Sunday, July 29, 2012

Looping the Loop

Hey, suddenly it's like a series of Doctor Who in this thing! But instead of "Bad Wolf," or "Torchwood," it's vague references to editing. And instead of a stupefyingly exciting finale it's... a pretty boring piece of writing.

But let's press on anyway. As I've alluded to in previous entries, I've been editing up all the Witch scenes so that we could hit some ADR with Marie. With the exception of one scene we'd already taken care of a couple weeks ago, we wanted to do all of them in one block. Which meant all of them had to have at least a rough edit in place. That's "all" up from the current "none."

So I'd been knocking out bits and pieces as there was time, and then this past week that was my primary focus, since we'd officially scheduled with Marie for tonight at six. It's mostly a relatively simple process, if time consuming. Just running through the footage to pick out my takes, running a conversion on the shots I select, and then editing a green-screen cut of the scene.

Occasionally there will be a little more work involved. Some sequences will require the odd rough composite or stand-in CGI shot, something that doesn't exist yet but really has to be there for the edit. This is always quick and dirty work, doing the absolute minimum necessary for the ADR process.
For a lazy guy like me, sometimes the absolute minimum is still too much...
I wrapped up my last scene this afternoon, just in time for us to head over to Marie's to record. At this point we've run through this multiple times with Marie. All for various iterations of the scene where Dorothy meets the witch, actually. So this was our first time for all of these other scenes, but not our first time. It's always kind of a weird activity, and while necessary, never particularly enjoyable.

Just in case anybody is totally unfamiliar, I'll run through the general process. A bigger budget movie will have a fancier set-up, but the basic idea is always the same. You have a take with unusable on-set audio, for whatever the reason may be. In our case it came down to the noisy fans in the studio lights, and the air conditioning we had to have running for the make-up. You play that take for the actor, who watches it with headphones on, and while it plays they re-perform the dialogue along with it, so you can record this new clean audio and the sync will be right for the character's lips.
Or, um... lip...
This can afford you all kinds of interesting opportunities, because as long as the timing is the same, you can try many varieties of different deliveries and inflections. It gives you more time than you might have on set to hone in on the character's vocals. But it's also pretty difficult. In the end there's really nothing for it but to watch each scene multiple times until you have it pretty much memorized.

One of the fun things about doing ADR with Marie specifically is that she gets really into character, even though we're just recording the audio. Way back in the audition she developed this hunch that helped her find the voice, so she takes a page from the Mark Hamill playbook and always stands (semi-erect) when we record. She'll also screw up her face, curling her lips and getting all squinty.
Well, I assume it's to help her get into a character. Maybe she just has a hard time reading without glasses.
In between takes I'd give Marie direction, often getting obnoxiously specific in my requests. We'd also discuss the Witch's thought process in the scene, what the point of the scene is, what it represents for the bigger picture, what sort of trajectory they all follow, etc. Once in a while we'd find an instance where a line had been altered while we'd been filming, for any number of reasons, and we'd have to listen to that delivery and write down the new wording for Marie to read along with.
And that was the moment they all agreed to give up on Chat Roulette.
While we've done ADR with Marie before, as I'd mentioned, and some smaller pieces with some other characters as well, this was our biggest chunk to date, and there's still much more to come. I'm hopeful that how smoothly things went tonight is a good indicator of what we can expect in the future. It took us a couple hours, but we managed to burn through all the Witch scenes and I feel pretty satisfied with the performance we were able to get out of Marie. And with any luck she'll still be able to speak tomorrow... 

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