Voice of God

With the Aspen Center for Physics film almost completed (see several earlier posts, e.g. here, here, and here), various things get set in stone once and for all, so that other things can be built on top of them. At some point, I had to be certain of the final form of the voice over, so that Dave (the editor) can lay it in and time various transitions around it. This was done on Friday along with a huge rewrite of the whole film script, and lots of work on picking b-roll footage and other material to illustrate the film and create atmosphere. Once my co-producer/director Bob had glanced at it and made some helpful remarks (always good to have more eyeballs to spot any mistakes that could get frozen in) I was ready for Monday’s exercise – recording the final voice work. No turning back, no second chances, since we need to deliver the film this week.

While I’ve directed a bit before, I’ve not ever had the chance to direct a hugely experienced star actor, so this was going to be a blast! A while back, over food and drink at a party, my friend Harry Lennix (who loves contemporary physics – that’s in fact why we met, years ago) had generously agreed to do the voice narration for this project, and I was very pleased since it was his voice I had in mind since late August when it was clear this film might really happen. But I was not sure it would work since he was (and still is) in the middle of various projects and other commitments. At the time he was going off to do some work for the upcoming Superman film “Man of Steel”, followed by reshoots on his “H4” Shakespeare film project I told you about that a few posts ago) and so there was always the chance that our schedules might not fit well. I could not do the final recording earlier, and not any later… So the window was narrow. But, it all worked out, and at 11:00 on Monday, he showed up for the recording at the studio I’d arranged. Of course, being the experienced professional that he is, he hardly needed much direction from either Bob or me, since he hit the tone of the piece rather well at the outset. Once he was warmed up on the material, we were able to build off the basic read in a couple of directions, retaking paragraphs here and there to get the appropriate emphasis to match the intent of what I’d written. It was fun for everyone, and Bob and the sound engineer Bethany got an extra kick out of it since they were fans of the Dollhouse series, and his character Boyd Langton.

I took the shot above at the end of the session. Harry’s at the microphones, with his copy of the script – numbered paragraphs I’d prepared – and we are on the other side of the glass at the mixing desk, with a button we can press to make suggestions to him in the headphones he’s wearing. All very fun.

As you may know, Harry has quite the powerful voice, and so we went with two tones as possibilities. First there’s the Voice of God tone, very dramatic and powerful, and then there’s the more conversational tone, where the power is still there, but it is being held just beneath the surface. We did recordings of both versions in case we changed our minds about which better fits the tone of the film.

So, the voice tracks are with the editor and being dropped in today (we spent time after going through and selecting the ones we wanted), along with lots of other things for the penultimate cut before the last stages of post-production. (I’m going for a quiet overall feel for the film, and so the more conversational tone is the one we used.) Late tonight I will see this penultimate cut and, except for some tiny adjustments here and there (if any at all), I expect I will give final approval to lock picture and render the final product and deliver it. It has been fun, but it’ll be a relief to get it all done and move back to getting more work done on my other projects…


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