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.