Winter 2017

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53 Q1 2017 / CINEMONTAGE 53 Q1 2017 / CINEMONTAGE F or the general public, "dubbing" in movies means replacing words, usually from the original language spoken by the on-screen actors to the language spoken by members of the audience. Some movies have very good dubbing while others do not. To the latter point, one of the first movies I worked on was a Filipino horror film that required almost the entire dialogue track to be post-synchronized. Time and money limitations forced us to race through the process with less than satisfactory sync results. The Daily Variety review of the film ended with: "Dubbing ranks with the worst of the 1970s Italian-Yugoslavian productions." In the movie business, however, dubbing has several meanings. As already mentioned, it can mean dialogue replacement from one language to another. It can also mean any dialogue replacement done in post-production (ADR); it can mean re-recording too; and it can mean making an exact copy from an original sound element. Similarly, a "dub" can mean a sound mix, the physical audio element that resulted from a mix, a specific element from a post-synchronization session, or an exact copy from an original sound element. A character in a movie who has been "dubbed" is a character whose voice was replaced with that of another. It was commonplace in movie musicals of old to use a different voice for singing — one more trained and polished than the original actor's. Marni Nixon (who passed away in July 2016) had a long career of providing the singing voice for such actresses as Deborah Kerr (The King and I, 1956), Natalie Wood (West Side Story, 1961), Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady, 1964) and many more. All of which is prologue to the question: Where did the word dubbing originate? It's listed in H.L. Mencken's classic work The American Language (1938) as one of the new words added from the business world, but Mencken did not give a definition or an origin. The word has no relationship with "dub" as in to confer knighthood ("I dub thee: Sir Lancelot"). That particular meaning is believed to have come from the medieval French word adouber, which meant "to dress or equip in armor." In fact, the Hollywood term was adopted from the phonograph industry, where it was jargon for "doubling," and originally meant to make a copy of the original. As reported by Kenneth F. Morgan in the 1931 Recording Sound for Motion Pictures: "In the days of soft wax, cylindrical records, duplicates were made by a doubling process consisting of a reproducing machine connected to several recording machines by means of pipes. Later, a mechanical pantographic arrangement was developed for duplication; and finally, copies were made wholesale by means of the electroplating process, with the result that dubbing was no longer necessary." The second, third and fourth editions of the American Cinematographer Manual (1966, '69 and '73) had chapters on sound wherein the word dubbing was only used to mean the process of re-recording or making a sound mix. To this day, the words "dubbing stage" are taken to mean a re- recording stage. Dubbing, as in voice replacement, can be traced back to an article that appeared in the July 1929 issue of Photoplay magazine. Entitled "The Truth About Voice Doubling," it was an exposé of the then-new Hollywood practice of replacing actor's voices with those of professional singers. But it also dealt with an issue critical to Hollywood back in the years 1928-29 — namely the conversion of silent films to talkies. When Paramount decided to convert The Canary Murder Case (1929) to a talkie, its star, Louise Brooks, had already departed for Europe, so another actress was hired to provide the voice. From the article: "Most of the doubling that Margaret Livingston did for Louise Brooks in The Canary Murder Case was accomplished by 'dubbing.' Miss Livingston took up a position before the 'mike' [sic] and watched the picture being run on the screen. If Miss Brooks came in a door and said, 'Hello, everybody, how are you this evening?' Miss Livingston watched her lips and spoke Miss Brooks' words into the microphone. "Thus a soundtrack was made and inserted in the film. And that operation is called 'dubbing.' "All synchronizations are dubbed in after the picture is finished. The production is edited and cut to exact running length, then the orchestra is assembled in the monitor room (a room usually the size of an average theatre!) and the score is played as the picture is run. The soundtrack thus obtained is 'dubbed' into the sound film or onto the record, depending upon which system is being used." While the article correctly notes that the audio recorded after the fact was incorporated into the finished film via dubbing (re-recording), it quickly became commonplace to use the term to also mean the act of voice replacement. Or, dubbing doubles into the dub. – R.J. Kizer The Canary Murder Case one-sheet. Paramount Pictures Dub Versions

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