We in the sound community sat on the edges of our sofas watching the 79th Academy Awards when the winner for Best Sound on a Motion Picture was announced ‐ and Michael Minkler, WCAS, Bob Beemer, CAS and Willie Burton, CAS took to the stage to accept their Oscars for some outstanding sound mixing on Dreamgirls. Minkler approached the podium saying, “First of all, we congratulate Bill Condon(writer/director), thank you so much. You crafted a film that was filled with dazzling performances, unforgettable songs from Henry Krieger, stylish effects from Richard Yawn, electrifying editing from Virginia Katz and some smokin’ sound!” Of those who were at the CAS awards when the trio won the award for Best Sound on Dreamgirls, Burton said, “Last year when I was honored with the Career Achievement award I kept saying, ‘My wife, my wife,’ and when I sat down at our table my wife said, ‘What, I don’t have a name?’ Her name is Jackie. Thank you, Jackie.” At the Academy Awards as Burton stood before the mic, he thanked his production team, “Cast and crew and my loving wife Jackie for her support.” Likewise, Beemer thanked his family and “The guys in the backroom.” Dreamgirls was based on a Broadway musical from 1981. A
story of dreams, greed, and romance, Dreamgirls featured a huge cast and big names like Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx and Danny Glover. This results in a lot of movement, so the challenge is to have the music deliver the desired emotional level at any moment.” To make sure camera, sound and Pro Tools could read the same time‐code, Burton said during production the Denecke GR‐1 Time‐Code sync generator was used as the master for generating timecode. “The output from the Pro Tools music playback system time‐code generator was connected to the input of the GR‐1. A “Y” cable was then used to connect the time‐code output of the GR‐1 to the Deva 5 recorder.
The time‐code signal was transmitted to the IFB receivers which were mounted on the time‐code slates.” Burton said when sound and camera rolled, the camera assistants would hit markers at the head of the take and that would read the time of day time‐code then at the end they would hit the markers again, and that would read the user bits, which would be the Pro tools time‐code for music playback. Having the two different time‐codes, Burton explained, made it easier for the editor to syn dialogue and music. Achieving a good sounding track required a lot of preparation time of the sound team. Burton said when
the AD called wrap, instead of leaving they would tear down everything ‐ the PA system, amplifiers, speakers and sound gear ‐ and move it all to the next location to be ready for the next morning. We did that numerous times throughout the shoot. “We’d set it up and test it out and make sure it was all ready to go. Of course we were tired, but it was great to be involved.” Burton said they didn’t always radio everybody. “We only used the wireless mics when absolutely necessary. We tried to boom most of the dialogue, but there were times it was impossible to get the boom in with 3 cameras. We used the boom overhead, plant mics and wireless mics.” His equipment consisted of a stereo mixer, the Deva V, adding the master Deneke time‐code generator was the only different piece of equipment used.
I think everyone gave 100 percent on that movie, because we were all so excited and happy to be working on such a great film.”