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electronic MUSICIAN

Home Brew ADR, Part Three

August 1, 2010

The situation recap: The studio is set up and ready to go. The talent is in the booth and aching to get this done so they can go to their Hollywood premiere. The director is sitting beside you in the control room wondering when you’re going to put this magazine down and start working. Well, it’s almost time to deliver the project, but we have just a couple of more things to cover. . . .

Dialog and Ambience

Make sure the actors mimic as much of the expansiveness or closeness of the scene as possible. For example, if the filmed scene shows the actor far away, using a close mic to record the dialog will probably sound odd. On the other hand, you have to stretch the aural truth a bit, because even though the actor is far away onscreen, the audience still needs to hear them. You may have to record the lines just a bit off mic—being careful to retain as much clarity and articulation as possible—and then add in some reverb to “fool” the ear into “hearing” the dialog a few feet back. The goal is always to be believable and transparent. Remember, great ADR does not exist to the audience. They should never notice how amazing your work is—they should just hear the lines naturally.

Getting the Lines Down

The process of the actual dialog recording can be torturously slow. It takes way longer to get fewer lines then anyone would ever expect, so be prepared. Also, there is no way to rush the talent. Sometimes, they are great at it, but the process can drive even the calmest individual to frustration.

The talent will watch the film clip over and over again, and try to recapture the feeling he or she had during the moment they actually acted out the scene— all the time trying to stay in sync with the picture so that their lip movements match the rerecorded dialog. It’s a battle! Usually, if the actor’s performance is close, you can often move the audio until it lines right up with the picture. The usual size of movement could be as small as sub frames. Subtlety is the key. There is no secret to doing this part—it’s all trial and error— but with practice and patience, you will get good at it.

A Little Help . . .

There are some tools that will make your life a bit easier. For example, there are Synchro Arts VocALign and Voice Q ADR that match a single audio part to another by using time compression/expansion. I like to mainly trust my ears and eyes more than automated items when matching ADR to the filmed scene, but sometimes it’s nice to have a machine to tell you what time of day it is.

Final Touches

Once I am done with the talent, I examine the environments he or she is in, and set up what I like to call the “re-re-recording” of the dialog. I set up a speaker somewhere in my studio that will represent the room where the scene takes place. I make sure I have the correct surfaces and space necessary for a good fit with the ambience shown in the film. Then, I put a mic similar to the one used on the set, and in about the same place the boom was positioned in relation to the actors. I feed the newly recorded ADR track into this speaker, and re-record the audio onto a new track. While this is an extra step, it gives me the correct ambience that I need for the voice without having to use reverb and/or delay to create an artificial room. I mix the “re-re-recorded” dialog track in with the new ADR track, and—voila—I have a great piece of dialog that the audience will never know was done off set.

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