Sound editing is composed of many stages. Theoretically, the first stage of sound editing is basically going through each second of the film alongside the sound editor in order to come up with a list of every single sound that needs to be included, edited, augmented or, simply, replaced. This stage, however, has been altered due to the increase in demands for anticipated previews, which, ultimately, have made the post-production schedule a bit hectic.
When we talk about dialogue editing we basically talk about organizing and cleaning up production sound, and it can be as detailed as reusing fragments of words to complete other fragments foreign to that sequence in particular; or even removing a performer’s mouth sounds. Often, the dialogue we hear in the ultimate version of an audiovisual project was not actually recorded on location. In fact, many producers and directors prefer to shoot silent, as it happens to be much easier than achieving the perfect and quiet environment required for a sequence in particular —the crew is always noisy, there are people watching the film, birds, sirens, airplanes, car alarms, etc.
Even though some dialogues are recorded on location, they ultimately get discarded as the mics also captured weird noises such as clothing rustle, people passing, camera noises, etc. So, having the aforementioned difficulties in mind, directors prefer to produce dialogues rather than loop them (which is actually an integral part of an actor’s performance). And even though there is a trend during looping sessions towards including booms and the microphones originally used during the shoot to mimic the exact same situation on set, it results practically impossible to replicate all the condition of the original shoot.
Be that as it may, it is really difficult and tough for performers to match during a looping session the very same emotional level they achieved during the shoot. Ron Bochar, whom originally was responsible for supervising the sound on Philadelphia, always describes this scene where Tom Hanks is answering to an aria recording as a case in point. Under ideal circumstances, the dialogue and the aria would be on two different manipulable tracks so the dialogue could be kept understandable and intelligible; however, Tom Hanks demanded both be able to move around and react to the aria being played. Thus, both the dialogue and the aria were recorded on the same track, which ultimately caused this sequence, in terms of the dialogue, less than acceptable.
The team, nonetheless, actually agreed upon having both tracks recorded on the same track rather than looping the scene, as it would have been impossible, according to Bochar, to recreate the exact same environment, and they would have ended up ruining the scene had they tried.
Today, the first job of every dialogue editor is to split every spoken track and line onto different and separate tracks, By doing this, he or she makes them as controllable and independent as possible so they can afterward merge them again seamlessly. Dialogues are often edited to customize characterization. Some sequences simply portray a dominant figure, like most hero-villain films. A mixer can simply raise the volume of one of the voices and then adjust it according to other tonal qualities, achieving the desired effect.
Those dialogues that cannot be retrieved from production must be re-recorded afterward in a process we have already mentioned: looping, or simple ADR (Automated or automatic dialogue replacement). Looping involves an actor speaking lines in sync with the image being projected, whereas ADR involves an actor watching the sequence repeatedly while listening to each line so that he or she can match the original wording and lip movement afterward in a new recording session. The actor then tries to recreate each line while also trying to convey the same degree of sentiment, passion, and mood. Some performers can indeed achieve a very high level of emotion and are really good at re-capturing the original idea.
In summary, since directors and producers only got the location for a couple of hours and, as mentioned, achieving the perfect quiet moment is rather impossible, production continues in hopes the sound mixer is able to capture every line as clean as possible. ADR gives filmmakers the opportunity to recreate back those moments the initially envisioned; in fact, ADR can even improve them as the re-recordings take place in a much quieter, more controlled environment, typically an audio post-production studio. Filmmakers don’t need to worry about a car horn blaring right over the perfect take while the performer was delivering their line, now, with the help of technology, sound and dialogue can be tailored to every scene and sequence, providing and delivering the audience an engaging and convincing environment, which is a film’s ultimate goal.