The impact of ADR on the quality of your film can be tremendous without a doubt. This is only possible if you do it correctly, in fact, if you don’t conduct the whole process well, people after watching your film will be like “what in the… was that!” – You get the point; things can go south really fast.
Capturing clean audio close enough to the one you captured on set is the main goal of ADR in film. Understanding what is ADR? Why do filmmakers need ADR? What goes into the whole process of recording ADR? and How to edit ADR to fit the needs of your film acts as the first stepping stone in achieving that goal. This post is here to actually help you answer all these questions. So let’s start right away.
What is ADR in film?
ADR is short for Automated Dialogue Replacement. Other people like to call it Additional Dialogue recording, which totally makes sense because as you’ll find out there is nothing automated while doing ADR.
In any case, these two all stand for one and the same thing which is; the process of replacing a part of the audio of the voice track of an actor with a new recording. This process usually comes into play in almost any film production.
Why is ADR recording used by filmmakers?
Most actors and filmmakers don’t enjoy the whole process of recording ADR. They would instead try as much as possible to capture good and clean audio on set. Here are a couple of reasons why filmmakers use ADR in films:
- Bad audio recording on set during filming. Sometimes the noise in a given location is way too loud to get clean audio like for instance, the sound of waves and wind on a beach. In this instance, it makes it hard for you to record good sound hence you will have to re-record every audio or at least some of it in a sound booth and edit it onto the film.
- Actors are in a position that is too far away to record the dialogue. This usually happens in wide shots where the sound recording equipment is way too far from the actors to capture clean audio.
- Change in the original lines of the script. So let’s say for instance in your original script there were a lot of swear words. The only way to fix this problem is through ADR where in most cases it will sound unnatural and ridiculous
- An actor in a film filling in for another actor. This is usually necessary if the original actor has some difficulties with his accent or rather pronouncing some given words. To improve/ correct this situation another actor will have to actually voice the part where the actor is having difficulties.
How to record ADR in film?
As easy as it may sound, you may not find it that easy to produce a good-looking and sounding ADR. To help you understand the whole process, here are a few steps you may have to take if you are ever to record ADR:
- Watch your film several times. This is to ensure that you have a clear understanding of which scenes require ADR and to enable you to create a clear schedule on when to contact your actors.
- Get yourself a space to record. This has to be a room free from noise, echo, and preferably a studio that has acoustic treatment (if you have the budget)
- Prep your actors beforehand. It is your responsibility to get your actor to give you their best performance. To achieve this it is best to create a similar mood experienced by your actors in the original setting during the shoot. You can actually achieve this by having some significant elements like props in that recording space.
- Survey the room to find the best place to put your microphone. The best practice is to place your microphone in close proximity to your actors. This is so as to record clean and crisp audio.
- Have as many takes as possible. As a filmmaker you may have heard this phrase before “One more take, just to be on the safe side.” Well yeah, you may need more than just one takes to be safe on ADR. What will surprise you is what you may get from your actors on take number 7!
- Crown it all in the editing room. This is where you perform the post-production process of your ADR and sync it to the parts of your film that requires it. N/B – Invest in good editing software, and you’ll thank me later!
Tips to recording better ADR sound
The intent of ADR is to keep the original production intact as much as possible. According to Greg Crawford, CAS, you can do this by observing the “3Ps” – Pitch, Performance, and Placement. To record better ADR, you should consider the following:
- Getting the right type of Microphones. Microphone selection when recording ADR plays a huge role. The rule of thumb here is to use the same type of microphone used on set during production.
- Match the recording room size as the original film set. While recording ADR it is important that the space you’re recording in matches your film set. This is because even with all the post-processing techniques anyone can always tell something is off.
Equipment used to record ADR in film
Regardless of the tools that you choose to use, your main goal while recording ADR is to capture audio close enough to the original recording. For you to actually pull out an ADR session you’ll need the following items:
- Microphone – Isn’t that obvious though?
- Computer – Somehow you’ll need a way to record the sound from your microphone, right? This will enable you to playback that picture and record that audio in sync.
- Audio interface – This is to connect the microphone to your computer.
- Software – This will allow you to record the lines in sync with the picture.
- Headphones – This specifically is for your actors to listen to the audio track recorded from a set
- Video Monitor – This will enable your actor to see the performance while they are reading their lines out.
How to seamlessly edit ADR in Film?
The best way to go about this is by using non-linear editing software. So what’s NLE software? Some of you may ask… Well, this is a computer program that gives you the ability as a video editor to make changes to a video or audio project without regard to the linear timeline. Now that, that’s out of the way, the following are steps you take while editing your ADR recording:
- Drag your ADR into the timeline of the NLE software of your choice.
- Add audio-designed effects (Parametric Equalizer) to adjust its frequency and gain accordingly.
- Add more elements of sound design based on the original setting of the clip and you’re good to go.
Examples of ADR in movies
Heartland (2007), ABC (CBS Distribution Television)
The Great Gatsby (2013), Warner Bros. Pictures
Imagine just ruining the chances of your film becoming the next big thing just because of an audio problem that something simple like ADR could fix! So sad, Right?
Now that you have a better understanding of what ADR is, what its function is, the tools to use, and how to do it seamlessly, it is my hope that the next time you’re going to make your film – you will use ADR in your film as a tool to improve the quality of your film.
Even much better the next time you’re watching a movie try to listen closely and see if you can spot the parts with ADR.