(Outcomes – IN1,2,3 + PER3 + GR5]
“…dubbing is the Cinderella art of film-making, it’s all but invisible to the general public yet the final responsibility for the sound of Prince Charming’s approaching footstep rest firmly with Cinders rather than with the Ugly Sisters of picture or sound editing.“ – (msteer.co.uk)
Even though my group are collectively handling a number of films and may not strictly enact a given role on all of them, group members have each chosen an industry specialism to enable our research. In my case, this is the role of the Rerecording or Dub Mixer.
The term ‘dub mixer’ originally evolves from the early days of celluloid and audio tape editing, abbreviated either from the process of ‘doubling’ reels of audio to sync them with film images or from the process of rerecording actors voice in sync with their dialogue on screen (I recall Betamax home video recorders with an ‘Audio Dub’ button that enabled the user to replace the soundtrack of a given tape), the latter of which was once referred to as ‘dubbing’ but has now been redefined as Additional Dialogue Replacement or ADR. The same term became ubiquitious for any tape to tape rerecording process as time passed prior to the advent of digital, but has tended to be referred to as a Rerecording Mixer in more recent times.
“They are primarily responsible for ensuring that film sound is correct both technically and stylistically.“ – (media-match.com)
The dub mixer’s process requires the bringing together of all the audio ‘elements’ (dialogue, automated dialogue replacement, foley, sound effects, atmospheres, and music) of a given film, and the creation from these of a final audio soundtrack, as well as any other mixes required by the client for other purposes such as the music and effects components often required to enable distribution to other territories. This means a dub mixer is responsible for creating the best representation of the film’s audio aesthetic whilst maintaining both the most potent dramatic impact and the correct technical specifications for it’s intended distribution and / or audience. [IN2]
Dub mixing is fundamentally a final stage process which means it is often one performed under the tightest pressure both in terms of time and, potentially, financially. Graham Hartstone, who has an impressive 60+ year career and mixed many of my favourite sci-fi films from the 80’s and 90’s, points out that “...They’ll spend as much time and money as they’ve got rewriting and reshooting, but when it comes to dubbing they expect the mix to happen right the first time.“. If there is one thing I will be carrying away from my interactions with industry professionals during my time at university, it’s that this is a truism in the film-audio industry generally.
As with many audio industry jobs in the digital era there is more definition to a given role when focusing on instances of it that occur further up the food-chain. Re-recording mixing can still be considered a profession in it’s own right in big budget Hollywood, but in the case of small and medium budget films the dub mixer will also be a sound designer, foley artist and / or a location recordist. This is the case as the role applies to Descent – the film I’m supervising on behalf of our faux-company – in which I will inevitably have had a hand in much of the pre, production and post audio work. I expect the pre-production aspect is the most useful for the handling of that film’s final mix, since I’ve also carried out the liason with the director and been instrumental in translating their ideas into a sound design script for the film and so have as good a knowledge as anybody of their desired outcomes, as well as having directed at least some of the aesthetic choices for the audio of the film by advising them. [IN1]
Furthermore, final mixing at the high-end of the business is a process which is often sat in on by the movers and shakers of the film production team, usually the director/s and producers. I’m not a great believer in this when working solely with music, as I prefer to follow Mixerman’s Zen And The Art of Mixing technique of completing a ‘first pass’ mix and then allowing the band to have a listen and feedback on the decisions being made. Adapting this preference to the much more complex world of film audio, I completed the first pass mix of Descent and then allowed the director in to give their feedback. [GR5]
Creatively, the dub mix of Descent owes a deal to the film Hannibal from 2001, which was mixed by Doug Hemphill who was also responsible for Blade Runner (aspects of which I have discussed elsewhere). Hemphill has a huge list of other major credits with a slight lean towards sci-fi and fantasy titles, and for Hannibal he found himself dealing with a mix of 160 channels with a 96 fader Neve console, of which over 60 were dialogue. At the time, this technology created a flexibility which –
“…allowed him to create internal sounds within the characters’ minds…where he would completely strip the high-end from the sound. This process allowed Hemphill to create a muted sound, allowing for effects that suddenly and dramatically disappear into the background before coming back into full sound.” (mi2n.com)
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KEY POINTS –
Overview of Dub Mixer / Rerecording Mixer role – Research.
- [IN2] To develop a better understanding of the craft and industry of a Dubbing Mixer, and to contribute to the dub mixing required for presentation of the artifact – (Dubbing Mixer)
How this applies to OG Audio + Descent – Individual reflection on learning and team role.
- [GR5] To produce soundtracks comprising of foley, SFX, dialogue, music and atmospheres to client specifications that synergistically support the other components of their films.
- [IN1] To successfully manage the provision of service by the business for the film Descent with regard the assignment of resources, specialisms and working time, liason with the director, editor and producer on a practical and creative level, and communication of information on their needs and requirements for the piece, in order to appraise the efficacy of the collaborative approach to working on the piece – (Supervisor and Company Officer)
Research into dub mixing of films relevant to those in our workload – Research, Similar items
- [PER3] To expand my knowledge of the theory of and audio techniques deployed in films similar to or influential upon those we will deliver.
- [IN3] To better my understanding of sound design with at least some reference to the science fiction genre – (Sound Effects Editor)