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With musicals, they used a combination of live, on-stage dialogue
sequences with pre-recorded playback for the musical numbers, a
practice that started in the early days of sound after someone figured
out that recording a full orchestra hidden off-screen and a performer
singing live wasn't so easy to pull off, especially if a complicated
number needed to be restaged.

It's odd to watch outtakes from musicals from the classic Hollywood
era - you hear the characters going through dialogue sequence live
with different variations, then start a musical number to a
pre-recorded track, going through exactly the same steps, movements
and facial expressions, over and over again.  It's no wonder some of
these people needed drugs to do this work day after day.

I recall reading that Rex Harrison insisted on doing his vocals for
"My Fair Lady" live on-set and that they used some kind of new at the
time wireless mic to accommodate him.  If you listen carefully, the
sound quality of his numbers sounds a bit different on the soundtrack
than others in the film.

Shooting silent and dubbing later was much more common in Europe,
particularly in Italy, and took some getting used to by Americans
working overseas on international productions after the War.  The
practice produced the strange, alternate universe of Mario Bava's
"Hercules in the Haunted World", where the wonderful tones of
Christopher Lee's English dialogue was dubbed by an actor with a
completely different voice.

And that brings me to something I've always wondered about and may
have mentioned on this list before.

Was there a different eq used for recording film soundtracks in some
countries like Italy?

Even today, I've seen remastered Italian films on dvd and blu-ray from
the 50s, 60s and even into the early 70s that have that same, annoying
tinny sound on both the English dubbed and original Italian dialogue
versions.  Are these things being remastered without the proper
re-equalization being applied?

One example I can think of that was redone was Criterion's release of
"Yojimbo".  The original laser and dvd release had that same tinny
sound and I think it was mastered from an optical track.  The reissue,
remastered from the original mag masters, is properly balanced and has
full, rich sound.

When I had the Criterion original release, I kept a notecard inside
the case with settings for my parametric eq that, to my ears, seemed
to properly compensate for the improper eq.

I've also heard the same issue with some early 30s films and wondered
if some were produced using eq that was different from what was agreed
on later.  When I had cable and was a regular viewer of TCM, they
would play some films produced by RKO in RCA's Photophone system that
sounded like they had improper eq - noisy, "throaty", bass heavy sound
that seemed to sound more natural if I tweaked it with my parametric
eq.

On Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 6:17 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hi Don:
>
> I know for a fact that what you are saying is NOT true. Some movies have
> most or all dialog re-recorded separately from picture shoot, but others
> have most or all dialog recorded as the scenes are being shot. My late
> friend and mentor Bob Eberenz began his career as a dialog recordist in
> Hollywood. In those days (post-WWII 40's), many pictures were recorded
> live-action using a boom mic on a "fishpole." These mics were directional
> and the skill of the dialog recordist was being able to flip the mic in sync
> with a conversation. Boom mics were typically ribbon types, RCA and Western
> Electric each made models for this use. Later on, it became possible to
> "plant" mics around a set to pick up dialog. If you read articles about
> movie-sound today, sometimes recordists plant many mics and record many
> tracks to capture a scene live. In the olden days, according to Bob
> Eberenz's recollections, when dialog was filmed live, the set was declared
> "quiet," and everyone had to shut up and sit still when film was rolling.
> The film camera was in a silencer box, and boom equipment was kept well
> oiled and was designed for quiet movement (but, as I said, the mics were
> highly directional). The sound recordist typically sat at a "cart," which
> contained the mic preamp and usually built-in dialog EQ and sometimes a
> peak-limiter. The line-level signal was fed to the machine room, which could
> be blocks away at a large lot. Soundstage inputs were patched to dubbers for
> recording in the machine room.
>
> My bet is that most non-soundstage footage was dialog re-recorded in a
> controlled environment, but it was definitely possible to capture audible
> dialog in the field. One thing I've always wondered is if many or most
> "Soundies" (jazz shorts) were recorded live-sound or "lip-sync'd" to a
> soundtrack.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>