Will the studio make Christopher Nolan change Bane's voice in The Dark Knight Rises?

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If you've seen the trailer and read our report of the The Dark Knight Rises prologue you know there's one mumbly, bumbly problem: Bane. The Vader-faced villain is often very difficult to understand. So, does any of this have director Chris Nolan bothered? No, not really.


According to The Hollywood Reporter the late reports have made a lot of higher ups at Warner Bros. very nervous:

Sources close to the movie say Warner Bros. is very aware of the sound issue. One source working on the film says he is "scared to death" about "the Bane problem."

THR goes on to say that the studio would like Nolan to change the sound mix, but that Nolan has no intention of doing so apart from a few small changes. A source goes on to say in the THR article that Nolan doesn't want to just hand everything over to the audience, "[Nolan] doesn't dumb things down...You've got to pedal faster to keep up." To which we say, yeah we've seen Inception, and loved it. We're happy to play the mind games that come with a Nolan flick, but we'd just love to understand what that main bad guy is actually saying during said game.


Inception did win an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing, so maybe Nolan knows something we don't.



I don't know if it helps, but it looks like everyone isn't entirely clear on how the sound process works in movies, so I'll try to break it down and try to explain why this is going on. (I've worked around these various departments before in video/film so I've picked up most of the picture)

1. Pre-planning. Usually this DOESN'T happen in a large degree, but some films like the Coen Brothers' "Barton Fink" are structured around their sound design, meaning that in advance, the filmmakers and sound designers make plans for production to to get the sound. I'd guess for TDR, when they designed Bane as a character, they actively decided they wanted his voice to sound a specific way. Nolan and multiple producers had to sign off on it, so this wasn't just his decision.

2. On-set recording: Obviously, this is when sound's recorded on set. Typically, the sound department tries to record as much of they can in a given shot, with as little as 2 and as many as 8 tracks recorded with every shot. They use lavaliers and cardioid microphones to get the actors' voices as best as they can, with most other sound being there strictly for reference. (More on that at part 3).

This is where we got those reports of Bane's voice "sounding funny" on set. Why? Because they obviously couldn't alter it in a live-action environment—or, maybe they could, but that's not the point. As long as Bale, Hathaway, Oldman and company can hear Tom Hardy and act in response to his lines, it's not relevant to production. (Unless they WANTED them to hear the voice that way for some reason. I can't read minds.)

3. Sound Design: A huge percentage of what you hear in most movies happens here. Sound designers and foley artists create everything from footsteps, to crowds to street ambience as they shape the film to match our perceptions of sound. This is also where Alternate Dialogue Recording (Or "ADR") happens, (and already happened, I'm guessing). The sound designers figure out where in the film they need the actors to re-record their lines, and bring them in.

Almost everything but dialogue gets tossed away here in favor of the sound design team's work—even footsteps, body rustling or BREATHING gets created in post.

Without a doubt, Bane's voice was created here. Listening to the trailer, they've filtered the voice so that we're hearing what Bruce Wayne's supposed to hear through the mask. I don't know if they recorded inside Bane's mask originally or not, but the ultimate choices came at this point in the process.

4. The Mix: This is where the sound design team's work comes together, and what you hear in the final cut is created. They can tweak Bane's voice here, mostly moving its presence relative to the background in and out, and panning it left or right. Some alteration to voices can be done here, but the biggest thing for dialogue is just making sure the levels are set in relation to the other sound tracks.

So, when Nolan says he "plans to alter the mix," my guess is he's going to work with the Mixer to make Bane's dialogue stand out slightly more from the background track, but not DRAMATICALLY more or it would sound like a voiceover or radio play. This was one slight weakness I noticed in "Inception." Multiple people have pointed out they couldn't hear what Ken Watanabe was saying here and there, and I remember watching it and thinking "It's not the words, it's how they exist relative to the rest of the sound." The score would overtake the dialogue here and there, obscuring what he was saying.

So, you know, relax. These guys are pros, and the fact that you can hear him pretty cleanly in the trailer is probably a good sign that they're on the road to making sure you can understand him.

(Also, while we're on sound design, the choices on 'crowd noise' in this trailer are BOMB. Having first the arena noise, then "star spangled banner," then creepy chanting makes this SO tense.)