F*ck it, we’ll do it live!
October 10, 2018 12:25 PM   Subscribe

On Warner Bros.’ remake of “A Star Is Born,” actor-director Bradley Cooper and co-star Lady Gaga refused to settle for the traditional practice of pre-recording their songs and later lip-synching on set. Instead, they embraced the more risky approach of performing the movie’s songs live. The studio was aware of the danger, but with the help of state-of-the-art technology, a dedicated crew and some of the most innovative sound professionals around, Cooper and his team pulled it off.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (43 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
But were they in EXTREME CLOSEUP?
posted by ChuraChura at 12:37 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


Reader, they were.
posted by maxsparber at 12:39 PM on October 10 [9 favorites]


Lady Gaga is one of those performers where the studio tracks sounded really dull to me compared to the TV appearance stuff with a studio audience that was circulating around. That's not true for everyone, but she's one of those performers who can make the rough edges and ad libs for the audience really work for her.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:41 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


can someone with a greater technical understanding of the issues here explain this quote:

Film sound generally mixes work from eight tracks — dialogue, effects, ambience and so on. For this project, Morrow used two 32-channel mixing boards and was recording more than 60 unique tracks at a time.

posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:42 PM on October 10


I understand that this is a remake with supernova star power and Lady Gaga’s biggest film debut and lots of music and so forth, but man I did not get the marketing for it. In the trailers, what little conflict was seemingly resolved in a flash, based purely on sentimentality. They were like car commercials, or for Coca-Cola.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:48 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


Done also with the recent Les Miserables movie, IIRC?
posted by Melismata at 12:49 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


can someone with a greater technical understanding of the issues here explain this quote:


When you record sound for a movie, you try to get different elements of the film in isolation onto a track, like a really clean vocal track, as an example, so that you have the greatest flexibility in mixing.

Because they were recording live music, they were recording a lot of elements onto their own tracks -- guitars, drums, audience sounds, piano, etc.

I've known some sound guys and they can be extremely fussy about getting the recording just right, so imagine this was a technical and logistical challenge.
posted by maxsparber at 12:50 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


I've worked a tiny bit in both worlds—studio recording and film recording—and the thought of combining those two at this scale gives me tummy troubles. HUGE props to the engineers who pulled this off. I'm gonna be listening extra close when I see this now.
posted by Maaik at 12:53 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Done also with the recent Les Miserables movie, IIRC?

I may be wrong, but I thought that it was only the singing that was done live. The music would have been pre-recorded (played on set?).
posted by acidnova at 1:00 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I've known some sound guys and they can be extremely fussy about getting the recording just right, so imagine this was a technical and logistical challenge.

Yep, many, many years ago I was one of those sound guys on a movie set and this is true.

The overall gist is they recorded a "sonic palette" of over 60 tracks in real time, which is quite frankly insane. You're probably familiar with the image of a mixing board like this, which is a 24 channel mixing board. So imagine a 60 channel mixing board, which looks like this and now imagine having to record a clean sound for each channel and *then* in the editing stage controlling the volume, balance, EQ, etc. for each channel.

Most sound crews would run screaming at the prospect of having one chance to get the recording right (rather than do it in the relative safety and controlled environment of a studio).
posted by jeremias at 1:02 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I can see it being less insane if they just had some live sound mixers on set. There must have been a separate music producer, apart from the sound director, right?

I have zero interest in the movie, but I'm glad to hear they went for this approach. It's basically a concert movie with a plot and high production values, right? It's nice as a total rejection of the last decade's ProTools, snap-everything-to-grid approach.

It actually really, really sucks that they couldn't just play live, amplified shows, for fear of people recording shit and leaking it on their phones. The audience and the performers would have been able to react to each other in a really natural way, and I think that would have been even better. I guess you can't easily confiscate phones from a crowd of, like, 10,000 people.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:05 PM on October 10


Soooooo.... they had to do all this because they wanted to prevent the real audiences, whose labor they were relying on for the film, from "leaking" the music online before the movie was released. That's... that's why.
posted by odinsdream at 1:09 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Done also with the recent Les Miserables movie, IIRC?

I may be wrong, but I thought that it was only the singing that was done live. The music would have been pre-recorded (played on set?).


If I remember correctly, there was a live pianist playing, only audible to the actor through an earpiece, while the cameras rolled. The orchestra recorded over the piano track.
posted by Maaik at 1:11 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Paul McCartney did this for his film Give My Regards to Broad Street, (with George Martin!)
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:12 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


they had to do all this because they wanted to prevent the real audiences, whose labor they were relying on for the film, from "leaking" the music online before the movie was released.

