaving effect among the various actors' lines.

Dialog can also be edited to affect characterization. Suppose the director wants to make an arch-villain more domineering. A mixer could raise the volume of his voice and adjust the tonal qualities to make him sound larger than life. It's the aural equivalent of someone invading our space by standing too close to us. The picture editor could enhance the villain's sense of menace by regularly cutting to his voice before we see him. Because he seems to lurk just beyond the edges of the frame, the viewer will feel uneasy about his potential reappearance whenever he is not present.

ADR Dialog that cannot be salvaged from production tracks must be rerecorded in a process called looping or ADR (which is variously said to stand for "automated" or "automatic" dialog replacement). Looping originally involved recording an actor who spoke lines in sync to "loops" of the image which were played over and over along with matching lengths of recording tape. ADR, though faster, is still painstaking work. An actor watches the image repeatedly while listening to the original production track on headphones as a guide. The actor then reperforms each line to match the wording and lip movements. Actors vary in their ability to achieve sync and to recapture the emotional tone of their performance. Some prefer it. Marion Brando, for instance, likes to loop because he doesn't like to freeze a performance until he knows its final context. People have said that one reason he mumbles is to make the production sound unusable so that he can make adjustments in looping.

ADR is usually considered a necessary evil but Bochar has found there are moments when looping can be used not just for technical reasons but to add new character or interpretation to a shot. "Just by altering a few key words or phrases an actor can change the

6/24/04 7:55 PM

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