We’ll Do It Live!—Fixing Sound Mistakes

sound editing
Those of you paying attention will recall that at the end of last week’s lesson we were totally screwed. Being photographers, we had used our Canon DSLRs to shoot heart-breakingly gorgeous video. Video that was virtually useless because (among other things) of the proximity of a honkin’ giant fan blowing all that hair around most fetchingly while creating the most grating and ruinous racket you’ve ever heard.

I know! We’ll fix it in post. Of the many things we did wrong on this shoot, one thing we did right was to hire an editor. An actual, professional editor who could no doubt fix any mistakes we made during the shoot. It’s digital, right? Just ones and zeros; I’m sure this fan thing can be fixed, probably with the flick of a checkbox.

Right?

Ha! As if. Turns out the heinous racket from the fan contains two kinds of noise. One is the regular thrum of the motor. Second is the random turbulence from the air. My new best friend, the Editor, actually had some software that he used to process the sound. It did get rid of the motor noise. But the sound continued to be unusable. The buffeting wind noise still ruined the take. And since this was all sitting on top of the mellifluous vocal inflections of our lovely actress, the chances of actually saving this clip turned out to be nil. That’s English for zip, zilch, zero, between slim and none and slim just left the building.

But my New Best Friend the editor, had another idea. He told me that in Europe they still recorded movies without sound, then dubbed them in the studio after shooting. And even here in the States, when there was a problem with the audio (hell-o!) or someone’s voice wasn’t quite cutting it, the actors entered a recording booth and redid their dialogue.

So I got lovely young Talia back out here to the sticks, sat her in front of a laptop with a loop of our rough cut, and hit “record.” And she was terrible at it. Truly, it looked like bad Kung Fu-level of lip-reading. How hard can it be to mimic your own voice? We had her wear headphones, literally listening to her own voice. And she still couldn’t do it. It’s really hard, try it sometime. But around the (literally) 19th or 20th time it looked to me like maybe we had it.

Back in the studio, we slapped that track on top, et voilà. That’s what they say in Europe. I think it means, “good enough for le government work.” And it was. Point being, sometimes you gotta take a different route to get where you’re going. Westward the wagons, across the sands of time, until we, aw, look at me, I’m rambling again.

Photographer and filmmaker Chris X Carroll has been fired upon by Norwegian whalers north of the Arctic Circle, swum naked with REM, taught Viscount Charles Spencer to sail, and turned to ask Elizabeth Taylor if the melon he was holding was ripe at a grocery store before realizing who she was and nearly passing out. Visit Chris at www.chriscarrollphoto.com, and follow him on Instagram @chrisxcarroll and on Facebook at chrisxcarroll

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