In the Loop with Camelot

In talking with Howard Kazanjian lately about redoing sound for a film he cited this example. He had recently watched “Room with a View” – and noticed the sound of the wind blowing in the background on the track, yet the dialogue was perfect – crisp and clear.  He deduced that the dialogue had been redone later.

It is difficult to record a good sound track outside of a sound stage. Once principal photography is done, if necessary the actors are called back in to re-record their lines. The process is called ADR or Automated Dialog Replacement.

Or back in the days that he was working on Camelot, it was simply called Looping. This is because the scene (or clip of film) is run repeatedly in a loop, while the actor stands in front of a microphone with headphones on, watching the scene and listening to the recorded lines that he is trying to improve. He speaks and is recorded trying to match the lip movement among other considerations. It’s very difficult to get the right tempo, the right inflection – to get into the moment again – (if the actor did not think that he got it right, he would often beg for another take to improve it. And no wonder, for his future career depended on his performance.)

Howard was there for the first looping session which was with Franco Nero, who played Lancelot du Lac. Franco had a heavy Italian accent. Howard spent two to three weeks with him in this process. And Franco’s grammar and pronunciation gradually improved over this period. He came back later for three additional lines and was better still. Howard was also present with the director, Josh Logan, for the looping sessions with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist (and in this case the screenwriter for the film) was there. Sometimes it was just the producer or the sound crew, and other times the sessions were run by other people in the production.

This brought up the question, what about the music? Did they have to come in to re-record the songs? Howard set me straight on that right away. For musicals (like sound tracks for animated films) the songs are always recorded first, usually weeks ahead of shooting. This was the case on Camelot, with a notable exception that will be discussed in the next post.

Howard – “The pre-recorded songs are played back in sync with the camera during photography.  That way the editor can cut from shot to shot without missing any part of the song or the sync.  And usually there is a musical assistant on the set watching lip movement to the recorded track.   He knows if he can adjust the recorded track to match lips if the lips are several frames off.   Nowadays, this is much easier to do with digital tracks, vs. the days of tape recording.”  

     Join me next week for “Camelot on the Warner Lot”  when we continue in this series The Adventures of Howard Kazanjian – the Musicals.


Camelot or the Making of 10 Dash 894

Camelot or the Making of 10 Dash 894

Howard Kazanjian’s job as an Assistant Director on any project begins with a read through of the script. He missed the original round of prep on Camelot, as he came on board just after the location shoot in Europe. [Howard – “When I joined the picture upon their return, I redid or supplemented any changes.   I did not create the original.  But it was like starting all over again using very little of what had previously been established.”]

So what follows are the steps that are taken in breaking down a script for filming. With the first read out of the way, they flip back to the beginning and go through it all again, this time armed with a fistful of different color pencils or felt tipped pens if available (later when at Disney he tells me that the tools of choice were mechanical colored pencils – they were overflowing with them). Of first importance were the character parts that made up the cast, they were marked in one color; then all the sets in another. The designations “DAY” or “NIGHT” were underlined. And lastly other colors marked any special props, animals or effects.

All this data is transferred to paper – one page for each set or scene (the scenes were already numbered). This information was then transferred to strips that were 1/2 inch wide by a foot and a half long. They would be mounted on a long board. On this board there was a header upon which the names of the cast were listed, each name beside a number (e.g. 1 – Richard Harris; 2 Vanessa Redgrave; 3 Franco Nero and so on). These numbers were written on the strips, if the referenced person was in that scene. When done, the strips could be manipulated, grouping similar locations and sets together. They would pick the amount of scenes that would make up a day’s shooting and put a black strip after it to delimit the one day, and so on.

[Howard – “We usually arrange all location or exterior days first, yet keeping in mind actors working days. We try to keep each actor’s scenes grouped together for financial reasons. There is always the challenge of keeping actors in a tight number of days, vs exterior shooting first, vs some kind of continuity in shooting. When the board is complete, we create what we call a “Day-out-of-Days”. It lists all the actors, the total days worked, days off, total pay days, and any travel days. This is helpful to the casting and legal departments in negotiating salaries among other things.”]

The next step is list making. Lots of lists. For Camelot, there were bit lists (extras with speaking parts), animal lists and extras lists. And since this was a musical – a list for the pre-recordings to be made – a schedule really, as to when and by whom would each of the songs be performed and recorded.

Further along in pre-production the storyboards are created. On Camelot only the jousting sequence was storyboarded. I asked Howard the reason for this. [Howard – “It was strictly for the stunt people and the art department – to plot out how it would function and how it would look” – more on that later).

Just before shooting the Cast and Costume lists are worked up. For Camelot, the costume list shows that Vanessa Redgrave had a total of thirty three for her character Queen Guinevere.

Howard – “Eventually we get all our info down on sheets that lists each day’s shooting. The whole schedule (Shooting Schedule) is created and this is what we use to create the call sheets for each day.”

There were three types of call sheets. The first call sheet goes out to everyone in the cast. (Note it was not a sheet with only the recipient’s name on it – it was not individualized – it included the whole list of who and when).

A second call sheet has a more limited distribution, listing what other productions on the lot are doing. For instance at WB on April 28, 1967, Camelot was on the backlot over in Devil’s Gulch, filming the jousting sequence; Sweet November and its director Robert Ellis Miller was on Stage 12; and Richard Lester was on location up in San Francisco, shooting Petulia.

And a third call sheet goes out to the crew, listing call times for them and equipment. [An aside of interest – on that same April 28 for the jousting shoot, two cameras are listed – a “BNC, Reflex, PANA, Mark” and an Arriflex. Howard tells me that the first was a unique, one of a kind camera, a prototype created by Panavision.]

Once shooting began, as the scenes were completed, Howard marked them off on his script copy and dated them.

And be sure to tune in next week for the second post in this series – In the Loop with Camelot.