Sound Design for 48HFP

Woohoo, the 48HFP is one month away! This is a fun time of the year for me. I've done this quite a few times. Initially, I was super-competitive about it. I wanted to win. I crafted strategies that I thought could help me win.

Now I just don't give a fuck. At some point I realized that I don't make films in order to be able to say that I'm better than other filmmakers. I make films because I enjoy making films. And so that is what the 48HFP has become for me. I have zero agendas. I just want to have a fun weekend, and then have even more fun when it's screened in front of a live audience.

For audio, in order to compensate for the extremely tight schedule, I thought I might plan to use ADR for the entire film. When we finish production, I'll get to work editing. And while I'm editing, I'll have a sound-person responsible for recording ADR. Obviously, this will be difficult to do, since they'd be working with raw footage, and not the locked edit, but I think it's possible to pull off. The same person would also be responsible for recording foley and building a soundscape, all of this happening while I'm cutting picture.

This is of course the wrong way to make films. Which is exactly what makes it fun. Any ideas on how to make audio best on an extremely tight schedule, with no real resources?


IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Do you have time to re-record all the dialogue? I've done the 48HR
several times and we haven't had that block of time available. After
a 12 to 14 hour shoot the actors are usually not on top of their game
to recreate their entire performance line by line. And as Cryogenic
points ADR is a learned skill – actors who haven't done it before will
be learning this difficult skill on a very short time frame.

For the 48HR you don't really need completely clean dialogue tracks
(void of all other sounds) because you won't be offering the short for
dubbing into another language. So as long as the dialogue is clear and
there isn't much “noise” you can still create a good audio mix.

I don't tend to think outside of the box because the production box
is pretty well equipped in my opinion. Dedicate two people to dialogue
recording – a recordist and a boom op. If possible position the recordist
away from the camera set up so they are only listening to the recorded
sounds and make sure the boom op has a good set of cans so they can
aim the mic properly. If there is an issue with a line or two you can do
a “poormans” ADR right on the spot; without anyone moving have the
boom op bring the mic in closer and have the actors say the dialogue
again. The actors are in the moment, the room tone is the same and
it's pretty easy to sync in post.

Choose locations carefully. Not outside the box thinking, just a tried
and true method. The pros will go to the location before the shoot and
listen and even record to gauge how it sounds. No reason the 48HR
filmmaker can't do the same thing.

On the other hand, if you have the time in the schedule to rerecord
all or most dialogue this may be successful. I hope you give it a try;
I'd love to get your insight on its disadvantages and advantages when
you're done.
If you had a pro ADR Mixer that has been able to do full films in 1 hour of time for certain high profile actors and is able to work under EXTREME pressure and deadlines, you can pull it off



Jus' sayin.


I can see this working if you do your film INSIDE a WELL ISOLATED ROOM, and it takes place within that room with most dialogue, and then when you're done filming, do a rough cut, hand the rough cut to the audio guy and the audio guy sits in the VERY SAME ROOM and re-records the dialogue with the actors. The foley is then shot in that same room, and thus you have a highly integrated soundtrack with the natural reverb of the room in tact on all aspects - backgrounds, foley and dialogue.

The way you do ADR isn't like you see in the "movies" or how you think it's done with dramatic little beeps and streamers across the screen and then the actor WATCHES his MOUTH and TALKS AT THE SAME TIME AS SEEING HIS OWN MOUTH... That's ludacris. I don't think I've worked with an actor that has done that successfuly. The actor has his attention on being on time or in sync, and thus the delivery sucks.

Maybe they did that for Snow White.

In my experience (And I have about 2,000 hours of ADR experience), the best way is to PLAY BACK THE LINE to the actor so he hears it, then he just mimics it. Play back the line once and the actor repeats it 2 or 3 times NOT IN SYNC WITH ANYTHING, HE JUST SAYS IT, matching the intensity and cadence and timing, and then I as the recordist/editor edit the line to be in perfect sync to the picture and apply any small adjustments that need to be done with time compression/expansion. The key is to play back the original line shot on set to the guy so he duplicates it. Play it back as many times as necessary. You'll find people are very good impersonators of themselves when they listen to themselves and thus the timing is perfect when you slide it into place in Pro Tools.
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directorik, one of my main strategies for making this work is to keep production time to a minimum. My goal is to wrap production in 6 hours, maybe 8. That obviously means we need a very simple, and very tight screenplay, and maybe limit it to one location.

