Monday, 4 July 2011

Tip #75: Don't forget the bonus audio commentary!

By Dan Parkes (Director)

It has become a reasonably recent phenomena: the indepth audio commentary with cast and crew explaining as you watch the film how and what went into making it. Apparantly the very first audio commentary was on the 1984 laserdisc version of the original "King Kong" movie, with film historian Ronald Haver. Then later in 1997 the DVD version of the film "Contact" contained a bonus audio commentary with cast and crew which at the time was considered a gimmick to show off the capacity of new DVD technology. Now it is almost expected on DVDs and Blu-Ray, with most cast and crew happy to provide one, although directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg have yet to record a commentary believing a film should speak for itself.

While often the source of parodies and used for entertainment value, audio commentaries can serve a very useful purpose -allowing behind-the-scenes glimpses and filmmaking tips as the scene unfolds before your eyes. No doubt there has been a lot of thought and hard work that has gone into the production and this can also be an occasion in which to point out possibly overlooked work done by cast and crew. Maybe there is an unknown backstory or message behind a piece of dialogue or a production design decision that can be highlighted.

Rider Strong and Eli Roth recording their
audio commentary for the "Cabin Fever" DVD.

The recording of an audio commentary uses essentially the same tips as outlined in the previous two blogs on ADR ( and Voice Over ( But here are some extra things to think about:
  1. Before recording your commentary think of as many cast and crew who might want to be involved
  2. Prepare beforehand by making notes of things you don't want to forget to mention
  3. If there is going to be more than one person speaking decide beforehand of any particular scene they might want to speak about so you can co-ordinate it.
  4. Have a method of syncing your audio commentary in post -using visual or audio cues at the beginning or end of the record session.
  5. During playback make sure the commentators are wearing headphones to listen to the film itself at low volume
  6. Commentaries do not have to be one hundred percent of the time -allow occassion for the original film audio to be heard.
  7. Once you have finished recording your commentary it may need to be edited (to remove mistakes etc)
  8. You will need to mix it with the original film's audio, with film's audio very low in the background but if there are moments of no commentary then bring it back up to almost full volume.
  9. Add it is a separate track on the DVD that can be selected via a DVD menu option.

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