Why Do the Movies Always Sound So Good?

You know, when I was younger I would watch movies and it would come to a part in the movie where bombs are going off, a train horn is howling, the motorcycle is revving, and the hero says some suave line. And my first thought was always, “How on earth did they get that line with all the other noise?”

Then came the day when I learned about voice recording. It’s simple right? Record your voice and replace the original audio with the new recorded stuff. However I discovered while recording the audio for this scene that it is rather difficult. I was sitting in my comfy chair, headphones on, a mic in front of my face, and I heard my first line… and I had to match it, word for word, at the exact same time. I will say it took a lot of repetition and patience. Listening to my own voice over and over again you start to feel a little bit silly, but repetition is the only thing that will get the timing right. So my afternoon was spent listening to my own voice on repeat.

This is my first real step into ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) and I rather like the result.

The whole process involved first shooting all the material on location. While this scene is written for a casting office, we were tired of sitting inside that day so we decided that a change of scenery was in order, and so the shoot happened in the middle of the park. Yes the change of location did raise our spirits but we made a rather fatal error, we forgot the audio equipment. Our on site panic turned into a brainstorm that resulted in the decision to not worry about the audio and go back in during post and ADR the dialogue. After the edit was finished, all the audio had was stripped from the video and then replaced. Since our voices recorded during the ADR session would be too clean with no background noise, the editor also had to layer in noises from cars passing by, birds in the trees, and wind interacting with the environment.

The end product is a realistic sounding auditory experience, but one that sounds way better than if we’d just taken the audio files straight from the camera. This is one thing to keep in mind the next time you watch a movie. Nearly everything you hear will have been recorded in post, everything from the voices, to the footsteps, to each breath, and each sip of coffee.

If you’re looking for more information about how sound is done in the movies, check out the videos below:

Today’s post comes form Katherine Porter, a second year intern on our acting track.


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