Brian Bowles has been a dialogue and ADR Editor since 1996 when he got his start on Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut Tree’s Lounge. He's worked on documentaries, low-budget Indies, festival circuit darlings, award-winning TV series, Hollywood blockbusters, and everything in between.
"I really like working with the director and actors to help craft a performance while also doing the most invisible work possible so that the audience can let the story wash over them."
Brian, how did you get into doing what you’re doing?
Coming out of college with a solid understanding of how Protools worked and interacted with other systems, I was able to find a job in Sound Post pretty easily. Just happy to be doing anything in the film business. The ‘language’ of listening to the spoken word is something that has always clicked with me, and when I was given the opportunity to cut my first pieces of Dialogue I knew that I had found something that was a true calling. Working with actors to combine the art of performance with the craft of technical looping is another thing that comes very naturally to me. Actors are people, and I understand people.
What excites you about your job?
So many things that I’ve mentioned already, but being confident in my ability to make production track work so that I can save a director's favorite performance. Or being able to assure an actor that I only need one perfect syllable to fix a technical issue in an otherwise great performance, makes me really excited. Delivering tracks to a mixer and hearing them flow from the speakers on a mix stage knowing that I’ve made this job and therefore our whole job much easier… there’s nothing like it.
Brian, can you talk about your studio and working environment?
My studio whether at home or at a facility has always been about comfort and streamlining the editorial process so that I can execute my work without ever thinking about the equipment. I want my thoughts on how the material should flow together to be unencumbered.
Do you usually work on your own, or do you have an assistant?
The industry is constantly trying to minimize crew size. This is something that I am opposed to, I only work on jobs that have a dedicated assistant on the sound crew. I will not take a job otherwise.
What are the challenges do you experiencing in your work?
Every job has its challenges, be it schedule or conditions of the recordings or actor availability or working internationally across numerous time zones. Slow internet speeds, or natural disasters that compromise work environments. COVID-19 work restrictions that impact the onset experience for production recordists now have to be addressed in post-production. The list is as large as the day is long.
What are you currently working on?
American Rust for Showtime
American Rust (2021) Official Trailer | SHOWTIME
Can you describe your workflow?
My workflow depends on whether I’m cutting DX or ADR but they both begin in the same place, with a full assembly of the production audio multi track. My first step before making one cut or crossfade is to use Auto-Align Post to make sure everything I’m listening to is in phase and I can just edit and make the tracks flow. For ADR I will sift through every mic for every shot deciding what can be fixed in editing and what should be replaced with ADR. For DX editing I work scene by scene. Using the Boom tracks as the spine of the scene and fleshing out the DX with any and all microphones I might need from set to make sure the track sounds full and intelligible.
What state is a typical dialogue file in when you receive it?
It’s hard to say what typical is…If the job is being recorded on a soundstage there could be wind machines or wirework noise that has to be dealt with. Production could be shooting on a moving train with movement and wheel squeals and mismatches in tone to deal with. A lav could be buried in a costume and then the actors cross their arms obliterating the microphone… Production recordists have a real challenge to gather workable tracks. It’s my job to make sense of them and make their work shine while also delivering the performance of the actors.
And how would you describe a good dialogue recording?
A track that feels as organic as the location we are looking at. A full clear voice recorded well on a boom that has nice air around it and a clear tone around the lines to be able to edit the track into a smooth playback.
What makes a good dialogue editor in your opinion?
Someone with both a technical ear for what should or more importantly should NOT be replaced. Someone who understands how to deliver what the director is looking for without showing your hand by overworking the track. Understanding how the audience will be receiving the performance of the actors on-screen while also being incredibly attentive to the needs of the mixer and their schedule. We have a lot to juggle in our schedule and knowing what is important to deliver based on the job is critical.
Auto-Align Post has become a ubiquitous part of my process
How long do you usually get to deliver a project?
My schedule is job-dependent. A Hollywood blockbuster could afford me months of time to finesse my tracks. While an episodic series could have me on a tight 7-10 day cycle that includes triage, editorial, and ADR sessions.
How would you define a successful project?
A successful job is one where the crew is working well together, having fun being creative. Where this is the time needed to not only deliver the best tracks possible but also the time to be creative and collaborative. We work in a team-driven industry and there is nothing more important than teamwork.
What is your work-life balance working like during a project?
I try very hard to be able to put my work down at the end of the day and go home to loved ones and still have time to make a meal and talk and lounge and recharge. We all work very hard at what we do and I think the only way to stay healthy is to know that life is what we live and work is there to support this, not the other way around.
Tell us a horror story about a specifically challenging project you’ve been working on and how did the project end up?
I don’t like to delve into horror stories. We have all worked on really hard jobs for very challenging directors or with actors who can be less than forgiving. These jobs help shape you into the professionals that we are. If you can make it through a tough job with your head helps high, and continue onto another job? Then you were successful, and that is more important to me than remembering how hard something was and reliving that dark experience.
How did you discover Auto-Align Post?
A peer turned me on to Auto-Align Post and within the first minutes of using it, I bought my own license and instantly made it the first step on my creative process on every job I’ve done since.
No exceptions. I also require that anyone on my crew do that same thing. Auto-Align Post has become a ubiquitous part of my process
Which problems does Auto-Align Post help to fix?
Multi-channel recordings are getting wider and wider with lav mics being used on every actor that could possibly have something to say. Knowing that all of these channels are in perfect phase and can be used at any moment to help solve a problem is a lifesaver!
Please describe your experience with Auto-Align Post.
What more can I say? I happily use it on every frame of DX or ADR that leaves my hands for a mix.
What was your job like before you had Auto-Align Post?
I would spend a lot of time on the millisecond level aligning multitracks in order to be able to use as much of the recorded material as possible to be able to breathe as much life into my tracks as I could. AAP makes this process very simple. I can seamlessly get to the craft of editing without having to scan through waveforms on a micro-level.
What advice would you give to newcomers to the industry?
Ask questions and listen. None of us knew how to do our jobs when we started and even those of us who have been working for 25+ years have more to learn! Remember that this is a job, you are valuable and your time is worth money. Follow your gut, if something doesn’t feel right speak up and make your voice heard. There will be times you have to work hard but remember to laugh and build friendships, they last way longer than the paychecks ever will!