For the 48HFP, I don't need to do anything. I have absolutely no agenda other than to have fun. I could literally film myself throwing poop on a wall, and they'd screen it. My reasoning for wanting to finally include audio as a priority in this insane weekend is that I think the added challenge will be fun, and perhaps I'll learn a thing or two, and I know you'll endorse that. :)

Unfortunately, I don't think it'll be an option for me to have two sound people during production. Most likely, it'll be one person, completely unskilled, recording audio on my Zoom H4n, with my ATR875 duct-taped to the end of a broom-stick. Yes, we'll be getting production audio, but I kinda think that with the haphazard nature of the 48, 100% ADR might be the best way to go, especially if I keep the locations simple and the running-time brief.

Maybe? Only one way to find out.

Utopia, thanks for the advice on keeping it inside a well-isolated room. That seems to go hand-in-hand with directorik's advice. By "well isolated", am I to take that to mean that there shouldn't be much sounds coming from the outside? If so, shit, cuz that's gonna be difficult for me to accomplish. I live in the city. This movie is going to be shot in the city, during daytime, and that means that unless you're in a concert hall, you can always hear nearby traffic.

Sincere question - would it be a crazy idea to shoot outside, and then record ADR outside? Like, maybe we find a remote area of a large public park?

Either way, I need to get working to find me a pro ADR mixer that has been able to do full films in 1 hour for high profile actors and is able to work under EXTREME pressure and deadlines. :D

Thank you both for sharing your thoughts!
YES you can do that outside as long as you can get a good dialogue editor to weave in and out of the background wash of park and traffic.

Yeah you better start looking!

Audio guys don't grow on trees.
my team has had mixed results with punching in one or two ADR lines in the past, for most of the reasons stated above. If you really want to try it, go for it! And if the genre you draw is appropriate, why not work with the limitation and intentionally dub it really, really badly! That can be funny if done just right, in an homage/parody of old kung fu movies, etc. Either way, good luck! I'm not doing it this year since I have a show that day, though I did tell my team they can film me if a live music shot would work for their draw. In Pittsburgh, it's the same day as a really huge local music festival...added production value, right there! Since they know me, I can get them studio tracks/instrumental versions instantly, if I would work!
I've worked on some crazy 48HFP projects - though we're talking multiple locations, many camera setups, big lighting crews and lighting setups (hey, the 48HFP gets competitive here ;))

It's a lot of fun.

Personally, I don't think you'd be compensating for the tight schedule by doing ADR. I personally believe you'd be doing yourself a disservice, and the last thing you want to be doing is have a film you're actually quite happy with, and then have to hand in a mess of audio because you couldn't get the ADR done in time.

We usually run time-code and a scratch track in-camera so its easy to sync up, and if push comes to shove the in-cam scratch track can be used for audio.

If you can't do that, maybe simply run audio straight into camera. THen if you need to ADR a couple lines here and there, you can do so. I don't think planning to ADR the whole film is a good idea, especially when you have a time crunch like the 48HFP imposes.

But hey, good luck with whatever you end up doing!
Okay, I guess I need to clarify -- my typical 48HFP team is very small. Like, maybe 4 or 5 cast members and 2 or 3 crew. The logistics of that makes it virtually impossible to use legit production audio. I've tried before to get good production audio, and it always ended up barely better than the in-cam mic. And seeing as how tight post needs to be, that's made it really tempting to just use in-cam audio.

So my idea this year is to turn my previous 48HFP model on it's head. What will happen if I make audio a priority? And how do I do that? The 48HFP is a nonsense way to make films. You can't make a 48HFP movie the same way you would make a legit movie. You have to account for the ridiculous time-constraint.

