Recording Dialog Using the Looping Technique

   By Emilie L   Categories: Recording

The technique is the same, no matter what nonlinear system you use. Figure 16.14 shows a Pro Tools session with a line of dialog that has been isolated and highlighted so that the line will play back for the actor, and then the same amount plus a couple of extra seconds during the silent phase so the actor can reperform the line that he or she just heard. Once the recording head (the line that crosses from left-to-right) reaches the end of the highlighted area it will immediately loop back and repeat again.

The key is to get set up properly. First of all, whether you were going to hold an ADR session or a loop session, you would have transferred the cut work track from the locked picture into your work session.

Prior to the looping session, the ADR editor (who has now, technically, become a loop editor) would have built a session for each reel of film. In this case the actress’s character name is Sara. The loop editor would break out and isolate each character’s lines to be looped and place them in their own channels. Rename each audio channel with the actor’s character name.

This makes it much easier and more efficient during the actual looping session to jump to the next line to be done, thereby not wasting the actor’s time, waiting for the looping mixer to scroll down and find each line and prepare it during the looping stage time, which is one thing you want to avoid.

Move the track that has the character lines that you are going to be looping to the top of the session. Name the second audio channel “Record.” This is the channel that you will actually record the new looped lines that the actor on the stage will reperform.

Activate the Solo buttons on the character channel (in this case, Sara) that you wish to hear as well as the Record channel that you are going to record to. This will mute all other channels in your session.

Open the Show Mix Window under Display in the menu bar. You need to assign all of your character channels—those channels that have the cut-up production track and are meant for the actor to listen to—to output 1.

Some actors wish to be able to hear their own voice as they are reperforming the line during the silent space; some would rather not hear it, as it may be distracting. If the actor wants to hear his voice, then you need to also assign the output of the Record channel to output 1. If not, simply assign it to output 2 so that only the looping mixer can hear in the booth and the director and loop editor can hear through their own headsets.

This means that you need to have a headset signal path that can bifurcate the playback signal from the actor and the director and loop editor. The loop editor will control who will be able to hear what from the outboard mixing console.

While you are in the Show Mix Window mode, make sure that your input channel assignment for the Record channel is the same channel that the line input feed that carries the signal from the stage microphone(s) are plugged into.

Make sure you engage the Rec button on the Record channel. This is an arming safety. You will not record anything if this button is not on.

Now select Show Transport Window under Display in the menu bar. The Transport window will appear. This is your “tape recorder,” complete with all the controls to interlock, record, play, stop, and so on.

Using the Line tool, highlight from the front edge of the cue to be looped and continue on for as long again plus a couple of seconds longer. This allows a comfortable amount of time for the actor to reperform the cue in-between the playback phases. If the actor is a little slow in responding to reperform, you may have to open the distance up a little wider. With a cue or two you will immediately sense how much extra time you should allow for each actor’s style and ability.

Take the cursor and press the button on the far right-hand side of the Transport window. This is the Record Arming switch. Once you have armed the Transport window you are ready to roll. When you press the Play button (the triangle button that points to the right), the record head (line) will start scrolling across the highlighted area. You will hear the dialog line from the channel above and then during the following blank area, the actor will reperform the line, which will be recorded in the Record channel.

Once the actor has reperformed the line (as many times as the actor and/or loop editor and director may want), then press the black square button in the center of the Transport window. This is the STOP button. A bold filename will appear in the REGION LIST on the far right side of your Pro Tool Session. Your brand new cue will read “RECORD 01.” Tap twice on this filename of the cue you just recorded. A window will pop up for you to rename this cue. Simply enter the character name and cue number that is advertised on the loop editor’s ADR sheet.

Note: Remember that if you end a filename with a number, it is a good idea to put a slash after it. Take the cue in Figure 16.14 as an example. The timecode hour tells us that this is reel 1. The loop editor’s cue sheet shows this line as cue 107. You tapped twice on the file and named it “SARA 107/”. This will avert disk management confusion when the cue is cut. Pro Tools automatically renames a cut clip with a dash and sequential number assignment (i.e., -01, -02, -03). If you named the audio cue “SARA 107”, a cut clip name may read “SARA 107-07”. A visual scan may become confusing to the human eye. If, on the other hand you named it “SARA 107/”, a clip name will read “SARA 107/-07, a much easier number to visually scan.

It will also prevent you from relying on Pro Tools to automatically name your audio clips, which presented us with a disaster when we had inherited a show that had been started by another sound-editorial facility. Their protocols were not anywhere near professional and experienced and they had allowed Pro Tools to autoname based on the name of the audio channel. During the course of the ADR sessions, they had a particular actress come in over seven sessions. Each session started with a new session. When we got the show, we discovered that we had seven identical names for seven different performances. “JANICE-09” was being seen by the computer seven different times and of course did not know which “JANICE-09” was the correct one to select to boot up the Pro Tools cut session. In such a case it defaults to the first one it sees, which most of the time is the wrong one.

So you can see that there is more than one reason to be particular about your audio cue name protocol!

Once you have completed recording the loops for this reel, simply Save and Close this reel session and open up the next reel session and continue the process.

Once you have finished this actor, simply move the track that holds the original lines (in this case SARA) down from the top position, somewhere below the Record channel and then move the next character channel up to the top to more easily work with the next actor. You will find that you can move along very swiftly and the difference in the performance material will amaze you.

If the director wishes to see a line in sync with the picture, you can easily pull the line in from the region list, align the waveform against the original line, place the session in interlock (Command 1 j on a Mac), and play the videotape back. The director should not be encouraged to do this too often as this will slow the session down to a snail’s pace.

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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