My part in the production
Playing an actual character in the film was probably the easiest part of the process. Because once that camera stopped rolling I didn't have to worry about it anymore. However throughout principal photography my mind was always looking towards the post-production process. I was the one solely in charge of all the audio aspects for the entire production. This suited me fine since I was the only one with any experience with working with audio, be it in a live situation or in a studio situation.
During principal photography I tried to record as much dialogue as was possible on-set. I was using my PC to record the audio directly through an M-Audio MobilePre USB preamp with a Rode NT3 microphone. Added to the fact that I was the clapper boy on most occasions, and sometimes even the camera man aswell. In all reality however only 3 scenes actually used recorded dialogue from the shoot.
This is where all the work was put in for 9 solid months. We knew that almost 85% of the dialogue would have to be re-recorded in post. The setup itself wasn't difficult, it was more up to the actors to get the technique of listening back to the audio recorded from the poor quality camera microphone and then syncing up their voice to the video. Surprisingly though the actors got the technique down pat very quickly. Even if they were off a few frames, if they kept the same pace of the original audio, I would just shift the audio file forward or back a number of frames to sync it all up. It was decided that the dialogue from one of the scenes that was recorded during filming wasn't really up to a standard that I was aiming for. The microphone was simply too far and there was too much noise. It simply sounded like a low budget film with little to no effort being put into the audio aspects. Despite other aspects of the film where the lack of budget could not be avoided, this was something that we could improve on. I had set the bar high from the very beginning regarding audio quality of the film, and so it was decided that we would re-record the lines from that scene that needed work. The re-recording went off without a hitch, what was more of a challenge was trying to emulate the room sound of the dialogue that was recorded on set. All in all I am happy with the outcome, and the average viewer probably cannot tell between the 2 different recording sessions. To tell you the truth, the average viewer most likely cannot tell that 85% of the film's dialogue was recorded in post production in my room.
I can now safely say that I know every possible light saber sound there is to know! For weeks on end all I was listening to was the same (and different) light saber sounds. From ignitions, swings, hums, clashes, you name it. It's a very tedious process syncing up all the swings and clashes during a light saber duel, but I must say it makes a hell of a lot of difference to the scene.
The same can be said for the melee sounds: punches, kicks etc. One of the first scenes I started adding sound effects to was the 5 on 1 martial art battle. Somewhat jokingly I started adding in all these cliched hits and swings. I showed Anthony and we were both laughing at how it sounded. But then upon watching the same scene without the sounds, the scene was so bland. So we kept the sounds in there! Its amazing how much a punching or kicking impact sound adds to a scene. It makes it so much more enjoyable to watch.
Another aspect I wanted to add to the project was the use of ambience tracks throughout most of the scenes. Even though the budget was near to none, there was no reason why we couldn't add the illusion of stuff happening off screen was there? (that IS what the movies are all about after all) My favourite scene in regards to ambience is the meeting between the Jedi and Davon Noor in the prologue of the film. To create a sense of danger of the situation and to add to the implication that the King had gone mad, I added all these explosions and people screaming in the background. There are riot sounds heard and whatnot throughout that entire scene. I love it how there's an explosion heard and then Anthony looks up towards where it might be and says "no matter the cost". Whats funny about it is when they shot that scene, there had been no discussion of what was going on anywhere else in the world. He was just looking off into the distance to be dramatic or something. But with me adding that one sound effect, it changed the whole context of that line. And we both love it. When he enters the throne room in the next scene the riot sounds seem much closer, but slowly fade away as the inevitable confrontation between the King and the Jedi draws nearer.
Another scene where the ambience helps a little is when the Jedi is talking to the Jedi Master. Its a plain white background they are filmed against. To give it some life, I added people whispering in the background as well as speeders and droids moving about. We didn't have the budget to create Coruscant, but theres no reason why you shouldn't hear it.
If you watch the movie you will see that it doesn't really feel like a Star Wars flick. That is true. We tried to stray away from the cliched Star Wars fan films ideas. The film could easily be set in a fantasy world with wizards and knights and all that. To help get away from the Star Wars universe we decided not to use any music from the Star Wars films. The closest thing to Star Wars music are the tracks from the video game Star Wars:Knights of the Old Republic. They have a bit of a Star Wars feel to them, but also stand on their own. Other music that works so well in the film that helps our cause of it being a fantasy film is the use of tracks from the game Baldur's Gate II and from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. All different music that works so well with the scenes, and a lot of them were pure luck.
The mixing process proved at times to be difficult. At times there was music, footsteps, light sabers, dialogue and whatever else happening all at once. It was hard to get a nice balance between all the sounds without the meters peaking. I must say, that I learned alot about working with audio during this project. Sure I've done some stuff, but this was a huge project that we undertook. During the whole 9 month process of post production I was constantly learning new techniques and new approaches to the various aspects and challenges that arose. I still can't watch the movie without picturing the meters bouncing up and down and the project layouts of each scene with all the various individual files arranged all over the place.
I would be lying if I said I didn't walk away with anything from the experience. Of course I now have a DVD of the movie and it is hosted online but that is just the end product that people can enjoy. I know, however, that I learned a great deal about what goes into movies, the work involved, the management of people, and of course all the audio aspects and how large it really is. As a casual viewer, you sit down and watch a movie but you don't always pay attention to everything that is going on on-screen. But now I can't watch a movie without paying close attention to ALL the sounds that are occuring (and even the Special Effects aswell). I always think to myself "man, how did they do that sound?" or "whoa, I'm glad I didn't have the job of doing the foley in this scene." The movie is what it is. People can critisise it all they want, nitpick every detail and what not. All I know is that there was basically 2 people that was with the project from start to finish, that undertook a huge project (probably a little too big for a first time thing). There are some really good aspects of this movie, and I am proud to say that the Audio aspect is one of those that really stand out.