Sound Chat #27 - Rachael Tate (Dialogue + ADR Supervisor)

Hey all, Matt Price from here and I am here again with Rachael Tate who you will recognise from Sound Chat EP3 last year where we chatted about dialogue editing, this time we will chat more about dialogue and ADR.

Thanks for coming along again for another Sound Chat Rachael, I wanted to forward some questions first from the Sound Chat community on Facebook and then get to more questions about your recent film 'The Martian'

Andrew Jones asks: I would love to hear how they deal with sound reports and how they use them in their work flow and if there has ever been a time in her career where she got info from the field that's not normally on a sound report that she found beneficial and wished "it" (the extra info) was more common.

Sound reports are incredibly useful from the very start of each project. The most important information for me right away is the recorder and microphone details. We always do as much as we can to exactly match all microphones when recording any ADR so we need to know at all times, what each scene is being recorded with. Additional information that has been useful in the past is for anything extra like a particularly good bit of foley, like maybe cup down or door close that we could potentially hand to FX, or anything unexpectedly bad, like generator noise or passing aeroplanes.

Matthew Gionet asks: how many adr cues were there?

All in all there were approximately 90-100 lines recorded, including all breaths and efforts and any additional lines requested by production. It might sound like a lot but for this type of film it is usually a lot more.

Al Sim asks in regard to The Martian: I'm curious to know: How much of the film was loc sound and ADR? Were there lines re-recorded in post to change performance or script?

I’d say roughly 90% was production sound. Most action films have a production percentage of around 30-40% so this is pretty good. I am insane about always try to keep as much production as possible, utilising programmes like RX, finding small alts from other takes, etc. ADR is the last (and most expensive) resort. There were no real lines recorded for performance change but there are always a couple of line changes and adds in every production. These were again, very minor but occasionally because some scenes needed to be cut down, we sometimes found plot points needed to be added somewhere else to help the story make sense.

Follow up question from Bill Jenkins: What situations on set caused dialogue to need to be ADR'd? Or was it directorial changes in script or performance?

One notable scene that needed complete ADR coverage was the opening sand storm on Mars that causes the crew to abort their mission. Ridley wanted to keep as much of the visuals as real as possible meaning the actors had some very powerful wind machines and buckets of sand being directed at them the whole time. Of course, the actors were then shouting loudly, to make themselves heard over all those wind machines which caused a fair amount of distortion. Ridley seeks out clarity in every line of dialogue so unfortunately, the evil combination of all that background noise plus distortion meant that we did need to re-record all the external lines in that scene.

Ben Metsers asks: I would love to know if the headset capsule in the helmet was being used for location dialogue. Looked a lot like a 4060/4071 in some shots.

Well spotted! Mac Ruth, the very talented production recordist, managed to work with the costume department in fitting in his DPA D:fine 4066 into the helmets. They would have had a prop mic there anyway as the characters communicate with radios so it is the perfect opportunity. We used these same mics when recording all in-helmet ADR.

Sergio Reyes-Sheehan asks: Was the amount of additional work more or less than she expected when taking the job than other jobs she's done?

At first, I think we all thought this could be a fairly easy job for me, owing to the immediate impression that it is largely one man, alone on Mars. However as the project progressed I quickly became aware this was not going to be the case. Crowd, for instance, consisted of American, British and Chinese and within that, there was specific NASA and CNSA based crowd that would need very technical, accurate jargon and scene specific writing prepared in advance. The ADR wasn’t too bad but the storm bought up the line count to more than I had expected. The other unforeseen aspect was the amount of worldising (the process by which you send audio through different spaces and speakers in order to create a natural sounding effect). For instance, I created radio transmissions by sending lines through an actual short wave transmitter, recording the transmission in another room on an old shortwave radio in order to get that sense of distance and distortion (without losing too much clarity) for the transmissions from Mars to Houston during the rescue. Dialogue was also affected in various other ways for the video diary scenes, flatscreen TVs in the meetings, etc. Most important of all was the helmet worldising - where we actually borrowed a helmet from production and sat a speaker inside the helmet, recording the audio on a radio mic inside the helmet. This was a great way of matching ADR to other in-helmet dialogue and for the added breaths Mark’s character needed throughout the film.

Sergio Reyes-Sheehan asks: Did Rachael give recommendations or requests to the production team before/ during production?

Mac Ruth and I were in contact from very early on in the shoot. We both know how beneficial it is for production and post to work together as much as possible to create the best sounding film we can. Mac had not worked with Ridley before and was having to deal with the multi-camera, minimal-take way in which he likes to work. He can have 5 or 6 cameras rolling at once, sometimes even more for action sequences, making the job of a boom op near impossible on many occasions. There are also consequently less takes to draw alts from, meaning the pressure on Mac to grab the best audio he can, was immense. We discussed from the beginning, tech specs and details about ISO’s and layout of tracks, as often Mac was so reliant on radio mics, that the bigger scenes would require him to work across two recorders. Metadata was therefore something we needed to get correct from the start. He sent over a few test files and I demultiplexed them using various different programmes and settings, going back and forth also trying out different settings at his end, until we were both satisfied that I would be getting the tracks in the correct order as they were shot, ProTools would label the channels correctly upon demux and Mac had a workflow he was happy with on his end.

