When it comes time to sell your movie you don’t want to be limited to English speaking audiences only. It is true that some countries like Sweden thrive on using captions, but others, notably Germany, don’t want to hear a trace of English. In other parts of the world, where literacy and TV sizes limit the acceptance of language captioning, a native tongue version is required.
There are companies that specialize in replacing dialog with regional languages, but they need a properly prepared set of audio files.
The M&E is essentially the film’s soundscape with the English language dialogue muted. The challenge is that muting dialog also mutes any location sound effects, clothing, and room tone. This version is considered “unfilled” and is not suitable for foreign dubbing.
My job becomes one of reconstructive surgery. Production effects from a film’s dialogue stem are combined with additional foley. Room tones are pulled from production, extended and blended. The clothing pass is turned up to add more life to the actor’s movements. Then the film goes through a quality control pass where the original (Director approved) mix is slightly adjusted to accommodate the new sounds. At this point the M&E is considered “fully-filled,” and may be suitable for foreign dubbing.
Elements like ambiances, walla, diegetic music, and background radio chatter can be tricky. Often these sounds are so deep in the mix that the words are indistinguishable. Other times they can be understood if the viewer is paying attention. In cases like this, I can prepare an alternate track with English walla accents and let the foreign language dub house decide if they want to use them, or replace them.
The process of creating an M&E from an improperly prepared audio session can be tedious and expensive. There are several things which can be done during production and audio editorial to reduce the time needed to make a fully-filled M&E. They include:
In many cases you may not know if your film will be attractive to an international audience, or budgets may be tight, and so you want to wait on the M&E. That’s fine. If we win these battles up front, then we can easily return to the M&E at a later time.
It’s your sound… made clear… in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, etc.