I mean, they were making a film, so no, the "real audience" is the folks who show up in the theater. The extras are being compensated for their labor and aren't entitled to the screenwriter's, director's, actor's performances or IP to disseminate however they want. It's a movie, these weren't real concerts.
posted by Maaik at 1:15 PM on October 10 [23 favorites]


Sound mixer Steve Morrow was responsible for wiring up mics wherever the scene took the performers, including performances at music festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella...

I'm just going off what the article says, which seems to indicate they used real crowds at real music festivals, and they probably didn't pay them all as extras, rather relying on some blanket permission waiver that being a ticketed patron of such an event would cover.
posted by odinsdream at 1:18 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Soooooo.... they had to do all this because they wanted to prevent the real audiences, whose labor they were relying on for the film, from "leaking" the music online before the movie was released.

I don't think so. I think it was the "authenticity" they were after? Otherwise they could just lip sync to music too quiet for the audience to hear and that would've been fine without all the hassle of actually recording any audio.

I can see it being less insane if they just had some live sound mixers on set.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but would mixing live have been worth anything? You'd have to do it all over again in post anyway and you'd want as many isolated tracks as you could get.
posted by ODiV at 1:25 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


and these same "uncompensated actors" chose to use their time at a music festival they had presumably paid to attend to watch an actor and a singer do what would have looked like lip synching without a backing track? i dont have a ton of sympathy for them.

does it really all come down to a choice between real/live audiences without amplified sound vs real/live audio with amplified sound but needing to do so in a sterile or inauthentic way? like they could have hired 10k extras and done it at a non-coachella weekend. that must have been more costly or difficult than the option they ended up choosing.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:28 PM on October 10


Back in the 70's there was a huge concert in Phoenix that was specifically to be used as the crowd scenes for the then remake of A Star is Born featuring Kris Kristofferson and that Barbara Streisand. I didn't go so I can't tell you whether either star was present.

Oh look it's right here!
posted by evilDoug at 1:28 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but would mixing live have been worth anything? You'd have to do it all over again in post anyway and you'd want as many isolated tracks as you could get.

Now that you mention it, I don't know? I guess I meant that as more of a question. I mean, maybe you wouldn't need a live sound mixer, but wouldn't the music have been produced separately from the rest of the soundtrack anyway? They make it sound daunting to be juggling dozens of tracks, but if most of that is just instruments (like the 10 tracks or whatever for drums alone), wouldn't the music production people have been on top of that?

I feel like I've failed at reading comprehension somehow. I just don't understand what makes this so daunting for the sound mixer, unless they had to handle all the music production on top of everything else.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:32 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]




I mean, the audience knew they were signing up to be extras, not to attend a concert. It was on Coachella grounds but not at the festival itself.
posted by mosst at 1:33 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


They filmed for several nights at the Greek in LA (where they sing "Shallow" the first time) and the crowds were full of Gaga fans who donated ten bucks to charity to be there. She did some (amplified) performances of her own songs between takes, and did a meet-and-greet at the end. They did something similar during the Coachella off-week as well. These extras were clearly thrilled to be there. Then they filmed for *eight minutes* before Willie Nelson's set at Stagecoach and *four minutes* before Kris Kristofferson's set at Glastonbury, which is hardly an imposition on any real, paying festival-goers.
posted by acidic at 1:36 PM on October 10 [11 favorites]


A Star Is Born's Sound Mixer On This Unusual Set. An interview with Steve Morrow on mpaa.org
posted by soundguy99 at 1:42 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


and that Barbara Streisand

I swear I've heard of proofreading.
posted by evilDoug at 1:48 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


I guess you can't easily confiscate phones from a crowd of, like, 10,000 people.

You can, for various definitions of easily.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:51 PM on October 10


can someone with a greater technical understanding of the issues here explain this quote:

Film sound generally mixes work from eight tracks — dialogue, effects, ambience and so on. For this project, Morrow used two 32-channel mixing boards and was recording more than 60 unique tracks at a time.


I'm not an expert but basically, I think, they are making a smallish scale indie type film but had a sound mix like some kinda blockbusting / sf epic / war movie. But instead of loads and loads of gunshots, splosions, tank/spaceship/whatever, shouts, etc etc all layered on top of each other, it's loads and loads of instruments, singing tracks, crowd etc.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:33 PM on October 10


Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but would mixing live have been worth anything? You'd have to do it all over again in post anyway and you'd want as many isolated tracks as you could get.

That's a good question. If they wanted to get a "live" take, they would almost certainly want at least a monitor mix for the performers.