Here's how I think it might be beneficial to plan for the entire thing to be ADR. I happen to be really good at run-and-gun filmmaking. But my style of run-and-gun does not allow for anything even close to good production sound. So, maybe I need to use my run-and-gun production technique to finish production really quickly, which would allow time for ADR and foley to really do their thing?
Every line of dialog you ADR will require Foley - footsteps, cloth props, etc. This will also require an equivalent or greater amount of time. So figure five (5) minutes of ADR for each linear minute of your project and the same amount of time for each category of Foley.

So if you have five minutes of dialog in your 48HFP you will require a minimum of 25 minutes for ADR (not including set-up time and actor changes). The same applies to each category of Foley, so that's another hour and 15 minutes (not including set-up and breakdown time).

I would figure on at least two (2) hours for ADR (you're not working with professionals, after all) and about three (3) to five hours for Foley. Now, of course, you have to sync the ADR & the Foley (and hour or two), and it requires some serious mixing.

So you are looking at 8 to 11 hours of audio post. Capturing great production sound will save you A LOT of time, which is at a premium during your 48 hours of pre, production and post.
For audio, in order to compensate for the extremely tight schedule, I thought I might plan to use ADR for the entire film.

That's a bad plan because ADR won't compensate for a tight schedule. As others have said, ADR will overall cost you more time, not less. In practise, your choice will end up being between poor ADR/more time or poor prod sound/less time. Unless the prod sound is so bad the dialogue is almost unintelligible, I'd take poor prod sound over poor ADR, even if they both took the same time!

Thanks for the encouragement? I'm kinda looking for practical advice though. Trying to think outside of the box.

I guess you could say i was trying to encourage you to use set sound in a way. My practical advice is to use set sound. I have done a 24 hour project before and it sux. On regular shoots I work on we very rarely do ADR and this has no very short time constraint like a 24 or 48 hour project. About the only way I can see not using set sound wouldbe if the entire film were done with voice over, then it would not matter cause you would not have to be matching anything up. And that is another thing. Even if you get good ADR in a timely matter you still have to sync up every line from each person, rather than just dropping the entire dialouge file in and syncing that one file.


IndieTalk's Resident Guru
directorik, one of my main strategies for making this work is to keep production time to a minimum. My goal is to wrap production in 6 hours, maybe 8.
Very different than the way I have done it. But not so different in total
time the actors are involved. We shoot 12 hours, you will shoot 8 and
ADR 3 or 4. Seems much more complicated to me but it's obvious this
is the challenge you want to try.

I got a lot of push back when I decided to make a musical for the 48HR
project and no one could persuade me otherwise. Like you I had no agenda
other than having some fun and seeing if I could do it.

Again, I look forward to seeing the final movie and reading about your
experiences with ADR.
I think you'd all appreciate my plan if you knew more about my prior 48HFP films. They've never had good audio. It's always been bad.

This year, I want to shake things up, try something different. And for me, that's a large part of why I even take part in the 48. Trying new things, with no real risk. Because if those new things don't work, fuck it, at least we had a fun weekend!

For example, I have developed a model for co-directing that I think a lot of tiny-budget filmmakers could really benefit from. I plan to have a co-director for my next feature, and there is a very specific way in which we'll work together, a very specific division of labor. I discovered this particular co-director relationship by just trying it, on a 48HFP production.

The things I'm proposing for sound design on this are just wrong, I get that. That's not how films are made. There is nothing about the 48HFP that is right. By taking part in this fest, you're agreeing to spending a weekend making movies the wrong way. But that doesn't mean that occasionally, you might find some new way of doing things that might actually have legit applications in the rest of your filmmaking. The only way to figure that out is to just try it and see what happens.

Thank you all for your advice. I'm totally going forward with my initial plan. It might work. It might not. Worst case scenario, I'll learn what not to do. :D
I just had a thought:

What if the Sound Guy was your main star of the piece. That way, he can record and edit his own ADR and it would be perfect because he knows exactly how to shoot perfect ADR and edit it to match...

Jus' sayin'...