What I learned on designing the sound mix for GIRL TRIP
What I learned on designing the sound mix for Girl Trip has become part of my process of constructing and understanding the sonic relationship to the story.
Unfortunately a lot of the location audio on Girl Trip was damaged, and/or there was a lot of inconsistency with the sound. For instance sometimes one lav mic (wireless mic) was disabled or damaged on one or more of the character’s when the boom was far away in the shot. This meant we were left to mix using only one lav mic and a far away shotgun mic (boom mic). On top of that, sometimes the lav mic had shirt rustling and/or other inconsistencies.
We did ADR a little, but couldn’t ADR all of the actors, and the director (Catherine Black) wanted to keep the integrity of the actors performances on set - which I agree with. I suggested that we work with what we were given, and lean into the grittiness of the audio as part of the story. Lucky for us the genre is a dark horror comedy! This solution wouldn’t work for every film. Each film has its own solution and own voice. With Catherine Black’s collaboration we refined the mix and dialed it in, making appropriate decisions for each location and scene. The difficulty was we still needed to keep each of the varied locations and scenes consistent so it had a cohesive soundscape. That is where the labor of audio restoration came in. I could not have restored the audio as good as I did without the advanced software tools provided by iZotope. Thank you iZotope! Izotope RX users!
After cleanup and restoration we had a lot of diegetic music to help mask the "grittiest" dialogue. Catherine had already planned on using a lot of local bands, but because of our issues, we pushed the music further in this direction - playing with levels, which really added to the dark comedy elements of Girl Trip.
As a perfectionist, I am not happy with the way the dialogue sounds in this film from a quality stand point. What I am pleased with is how it captivates and matches the narrative and emotions of the characters. It really amplified/helped give a specific mood and tone to the film.
Spoken from the perspective of perfectionist who is far from perfect, imperfections make us human and forced me to explore the story and grow as a sound designer. If everything we did was perfect from the start there would be no exploration. Life is messy.
Ever since this film, I now approach sound design from this new perspective. It’s a give and take, trying to control the sound and also listening to how the film wants to sound.
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