Quarantine post-production – Cinema express



The unexpected second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has once again crippled the nation. For the film industry which had just started to feel normal after sitting still for several months, announcing new lockdown regulations became a challenge. While film shoots have been disrupted, film professionals overseeing post-production sound and color grading processes are finding inventive ways out. “Unlike editors and VFX artists, who can work individually on their personal machines, dubbing requires the physical presence of actors and voice artists in the recording studio, making our job much more difficult during lockdown.” , explains Vignesh Guru, who has worked as a dubbing engineer on many films including Karnan and Sulthan, two great Tamil films which will be released under the big top weeks before the cinemas close.

Vignesh Gourou

Revealing that dubbing activities have been suspended for the time being to comply with state-imposed lockdown regulations, Vignesh explains that his team has adapted new practices to compensate for the drop in productivity. “Online dubbing has grown in importance in recent years. We’ve now used it on the second season of The family man, whose cast includes several Tamil artists, and with regulations prohibiting them from traveling to Mumbai, their dialogues were instead recorded in Chennai. Diction makers and coaches have joined a Zoom call to guide actors through the recording process. This practice is likely to become a norm, ”says Vignesh, whose work on Pa Ranjith’s book Sarpatta Parambarai, late SP Jananathan-director Laabam, and Sundar C Aranmanai 3 remains momentarily stopped.

T Uday Kumar, audiographer and mixing engineer, finds the road even more difficult, whose job, it is true, does not allow easy alternatives because the “sound mixing process requires that the team operate in studios equipped with industry approved public address systems ”. The curbs forced his team to stop work. “Given our mixing standards and specifications that are calibrated for movie theaters, we need a workstation configured with a 5.1 channel audio system. Once our work is done, we present our final sound mix to the filmmaker with theater-like sound specifications to help them judge better. Naturally, they only approve the final mix when they are confident that audiences will hear the film as intended. Temporarily shutting down the studios hampered our workflow, ”says Uday, whose sound mix works on films like Laabam and Nani-starrer To return Jagadish stay suspended. The work-from-home model is not a viable alternative in this case. “Reproducing the soundscape of a theater at home is a major technical challenge.


Uday, known for working on films such as Vada Chennai, Asuran, Saaho, and Viswasam, to name a few, points out that the pandemic has hurt the income of sound technicians. “In a normal year, we would be working on around 90 films. In 2020, that number has dropped to 60, resulting in a financial burden. Even if the government allows us to work, we will have to wait for the cinemas to reopen because producers tend to pay our dues just before the film is released after delivering the final release, ”Uday shares.

Sound designer and mixer Suren G agrees that it’s difficult for sound technicians to maintain their workflow without access to workstations in studios. “There are temporary solutions like adopting a basic stereo audio system for working from home, but we can hardly replicate the experience of working in a theater equipped with Dolby Atmos, which ensures that the smallest details do not slip through. unnoticed, ”shares Suren, whose filmography includes popular films like Darbar, psychopath, Soorarai Pottru, and Karnan. The sound designer adds that the foley process (by which everyday sound effects are recorded) has taken a hit. “Creating the ambience of the film and recording the sound by sound effects are major responsibilities for a sound designer. Our extensive library of pre-recorded sound effects – like rain, nature sounds, vehicles, fighting … – is useful during this time. However, the lockdown restrictions are still a big blow as we need at least five sound artists to help us record the steps, ”says Suren, whose upcoming films include Sivakarthikeyan. Doctor, Vijay Sethupathi-starrer Tughlaq Darbar, and Sudeep Kotigobba 3.

Suren G (third from left) with sound mixer Anthony BJ Ruban and director Pa Ranjith

These are challenges that also affect colorists. Prasath S, who worked as a colorist on Nizhal, Mandela, Sulthan, and the upcoming webseries, November story, says: “We need a big screen to understand the color palette of a film in its truest form. We are working on a system called Baselight which integrates a massive console, a high quality projector and a large screen. Theaters show movies using the direct front light of the projector, while movies on streaming services use the backlight of electronic devices to present the picture, and therefore, they tend to be brighter. Due to the fundamental difference between these two media, the format of the final deliverables must be customized, although the overall work style and technical requirements for color grading remain unchanged. Without a professional console, it’s difficult to progress in the color correction process, ”says Prasath, whose filmography includes popular films like Kaththi, Theri, Kaala, and Kabali, to only cite a few.

Prasath S

The colorist, who was forced to suspend work on Sarpatta Parambarai and the next Prithiviraj Sukumaran-starrer Bhramam, adds that a few software solutions make working from home easier, but they, as the mixers say, can hardly deliver the quality that a professional workstation can create. “Filmmakers and producers ask us for our expertise and we don’t want to compromise on quality. The only saving grace now is that there is no rush to release movies. Until some semblance of normalcy resumes, we all play the waiting game. “

It’s easier for publishers

The impact of the foreclosure on publishers has been less severe. Due to the relatively adaptable demands of publishing, publishers seem to have adapted to the new normal and moved desktops to their homes. Anthony L Ruben, who is currently working on Rajinikanth Annaatthe and Sivakarthikeyan Ayalaan, to says that technology has come to its rescue. “New features in editing software have allowed our team to work effortlessly from the comfort of our own homes. I’m working on multiple films while in lockdown, and thanks to advanced editing suites I’ve been able to share the work with other departments, making sure I don’t go off the rails. ”

Editor TS Suresh, known for his work in Maya and Tamizh Padam 2, supports Ruben’s point and adds, “I think the coordination between different departments has become transparent during the quarantine, as we all maintain a common excel sheet to track progress. With the migration of the entire workflow to the cloud, purchasing deliverables from VFX and other departments is now barrier-free and has, in fact, increased our productivity.



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