One wonders to what degree they went "real". They'd have to draw the line somewhere to keep from going totally insane, right?
posted by billjings at 2:36 PM on October 10


Oh right, you'd want to be able to hear what you're doing at least yeah. But I'm assuming they'd redo the mix all in post anyway because you're going to want something different in a film vs. live on the monitors.

can someone with a greater technical understanding of the issues here explain this quote:

Film sound generally mixes work from eight tracks — dialogue, effects, ambience and so on. For this project, Morrow used two 32-channel mixing boards and was recording more than 60 unique tracks at a time.


I'm not an expert but basically, I think, they are making a smallish scale indie type film but had a sound mix like some kinda blockbusting / sf epic / war movie. But instead of loads and loads of gunshots, splosions, tank/spaceship/whatever, shouts, etc etc all layered on top of each other, it's loads and loads of instruments, singing tracks, crowd etc.


It's the amount of tracks they're recording live that's the big deal. It's kind of weird they say "eight tracks" and then go on to mention stuff you'd do in post like effects since some films' audio mixes are definitely going to make use of a ton of tracks and that's not what's unique here. It's a concert recording and a film shoot with all the challenges and complications of both.
posted by ODiV at 2:49 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


"At Long Last Love" was filmed live. It didn't help.
posted by aurelian at 3:33 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


There is not 'a' mix, there is a base theater mix, (probably multiple) Imax size mix, home theater 5.1, home theater 7.1, BluRay Mix, DVD mix, cable mix, broadcast tv mix, youtube mix, at least. Which is a big reason why a local live mix would work for maybe one, until there's an effect needed due to a new required edit.

Went looking for a photo of the Todd AO/WB(?) suite which is not just impressive it's mind boggling (this is not an exceptional console) but do not find.
posted by sammyo at 4:11 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


can someone with a greater technical understanding of the issues here explain this quote:

Film sound generally mixes work from eight tracks — dialogue, effects, ambience and so on. For this project, Morrow used two 32-channel mixing boards and was recording more than 60 unique tracks at a time.


Um. 60 < 32x2

That said, would a true “live” recording to replicate someone’s experience need more than 2 microphones (one for each ear)?
posted by skyscraper at 5:39 PM on October 10


Um. 60 < 32x2

I assume that's why it says "more than 60 unique tracks at a time," since apparently they had 64 available but didn't always use them all (they probably used some of the boards' channels for effects and whatnot).

That said, would a true “live” recording to replicate someone’s experience need more than 2 microphones (one for each ear)?

Nope. You'd just get the experience of that one person in whatever location they happened to be standing in. As just one example, here's a video of a country music concert filmed with one camera and a mic setup like what you're describing. I think it's great, because I love drums. But you can see how it might not be what they were going for with the GaGa/Cooper film.
posted by The World Famous at 6:23 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


I've known some sound guys and they can be extremely fussy about getting the recording just right

I don't think you used enough "extremely"s in that sentence.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 9:47 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


Godfuckingdamnit, I just want a remake that centers the female lead as a subject and not an object for a change.

I like the dynamics and chemistry between the two of them (from what I can tell from the trailer and clips) but the "girl needs MAN to tell her she's beautiful" trope utterly ruins it for me. Just. Fucking. Stop. It.
posted by desuetude at 11:27 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


I need someone to do some reporting on why I can't escape talk about this stupid movie. How much is organic an how much is push by the studio?
posted by runcibleshaw at 5:01 AM on October 11


100% push by the studio.
posted by The World Famous at 8:59 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


(Well, except for my comments here. I swear I'm independent and organic, and the rest of you are studio stooges.)
posted by The World Famous at 9:00 AM on October 11


Shocking, I know, that a film starring an international pop singer with a huge and rabid fan base would be something you'd hear about more than a couple times.
posted by Maaik at 9:31 AM on October 11


We have come a long way from the days that James Brown ended up recording his song in Blues Brothers live because he was so unfamiliar with lip-syncing. Hopefully we reached a peak with Glee, which made a point of making it sound like the recording was made in an anechoic chamber. I would really love more live sound in movies and TV.
posted by wnissen at 9:37 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, that kind of thing always really sucked the enjoyment out of the show "Nashville" for me. I mean, that along with a lot of the other things about that show
posted by Maaik at 9:58 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


It's a movie I had zero interest in but was happy to take my partner and her friend to. I love live music. The movie itself did nothing for me but a couple of the performances gave me goosebumps. Mission accomplished, I think.
posted by SpiffyRob at 12:55 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]




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