With the release of Marvel Studios’ latest blockbuster, Doctor Strange, we sat down with the audio team responsible for creating and editing the sounds of the sorcerer supreme. We were joined by Emmy award-winning Supervising Sound Editor Dan Laurie, Supervising Sound Editor and Sound Designer Shannon Mills, and Dialogue and Music re-recording Mixer Tom Johnson, to chat about their work and the iZotope products—Iris and RX—that played a major part of the clean up on this film.
What were some of the challenges unique to working on the audio post production of Doctor Strange?
Dan Laurie: Production dialogue is always a challenge and even more so on big action movies. Noisy dialogue is the norm these days—big sets with fans wailing, exterior locations, planes, trains, and automobiles. These are the usual problems we have to overcome when prepping the track. More and more these days the directors (and actors) are wedded to their performance they gave on the set, and are loath to ADR anything unless they really have to.
Shannon Mills: From the FX side, it was a challenge imagining what this new kind of magic would sound like. I’ve never seen magic done in the way before, so we wanted to come up with something unique to go with the kaleidoscope/mandelbrot type images, as well as rooting the sounds in reality to reflect the size and scope of the events.
Tom Johnson: While the production dialogue was well recorded, many of the green screen scenes were filled with broadband noise from air conditioning Fans. The noise from these fans didn’t match the resulting space that [the visual effects] put the characters in.
[RX] has made everything so much easier and has changed my whole approach to editing.
How did iZotope products make your job easier?
Dan: RX has enabled me to clean up dialogue effortlessly without losing the quality of the dialogue. Specifically, I use Dialogue De-noise. I do a first pass of this before Tom [Johnson] gets to it. He continues with the clean up where necessary. De-crackle is the norm these days; No longer do I have to spend hours cutting out crackle and sourcing clean fill. Ambience Match [I use] all day long. Spectral Repair is astounding—incredible how much this tool allows the editor to repair the track. And it is a big plus being able to see the noise, zoom in, and remove unwanted high pitched frequencies.
Dan: As a [Dialogue Supervisor], iZotope products are invaluable for me. I literally use them all day long when I am editing. From De-crackle to Dialogue De-noise to Spectral Repair to Ambience Match—I am not really sure I could ever do without it. I think most dialogue editors would agree with me. It has made everything so much easier and has changed my whole approach to editing.
Shannon: I used Iris a lot to trigger samples and filter real sounds in different ways to create a building effect, and I would stack delays on top of that. I could then play various “families" of sound on a keyboard to create repeating, but continuously changing patterns. Once I had a large pallet of things I liked, I could go in and edit my favorite bits together to create the scene.
Tom: In the dialogue premix we used the Spectral Repair feature in RX to remove pure tones caused by lights and other electrical events. Spectral Repair is the best “notching” device I’ve ever worked with; it is precise, flexible, and very transparent. We used De-noise on specific clips as well as Dialogue De-noise as a real time plugin to clean entire scenes. Both De-noise plugins are fantastic. With a bit of patience, the two coupled together can produce an incredibly clean, yet natural track. De-noise can be used to reduce noise levels without affecting subtle vocal performance elements like breaths and movements. EQ Match was used often to help match ADR to production dialogue and even mismatching production clips. Of late, EQ Match has become a crucial tool in my toolbox. It is so amazing at performing EQ work that could often take me massive amounts of time and effort in the past. De-clip and De-click also performed their usual duties as the best plug-ins for the job I’ve ever seen.
Tom: iZotope products are so useful to me as a dialogue mixer. They have caused an “old school” guy like me to seriously look at “working in the box.” As we move away from traditional consoles towards surfaces like the S6, [iZotope] tools are becoming invaluable to me. And because they are so valuable, I am also working in a hybrid way (console DSP and ProTools plug-ins) even when working in a more traditional fashion.
To learn more about using RX to solve common audio issues, check out our free educational tool the RX Audio Cookbook.
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