and Sound Effects
Following the recording session,
Paul and I embarked on a near endless process of editing
that was complicated by the fact that he lives and works
in the Pacific Northwest, over a thousand miles from our
editing room in Los Angeles. During the time we were sporadically
editing this show I did all the normal book cover designs,
marketing, editing, and rewriting that are my normal business
(I completed four or five books of Louis L’Amour short stories
while we worked on "Son").
I also wrote and produced a film,
USA Network's "The Diamond of Jeru." In fact,
I was often in the studio editing with Paul and writing
Jeru at the same time. Our schedule came down to about one
week a month and much of the time I was working on the film
and the months of November and December of each year (a
big sales period for louislamour.com)
we took off.
Editing dialog and sound effects
is never as simple as cutting the words or sounds together
in the correct order. It’s amazing how many layers there
can be to a good effect and it’s amazing how many different
takes you can use to make up the performance of an actor.
The best is, of course, a single great take but those are
few and far between. Often you can hear the moment the actor
looked down at his script in his performance … you just
have to hope he looked down at a different point in each
take so you can cut from one to the other.
Timing is very important in creating
a performance in the editing room and it’s the one great
tool that the editor in audio has over an editor in film.
In film everything is slaved to the picture and while you
can play with the timing whenever it is justified to cut
the picture, in audio you can play with the timing of every
word if you have to. A tenth of a second can change a performance
from heroic to insecure … you can control the speed at which
the character reacts or even thinks!
Paul first cut together the voices,
leaving space for possible sound effects or narration and
he tried to make the scenes work as good as possible without
either. Then I recorded a temporary narrator track and we
cut in the sound effects around that.
Cutting effects together is a
real art and it's one that, like cutting
voices, Paul excels at. Although most of the effects in
Son of a Wanted Man are the actual thing (vintage saddles,
black powder firearms, nineteenth century doors, windows,
safes and locomotives) there are often several layers to
the effect and the intention is to make the audience have
an emotional or sensory reaction to the sound. So if a punch
might be mostly me slugging a piece of leather on a firm
pillow, there might also be a layer of my slapping myself
quite hard on the cheek with my mouth held open to give
it a human or “real life” element. The first time I did
this (the self-slapping thing) in a sound effects session
for a movie the director looked at me like I was crazy.
He had brought in a steak to hit. A steak has no bone and
no hollowness, it was dead. There is a immediate, live,
sound to a good effect and sometimes you have to pay the
price to get it!
We chose Terrance Mann as the
narrator based on his great performance reading dad’s short
story collection, "Beyond
the Great Snow Mountains". I called up David Rapkin,
our New York based producer, and asked him to set up a recording
session. Then I flew in and worked with Terrance to lay
down the track.
Back in LA we replaced my narration
with Terry’s and adjusted everything for the slight differences
All we had left to add was the