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Open letter to production managers about on-set sound mixing principles
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LOOPING

It is important to consider the gravity and dramatic consequences caused when the words "We'll loop it" are uttered. You are obviously aware that extra ADR adds a financial burden to your budget, but the consequences are much greater than that.

Looping is only an answer for situations where all else fails! It's not just a quick fix later if the original on-set problems could have easily have been rectified with just a little time, knowledge or communication. Looping means that you are also making a huge artistic compromise that damages the film in many other ways that you may not be aware of.

Obviously, you realize that the actor's performance is always better in production than in an ADR booth. Making a film is an artistic endeavor that lives forever! You cast great actors to bring their collaborative efforts together in the making of your film. Don't lose the essence of the scene by looping! The voice of a great actor totally in character, moving and interacting with other actors in three dimensional space, is a treasure. It breathes life into the film.

When ADR takes place, the actor must try to re-create a performance while sitting in a sterile booth, in front of a big microphone, matching lips to a performance in a scene shot months before. That is a long stretch from the true creative process on set.

Sure, ADR will be less noisy than even the best production recording, but it lacks any spontaneity and the emotional truth of what's captured when you use your artists' talents on the set. That can't be duplicated.

ADR is not acting. The greatest method actors all hate it. At best, it only provides a close recreation of the original scene.

The post budget would be better utilized by not going backwards to fix sound tracks that are already recorded. The funds are better spent enriching the film with new sound design elements.

When you must loop, the new forward thinking by many respected post sound professionals (such as Randy Thom from Skywalker Sound) is to loop immediately, on or close to the set, and as soon possible after the scene is shot. The performance will be better and the sound will be more natural this way. There are companies that specialize in on-set looping which use video assist tapes for picture in portable studios.

At best, looping is often fiscally irresponsible. Be sure that the audio problem really can't be fixed BEFORE you make a decision that you will regret later. Never allow the simple impatience of the moment on set to be your real reason to loop! Be sure you have first covered all reasonable alternatives.

 

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