Jake Whitelee: How much of the dialogue edits, if any, used wild room tone recorded non sync, rather than room tone from around the original lines?

The amount of wild room tone used, varies dependant on the types of locations in a project and whether the recordist actually gets the time to record tone. Often the production is so pushed for time, trying to get the whole crew to stay silent, actually properly silent, for even 30 seconds can be near impossible. I know, I used to boom op. In the case of The Martian, room tone was not as vital as it often is. For the NASA based scenes, there wasn’t too much ADR requiring fill and the room tone itself was not very noticeable. I found I had more than enough tone from in-between lines. One thing I would say is a really useful extra to get, if the recordist has time, is an impulse response of the location (especially if it is an unusual, characterful space that colours the dialogue like a tunnel, corridor, car interior, etc), this can be added into plug-ins such as Altiverb to create reverb settings we can use on ADR and Foley. Room tone is especially useful when it is particularly noisy or unusual but another thing that we are encouraging our recordists to try and get is crowd wall. If you are on location with 50 extras, it is always going to be so beneficial to have a good 5+ minutes of them chattering or fighting or doing whatever it is they were doing in that scene. (They usually enjoy having the freedom to go ‘full-voice’ for a few minutes too!) The final request we would have is that when you record something FX-related like a car by or car interior when it’s running or the crowd I’ve just mentioned, please get it in stereo. The FX boys cannot use it in the final mix unless it is at least stereo. LCR would just be a magical bonus!

Bernardo Uzeda asks: Who is responsible and in what stage of the process does the "production dialogue room fills" occurs in sequences that are partially ADRd?

The dialogue editor is responsible for absolutely any audio recorded on production, including all PFX and room tone. Often on large films you will also have an ADR Editor, in charge of recording all ADR and crowd but on this project we kept the crew fairly small and I did both. This was beneficial in the way that by the time we got to the stage, any questions the director or editor had about any dialogue or ADR, I would know it all inside out. Room tone, when used to fill partially ADR’d scenes works like this - you have one track with all the lines you are keeping in the scene, anything to be replaced goes on a junk track below and your production track is then ‘filled’ out - you fill the gap with room tone, making sure it was derived from the same mic, same angle, so it is seamless. Once ADR is recorded that goes on another separate track and the mixer mixes it against the track with the good production and room tone on it.


Helmet used for Worldalizing 'The Martian' Film

Bernardo Uzeda asks: Do they use automation plugins like Revoice etc? Or manually through elastic audio/warp mode.

Do you mean with regard to fitting ADR specifically? I have never used Revoice or any other plug ins and would always prefer to manually fit, processing the audio as little as possible. Time and pitch shift I might use on occasion but only in minimal doses when Ive done all I can editing-wise. When it comes to the human voice, simply matching up sync using waveforms will often not give you a natural result and sometimes, the best result might not even be an exact match waveform-wise, but somehow work better and sound more natural.

Bernardo Uzeda asks: How much time to edit to edit the whole film?

I was on The Martian for about 5 and a half months in all, which included 5 temp mixes and right through the M&E (music and effect mix, for foreign versioning).

Bernardo Uzeda asks: How much % of the directors attend personally the adr recording sessions and how much is done solely by the supervisor directing the actor (at least here in Brazil when I act as a adr sup. many times I've directed actors without the presence of the director.).

As we approached the premix, there was a small pickup shoot scheduled in Budapest with most of the main actors, so we organised to shoot most of the ADR over there when each actor had some free time. Owing to the amount of time Ridley had to spend on set during this period, he wasn’t able to attend the recordings but as there was hardly any ADR done for performance change, Ridley was confident his actors would be able to recreate the performances we needed.

The Martian has some intense scenes which seem to involve lots of foley and effects coupled with breathing, in one of the earlier scenes Matt Damon is seen walking in a knocking over tables which breathing in panic, is that situation recreated and breaths added in ADR?

This is the scene where Mark has returned to the Hab after being injured in the storm and performs surgery on himself. As you can see, Matt strips to his waist during the scene so radio mics were not an option. Luckily Mac was able to use two boom ops and capture almost all of the production breaths. There are a few breaths as he rounds the far end of a table and some others that had particularly big metal crashes on them that I had to replace but even with only a couple of other takes to go from, Matt’s excellent performances were consistent enough for me to be able to find what I needed.

As a follow up I would be interested to know if something like breathing is always done by the person on screen?

With breaths, obviously you can’t beat the real thing but on occasion, if absolutely unavoidable, we sometimes have to use voice alikes, or ourselves. This is a rare occurrence though and as I say, we would prefer not to do this if we can help it.

I noticed there were some scenes with normal to high levels of dialogue inside the helmets, were there any issues of clipping or distortion from the close proximity to the mic in the helmets?

Yes, unfortunately in the storm a lot of the shouting was distorted beyond repair, even though some of the actors even had back-up mics on them too. Apart from that scene, I had very little distortion or clipping as Mark is usually fairly contained when he is wearing a helmet throughout the rest of the film. Even during the rescue, because the visors were added in VFX, I had a lot less clipping issues as the sound wasn’t reverberating around the helmet.

Thank you so much to Rachael and to everyone who wrote in their questions to the Sound Chats Facebook Page.