Three secrets to a successful dubbing session
Insider info from the studio
I remember the moment I first sat in with a dubbing engineer. My eyes could not believe what was happening. In no way could I ever imagine doing all of that so quickly. It was a case of sink or swim… and there is only a deep end.
Fast forward a few years and what I learned as I learned to “swim” was that recording dubbing seems to boil down to doing three things well.
Your first line of study is the navigation of whatever Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) you are using – be it ProTools, Cubase or whatever else, there will be thousands of keyboard short cuts. The truth is you probably won’t use most of them, or at least not while recording an actor delivering lines. Once you land on the ones you want to use, with practice they’ll come more naturally and you’ll be able to do them faster. And in this industry, we like faster. Faster means you’ll be able to navigate smoothly and get more work done in your precious studio time. This in turn will help make sure that you get the most out of your artist without them getting bored, unfocused and frustrated.
Yes, I hate the word too. But organising your session is really important, and actually fairly easy. First you should know what you are recording, obviously. Once you know what you’re recording, it’s about organising yourself in a way that makes you feel comfortable and prepared. Make sure you have all the material ready to go before the artist steps into the booth; videos are where the videos should be; and the scripts are ready and where they should be. This organisation extends to your DAW as well. Size your recording tracks and the window. Organisation ensures that the artist knows what you are doing and what they are doing. If you are constantly scrambling to find the material you need while the artist is in studio, it slows your session down and splits your focus. Not a good look.
The next skill that’s of vital importance is the way you communicate with the artist. As far as I can tell, there is no one specific way to speak to artists as a group. They are individuals after all. Some are super proficient at reading; some are not. Some are 7 years old; others are 70 years old. Some are theatre actors, some TV actors, and some are not trained actors at all. You will be dealing with quite a variety of different people. Having said that, there are perhaps some universal concepts that help to make the session enjoyable for the artist. If the artist is enjoying their time, they will perform better. So don’t do all those things you usually do when things are not going your way. Don’t sigh every time the actor doesn’t do it perfectly. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable. Be patient, attentive and clear in your communication. Find your inner Nirvana. You guys are a team, and teamwork makes the dream work, remember?
There are a few other things you can do to make the session go smoothly. The artist must be comfortable in the booth. The script must be easy to read. The artists will also need to hear themselves over the headphones, so check their levels and ensure they are perfect for the artist. Usually we prefer the artist to stand, but always have a chair available just in case the artist would prefer to sit.
There you go. You’ll be fine. Remember to have fun!