According to production sound mixer Kenneth McLaughlin, the cast of Meet The Fockers, the hit comedy directed by Jay Roach, not only did a fabulous job reading their lines, but also ad-libbed many parts, which presented a significant challenge for the audio vet.
“This was the hardest film I’ve ever worked on,” recalls McLaughlin. “There was this enormous amount of talent, all of which wanted to contribute beyond the script. For instance, there was the scripted dialogue happening for some actors while other actors in the background felt the need to talk, too – completely ad-lib stuff. The only way that you could get all of that, since you didn’t even know that it was coming, was to record it all on a six-track recorder, leaving them on pre-faders. So, no matter what anyone said, I captured it.”
McLaughlin determined that each actor needed to be individually recorded via a wireless microphone; specifically, the Lectrosonics 200 Series Wireless Microphone Systems, which were recorded to a Fostex PD-6 DVD-RAM location recorder. “After the first couple of days I thought, ‘Oh my God. I really need to mic these people more than I normally would,'” he explains. “I normally choose to use boom mics, but when you have huge ensemble scenes where everyone is sitting around the table, all ad-libbing to build the scene, you have to get it all. You couldn’t do that using boom mics. It wasn’t just one star that we were concentrating on to get the dialogue – there were six principals in almost every scene!”
As a result, “All the special and unscripted dialogue that contributed to the texture of the film was there,” notes McLaughlin. “You wouldn’t have even known that it existed because you didn’t hear it until you went back to listen. You may have thought, ‘What did Dustin say there?’ Then find that Barbra also said something really funny during the scripted dialogue.”
Because of the plethora of clean dialogue tracks gathered via McLaughlin’s Lectrosonics 200 Series wireless rig, ADR was kept to a minimum. “In talking to the editor, I found out that almost all of it is production sound,” explains McLaughlin of the film’s dialogue. “There were only a couple things that we had to loop, and one of those we even knew about in advance. It was a scene where they were riding around in a convertible. The only other instance of ADR was when they needed to drop in a few words where there was an actual dialogue change.”
And yes, says McLaughlin, Meet The Fockers was just as much fun to work on as it is to watch. “When you go see this film, I think that it’s clear that everybody had a really good time. You can always tell when a film was fun to make, and this one certainly was. Every day at work was a blast.”
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