Back on October 31st, 2021 when we arrived in Luxembourg to work on the final sound mix for "My Love Affair With Marriage", we said to ourselves, "in three weeks we'll return to New York with a finished film!"
But suddenly our sound studio, Philophon Studios, had a scheduling crisis and had to postpone our second week of mixing to early January. We went back to New York empty handed, but with hope that this delay would give us distance to better fine-tune the film.
We could not wait for January 1st, our travel date, to come soon enough. Then, on December 27th I woke up with a scratchy throat and immediately went to get tested. My PCR came back Covid positive. On December 29th Sturgis tested positive, too. Since we were vaccinated and boosted, we only suffered briefly and in 3 days I was biking 15 miles to the Brooklyn studio and back. BUT traveling to Luxembourg on January 1st was off the table. We rescheduled the flight for January 8th and held our breaths. I tested negative on January 3rd, but Sturgis kept testing positive until just before departure. Whew.
At the top of the screen is the film's timecode: hours, minutes, seconds and frames (24 frames per second)
We made it to Luxembourg and on Monday January 10th, insanely jet-lagged, dove deeply into work with our re-recording mixer Loïc Collignon. The sound was all in place: the voiceover work by our 30 actors and singers, the instrumental recordings of Kristian Sensini's songs and score, the Foley sound effects created by Christophe Burdet, and the sound design by Pierre Vedovato. Together we had over 1,000 separate tracks of sound. Loïc's job was to mix everything together into a cohesive whole. In November he had done a rough mix. Now, we had one week to address the details and refine the existing mix.
Loïc and a few of his sound tracks
You must know that sound-wise “My Love Affair With Marriage” is a very complex film. That’s why early on we decided to make it in Dolby 7.1 surround sound, one of the most advanced cinema sound systems to date. Some people laughed at us for making a small-budget indie film in 7.1, as if having magnificent sound was disproportionally ambitious compared to our budget.
“Who do you think you are?” they said, “a big Hollywood franchise movie?"
But 7.1 sound doesn’t just serve big Hollywood franchise movies with car chases, explosions, and gun shots. I strongly believe that smaller, more quiet indie films can benefit from 7.1 more than big Hollywood movies which are already too loud. Please note - “My Love Affair With Marriage” is NOT a quiet movie. It has 24 songs, two kinds of musical scores, two different voiceovers and 30 speaking and singing characters. How to manage this sonar complexity so that the music and sound effects have full impact, but the dialogue is clear and understandable was put into Loïc's hands.
Zelma, Bo, and a cacophony of sound
Loïc Collignon has worked on over 70 film and television projects and approaches each one with the ear of a master sound-artist, his vast experience informing and guiding his decisions. We all agreed that we wanted to make the viewing of the film in a movie theater a thrilling experience. If people made the effort to see "My Love Affair With Marriage" in a theater, we wanted to reward them with full immersive sound.
To achieve this, Loïc felt he had to break some sound-mixing conventions. For example, there is a “rule” that narrating voiceovers (VOs) must be placed in the center of the screen. For our main character’s VO this "rule” worked, but we also had narration by another character who was in some ways omnipresent but hard to pin down: Biology. And Loïc made some very exciting choices with that voiceover.
Front: Signe, Loïc. Rear: Producer Raoul Nadalet, Producer Sturgis Warner, ADR Recordist Anthony Juret
While working with Loïc we saw how the tracks of songs got layered in the surround system. Some instruments on the left side of the screen were calling to the right side and other instruments on the right responded to the call. Or sound effects, like footsteps, would follow the characters as they moved from one side of the screen to the other. Loïc worked with depth bringing some sounds forward, pushing others to the rear. The musical score was also layered into different speakers so you'd never be sure where the next music cue would come from.
Loïc is highly respected in the industry
We learned a lot from Loïc about sound, not just the artistic side, but also the deeply technical: How sound waves interact with the material world. How we perceive certain sounds and why. Or bass. Why people love bass so much. How too much bass can mask a human voice and distort other layers of sound. Where to sit in a movie theater to get the best enjoyment of the sound. Our five days with Loïc was a lot of learning as well as the excitement of seeing the film finally come together as one - sound and picture.
Signe at the long lunch-room table where all the Philophon sound artists share meals together along with their director/producer clients. Most of the conversations are in French.
Then we had to fly to Riga via Milan to work on the DCP (Digital Cinema Package, the accepted screening format for movie theaters) with Raimonds Luzinskis and Pēteris Sudakovs at Studio Locomotive. I worried that a strike of Italian transportation workers, weather, positive Covid tests or cascading flight cancellations would prevent us from going, but in these strange times when plans unravel on a dime, we arrived in Latvia precisely as scheduled and on Monday January 17th we began work on the master digital file of the film while Latvia's 3rd strongest wind-storm of the last 100 years raged and Riga's streets and sidewalks were covered in treacherous ice.
But that's another story about which we'll write you soon.
Thank you for your support!
Signe, Sturgis and the entire "My Love Affair With Marriage" Team