Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 1, 2010 | 3 comments

Interview with John Purcell at Waves

Waves has published an interview with another guy from its artists team. This time is not a sfx guy… it’s a dialogue editor! and a great one: John Purcell, author of the wonderful Dialogue Editing for Motion Pictures: A Guide to the Invisible Art book. A very cool read for anyone:

What’s the main goal of a dialogue editor?

A dialogue editor is responsible for every sound that was recorded during the shoot. He takes the more or less finished film from the picture editor, makes sense of the edited sounds, organizes them, and finds out what works and what doesn’t. The dialogue editor wades through the outtakes to find better articulations, quieter passages, sexier breaths, and less vulgar lip smacks. He replaces washy wide-shot sound with clean close-up takes, establishes depth in otherwise flat scenes, and edits tracks for maximum punch and clarity.

Dialogue editors also work to remove the filmmaking from the film. Dolly squeaks, camera noise, crew rustling, and light buzzes must go; otherwise, the magic of the movies is compromised. These editors help present the actors in their best light, quieting dentures, eliminating belly noises, and sobering slurred syllables. And when the production sound can’t be saved, the dialogue editor is involved in the ADR process, that is, the re-recording of voices in the studio, to replace problem field recordings or to beef up performances.

Dialogue editing is all of these things and more. Dialogue is what makes most films work. The dialogue editor makes the dialogue work.

What are some of the problems you encounter as a dialogue editor?

There are two basic kinds of problems: production problems and problems with the tracks. Production problems include not getting all the materials that you need to get started, receiving materials that aren’t to spec, endless changes after the picture is locked, actors who can’t perform ADR, inexperienced directors who don’t have a clue, and producers who don’t pay.

Track problems range from problematic recordings to noisy locations to clothing rustle with lavaliere mics to off-microphone shots, to scenes that just won’t cut. The list goes on and on.

The greatest frustration of any editor is that there’s rarely enough time or money to give the film the love it deserves.

Continue reading…


  1. “Not sound design specifically”

    But surely dialogue is the MOST IMPORTANT part of a film soundtracks design?

  2. I agree with that, Tim. I meant not sfx stuff and typical things we find on DS. I updated the post, so readers won’t be confused ;-)

  3. And a very inspiring dialogue editor indeed! His book is such a thorough and inspiring one to read! It made me enjoy and really value dialogue editing. Nice to see an interview of his here and wouldn’t mind seeing him featured for month on DS ; )

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *