A sound stage (also written soundstage) is a soundproof, hangar-like structure, building, or room, used for the production of theatrical film-making and television productions, usually located on a secured movie or television studio property.
A sound stage should not be confused with a silent stage. A sound stage is sound-proofed so that sound can be recorded along with the images. The recordings are known as "production sound." A silent stage is not soundproofed and is susceptible to outside noise interference; therefore, sound is not generally recorded. Because most sound in movies, other than dialogue, is added in post-production, this generally means that the main difference between the two is that sound stages are used for dialogue scenes, but silent stages are not. An alternative to production sound is to record additional dialogue during post-production using a technique known as dubbing.
Structures of this type were in use in the motion picture industry before the advent of sound recording. Early stages for silent movies were built, either as a three-wall open-roof set, or with large skylights, until electric lighting became powerful enough to expose film adequately.
Contemporary building requirements
With the advent of electric lights, enclosed stages were built in Hollywood and rapidly converted to sound stages with many mattresses placed on the walls. With the coming of the talkies in the late 1920s, it became necessary to enclose and fully soundproof these stages to eliminate noise and distractions from outside, including limiting access.
The ceilings and walls of the building containing the sound stage must be heavily soundproofed, so the structure must be sturdy and capable of accepting such additional features and loads, or a new building specifically designed with the features and to bear the loads is required, which often is the less expensive alternative to retrofitting an existing structure because of engineering issues.
Buildings without soundproofing still are referred to as silent stages and may be used where the dialog and other sounds are recorded as a separate operation. This separate operation usually involves the principal actors doing synchronized dialogue replacement voice recordings over a working cut of the film, specialized language actors doing a secondary language dubbing or for the filming of special effects.
A sound stage, unlike a silent stage, requires caution to avoid making noise anywhere within range of the audio recording equipment.
An enclosed stage makes it easier for the crew of a production to design and build the sets to exact specifications, precise scale, and detail. The art director of a production makes an architectural plan and carpenters build it. On a film the head electrician is credited as the gaffer and the assistant as the best boy, regardless of gender. After a set is painted, the set dresser furnishes it with everything that the set designer, under the direction of the art director, has selected for the interior.
Catwalks and ceiling lights
On a sound stage, the camera may be placed exactly where the director wants it. Achieving the desired lighting is easier because each stage has a metal framework with catwalks and lights suspended from the ceiling. This makes it easier for the cinematographer to have the grips position each flag or bounce and the lighting technicians to position each light to get exactly the correct lighting for every shot.
Cameras, rentals, and special techniques
Television production generally uses multiple cameras and cinema production generally uses a single camera. This is not universally true because the choice varies, very much on what the director is trying to achieve.
Rental of a sound stage entails an expensive process, but working on a sound stage saves time when setting up for production as long as access to all of the necessary technical equipment, personnel, and supplies is readily available. As all the scenes can be filmed on the sets inside the sound stage, using it also eliminates having to move the production from location to location.
With the use of blue screen or green screen techniques (whereby backgrounds are inserted electronically behind the actors in the finished film) and a sound stage, extensive control of the production process is achieved.
"Soundstage" of an acoustic recording
The term soundstage refers to the depth and richness of an audio recording and usually relates to the playback process. According to audiophiles, the quality of the playback is very much dependent upon how one is able to pick out different instruments, voices, vocal parts, and such exactly where they are located on an imaginary 2-dimensional or 3-dimensional field. The quality of this soundstage can enhance not only the listener's involvement in the recording, but also their overall perception of the stage.
Motion capture stage
The motion capture stage is a filming environment and sound stage dubbed "the volume", where motion capture, sound and film is simultaneously recorded. It is primarily used to produce live-action computer-generated imagery. There can be multiple technology employed in producing a digital capture of performances for film, television and video game industries.
Special effects before post-production
The latest technology and software can render basic previsualisation effects into scenes in real time while recording, before post-production, with the use of sensors detecting the position of actors and elements, in the staging of the frame. The director during filming can view what the composition of the picture is with basic digital objects and surfaces included and how it appears, assisting the creative process.
- Moylan, William: The Art of Recording - The Creative Resources of Music Production and Audio. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992
- Avatar 3D film employs cutting edge visual effects from the BBC, retrieved on 26 January 2010.