Strategies for Recording Good Digital Audio

I live down the street from Katz’s deli, where they filmed my favorite part of When Harry Met Sally, the “I’ll have what she’s having” sequence. Director Rob Reiner (who also directed Spinal Tap) gave his mother the eternal gift of saying the line on camera, and with those five words, magnificently ended one of the most memorable comic sequences of any movie.

Think about everything that would have been lost if the line hadn’t been recorded clearly. The scene would certainly have had comic value without its closing line, but its impact would be significantly weakened if people didn’t understand what she said. Hollywood films like When Harry Met Sally record take after take of important lines, and often have actors re-voice their dialog in a specially equipped studio if the director doesn’t feel the location sound was recorded well enough. Dialog propels a film forward, and if an audience can’t immediately understand what actors are saying, big parts of the story get lost. Unlike a person reading a book, who can go back to the top of the page and reread something he didn’t quite follow, a viewer watching a movie either immediately understands the words in a piece of dialog, or the lines get lost forever. You can develop a story so a line’s true meaning comes to light only as the story progresses, but if the words are too muffled or the audio level is too low for people to hear what someone is saying, the scene you worked so hard to record ...

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