The Music of Mango Sticky Rice, the Musical (Part 2)

For Part 2, I discuss some of the processes in detail, that we had to go through with making the music for this film.

The Class

A bit about the format of USC SCA 546 (Advanced Production III): This film was produced in a classroom setting. It was an extremely comprehensive one, where instructors of all different specialties in film-making sat in the same class to give advice or feedback to the teams. In the first half of the class, we went over procedures, watched footage of casting and dailies/edits, and discussed the projects as a class. In the 2nd half of the class, we would break off into our respective departments' classes (directing, producing, sound, editing, production design). I would attend the sound classes because I had to work so closely with the sound team in order for this film to come to life. 

Music + Sound Together

One of the biggest things that we faced in this collaborative effort was that the vocals, which are typically considered "music," was actually the "dialogue" in a musical film, which falls under "sound." Because we shared this aspect, it became clear that this was going to be an interesting scenario. What we agreed to do was record the actors' vocals in a recording studio using multiple microphones, because although typical vocal mics sound great for songs that you'd simply listen to, they might not sound natural on the screen.

So we recorded using a large diaphragm condenser microphone (Neumann U89), which is a typical vocal microphone; a small diaphragm condenser mic (Sennheiser 416), which is a boom mic that would be used on a production set for sound recording; and a lavalier mic, which we used for good measure but ended up not using at all. I edited the vocals with all microphones (keeping them separate from each other, of course), so that the sound team could decide which microphone recording they'd like to use for the footage. For Katie's character, we used the U89, and for Chris's, we went with the 416.

After the editing was done, I set up a Pro Tools session where each section of the music was separated and a click track was set up to give the actors a reference for timing when we were shooting on set. When you're filming someone lip syncing, you usually don't film the entire song at once. There might be different shots and movement, which is why we had to have the parts separated for when we needed them. We usually had a playback operator (Christopher Ortega) play the necessary parts on set, while I would watch the playback video and make sure that the actors were syncing correctly with timing and lyrics. A key point to note was that we had the actors be singing out loud during these times, so that it actually looks realistic with breathing and such. They're not just moving their mouths to the music.

Stay tuned for a discussion on "The Oner" in the next post!