Marking Sync on Film

   By Emilie L   Categories: General

I describe this process to you, even though we work in the nonlinear world now, because many of you will, sooner or later, find yourself going through film vaults or old inventories for films made before digital technologies. You may find yourself working in restoration or developing a prior cut version that needs to be reconstructed. Therefore, it is valuable for you to understand how we did it and how it works.

When we worked on film, as we have discussed, we used a Moviola and a synchronizer. After we had cut the sound cues in the desired fashion, we marked the closest even foot inside the sound cue.

Marking Film Sync

In Figure 13.8, the footage marked is “723.” Using a black Sharpie, box either side of the frame, and then write the footage in the frame itself. The ink of the Sharpie does not harm the soundtrack. Behind it, mark an abbreviation for the show; this is especially important when you have more than one show in the shop at a time. In this case “MH” is the abbreviation for Moscow on the Hudson, which was in the shop with two other projects. Mark the A-B-C pass designation and then the FX channel number. In this way, anyone picking up a piece of film lying on the floor that had been carelessly knocked aside knows exactly where it belongs because of these abbreviations.

Figure 13.8 Marking sync on film with a black Sharpie.

The sound assistant rolls fill leader through the synchronizer and marks the frame (723) where the four cues land. The assistant backs out the fill leader strands, to the left of the synchronizer. Each sound cue is then taken off its respective trim bin hooks, one by one. The assistant carefully lays the boxed footage mark over the marks on the fill leader, and then carefully guides the front end of the sound cue to the leading edge. At this point, the assistant turns both fill leader and mag film over and splices white 35 mm splicing tape on the backside to bind them. In the course of a single motion picture, it is not unusual to chew up half a million feet of fill leader, nearly a million feet of 35 mm mag stripe, and a hundred thousand feet of 35 mm fullcoat.

Figure 13.9 A Four-gang synchronizer. The cut picture is the first gang, closest to the front. Sound cues are built into fill leader, with sync footage notations bracketed around the even foot frame.

Each roll of built sound cues is known as a unit. If you have cut 60 tracks of sound for B-FX, then you have 60 thousand-foot rolls of sound units built and delivered to the stage for predubbing. These racks of film units hold as many sound units as I cut for reel 9 of Leviathan, which had over 450 tracks at the height of the destructive climax. By the time the sea floor laboratory was destroyed by the monster, Mike Le Mare and I had broken the sound action into “A-through- W” predubs.

Imagine the sheer weight of film stock that had to be carried around by the editorial team. I always felt sorry for the assistant sound editor and apprentice when they delivered units to a dubbing stage that had a machine room upstairs, with no elevator or dumbwaiter to raise the tons of film. Hauling around a motion picture keeps you in better physical shape than working nonlinear.

If I remember correctly, when Universal sent their truck up the street to my editorial shop to pick up our unit inventory for John Carpenter’s The Thing, the thousands of units of film weighed close to five tons!

Today, we can carry around thousands of sound effects, all the mix stems from all the reels of a major motion picture, all the cut sessions, final mixed stems, encoded AC3 files, and all the paperwork on a handful of DVD-Rs in a small black leather carrying case.

Excerpt from The Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound, 4th edition by David Lewis Yewdall © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.



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