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.
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.