So this past weekend I had the very interesting opportunity to test my booming skills on foreign language dialogue. I was production sound mixer/boom op for this great little short headed to Tropfest and the creator had decided to incorporate six different languages into a seven minute short. It’s a great idea, but as you can imagine, it created some issues with communication. Pretty much no one could understand each other and figuring out who was supposed to say what when was quite hilarious at times. The main way I followed the dialogue was to figure out the last word of each persons line and switch the boom to whoever was speaking next. This worked pretty well for the most part, but I definitely had to stay on my toes in case someone decided to improv.
One of the more challenging scenes was at a bar and I was trying to boom three people speaking Spanish, Gaelic and ASL(American Sign Language). You might think that I could forget about micing the ASL guy because… it’s sign language. However; ASL uses lots of drastic hand movements and if you don’t have any sound for those movements it’s going to look very strange when watching it later. The one actor speaking Spanish was especially problematic. He’s a great guy and a fantastic actor, but he’s prone to adlibbing and improv. This is much less of a problem when everyone is speaking English, but when I can’t understand the dialogue it’s much harder to anticipate boom movements. At that point, body language is key, I had to look for any types of movements that would suggest to me he was finished and I could switch to the next actor.
Body language wise, the main things I looked for were sort of “conclusionary” (word? if not, it is now, I like it) movements. A pursed lip head nod, arms crossing and leaning back, a counter hit, any types of “mmhmm” and exaggerated eyebrow actions are some of the key gestures I was looking for to signal a finished line.
In total the short had Spanish, French, Gaelic, ASL, Chinese and English which is certainly something you don’t see often, I’m hoping it does pretty well. There isn’t a concrete name yet so I’ll probably update this post with the finished film title when I get it.
-Jesse Flaitz, Sound Guy Extraordinaire