Did you know that a high percentage of dialogue in a film or TV show wasn’t recorded when the actor was performing what you’re seeing on screen? And sometimes it’s not even the same actor. Instead this was recorded in a studio during the post production process, called ADR.

What is ADR

ADR stands for Automated Dialog Replacement. This is the process of recording  dialogue that has been either lost or left out of the recordings that were done on the day, on location, on the original film set.

For example, while filming on set, there will be location sound picking up all dialogue and audio on the day, but often this audio is not used in the final mix as the recordings can be easily damaged by background noise, wind, or even the sound of a plane flying overhead that wouldn’t ruin the on screen footage but would compromise the quality of the audio. The actors will then have to re record their lines in an ADR session in a studio. The sound engineers would then match the recordings to the existing audio and try match it up as close as possible. Choice of microphones, eq settings, the actor’s distance (proximity) to the microphone and the actors actual tone will play a big role in successfully matching the audio.

An interesting use of ADR that we experienced here at Cosher Recording Studios, was  for a German film recently. It was only noticed after the filming had been completed that the actual accent of one of the actors was historically incorrect as it would have been more of a “Swiss German” as opposed to the German that was used. A different actor was called in to do the ADR recording, correcting the dialogue and accent while the original actor remained on screen.

Why we need it

ADR has been used historically for quite a number of reasons. Initially it was used in musicals, especially in the case where the headline actor either couldn’t sing or was unable to on a particular shoot day.

The modern context sees it used in a few very specific circumstances.

As mentioned earlier – during action scenes you will need to re-record the dialogue to mix it in with the action, this will be done post shoot as ADR.

The same applies with animation. A green suit with facial pads will be put onto the actors faces on shoot days to catch their facial movements, but much of the dialogue audio will be redone and added post shoot.

Ever watched a badly dubbed film? Whilst sometimes done ironically, it’s still considered ADR when you’re doing dubbing.

How it’s done

ADR is very similar to standard vocal recording, with one major difference – the voice actors have to be able to view a screen upon which the scene is playing out as they record the vocal parts.

This is done for a number of reasons.

Firstly, they have to be able to match the movement of their lips on screen to their vocal performance in the booth.

Secondly, they also need to be able to properly emote the scene. Without seeing the action there can be no real emotional impetus put behind the voice.

Where dubbing is concerned, the voice actor and recording engineer have as slightly more challenging job, because the actor has to read a script, watch the scene, and match their words to a language not their own, which can often lead to a great many retakes.

Types of ADR

ADR comes in a few different forms, some which we’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, some which we haven’t.

Post sync – The straight process of putting dialogue into the piece using a voice actor or the original actor to re-do the scripted lines as done in the scene.

Rythmo band – An originally Canadian process whereby 35mm film is used with written dialogue on it (done in india ink, a black outlining ink), which allows the actor to read in exact synchronisation with the film as he or she is recording.

Dubbing – The use of a voice actor to re-do lines either in a different language, or in the case of UN dubbing, to relay information in a foreign language or informative piece.

The tools of the trade

For ADR it is advised to use the same or similar microphones that would need to be matched from the original recordings. This is usually easy to attain but takes a bit of planning in advance. If the same microphones are not available or if an improvement is needed, then it would be advised to use a normal condenser microphone in a room as soundproof and dead as possible so that the engineer can manipulate the recordings to match the existing audio. To manipulate the audio an engineer would need a variety of plug-ins like EQ compressor, reverb, and a DAW with video capabilities (like protools). A big tv monitor would be helpful for the Voice actor.

The use of reverb is quite important in this process, although this is more of a process done in final mix, it is good to be aware of it throughout the process to make sure the ADR recordings are heading in the right direction.

How we can help

At Cosher Recording Studios based in Cape Town, we do significant voiceover work, and this includes ADR. Our A and B studios have screens which will allow voice actors to follow the action closely, so that they can sync up perfectly.

Added to this are industry standard software, hardware, microphones and monitoring, meaning you can be assured of great results when recording your ADR with us.