The Daunting Disciplines
For some of the bigger aspects of filmmaking, things are pretty self explanatory to DIYers. If you want to shoot a scene, you need actors and a camera. If you want to mic a scene, you get a microphone and a sound recording device, point the microphone at the actors mouths and try and keep the levels high without having them redline. If you want to edit a scene, you get an editing program, and put certain sections of shots next to certain parts of other shots, then it looks like a movie. If you want to composite two shots together or add muzzle flares or explosions or have people shoot lightning from their hands, there are plenty of tutorials available online to walk you through that process. If you need the sound of a punch landing, you get access to a sound library and you drop one into the timeline. But the deeper you go into the DIY world, and the more you start hungering for better quality on all levels, the more daunting and impossible it seems.
Especially for disciplines like color correction, additional dialogue recording, sound equalization, and sound mixing. Those disciplines rely so much on developing technical proficiency within a system and then training yourself to either see things or hear things that most people don’t through intense focus and deliberation. They are very very VERY specific and exacting crafts that are too esoteric and not glamorous enough to have a gajillion online tutorials. Color correction has quite a few tutorials for each program, but no matter how many I watch, I can’t seem to make things look good without relying on presets. God bless presets, I tells ya.
We’ve once again hit the ADR point in post on PoPS episode 8. Lucky, one thing we’ve gotten better at over the course of the 8 episodes is getting better location sound. We’re using a better mic, we’re recording on-set audio-only takes of problematic sections of dialogue if it sounds like we’re not getting them during takes (they tend to sink up pretty well since the actors have just done the scene), and we’re recording on-set foley too (footsteps, punch noises, etc.), which makes a HUGE difference for making them feel organic and environment specific. We’ve also gotten better at ADR. Back in episode 4 our ADR focus too much on sync and not enough on vocal performance. Eliza was the best at it then. Craig and I sound a little too much like we’re parroting our past performances. It’s obviously important to get everything to sync up, that’s the whole point. But it took me a long time to realize that you really have to act it during ADR. Even if the inflection of the spoken line is different, if you try to act the emotion instead of mimic the inflection, the final ADR sound SO MUCH BETTER.
As for DIY technique, we’ve been all over the place. We’ve used an actual recording studio and a booth mic. I didn’t like it. I’ve put people on the roof right outside my home office so the sound would have that outdoor quality:
It was pretty good, but there were to many variables to get consistently good sound, which is kind of the point of ADR. This time we went with a closed windows, controlled environment, and it worked out pretty well. We’ve tried recording while watching the clip with no sound. The tried and true, listen to it, listen to it, speak your line over it, and then mute while recording. This time, what seemed to work best was getting into a rhythm by speaking the lines on top of the old line over and over again and then recording it while listening to the old performance and watching the screen. We try everything. It worked out.
As for the nuts and bolts aspect of it, we use a usb interface with xlr inputs so we can record with the same microphone we use on set. The one we use belongs to my dad. We had to by him a new one when we wore out the old one and it cost about $180 bucks at Guitar Center with the 2-year warranty included.
I’ve gotten pretty good at the various disciplines over the last 8 episodes, enough to where PoPS looks like it’s got the crew and departmental division of a festival indie flick. But in order to look actually professional, you need true departments and craftsmen who are dedicated to sculpting their personal department into the best looking or sounding thing possible. I just watched a short doc on cinematography and on DP said, “As for what particular camera you use, it’s getting to the point where it doesn’t really matter, because most cameras over a couple grand can shoot a movie quality image. (Paraphrased)” That means, it all comes down to how well someone knows how to shoot. And that just means dedicating yourself to that one discipline completely. If you’re an all-departments DIYer, there’s no time for the kind of dedication it takes to really elevate a craft. There’s only time to tell your story. But I’ll take it!
Thanks for reading, you guys.