What is ADR?
ADR is a less known area of sound engineering. But first things first. What does ADR stand for?
ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement. It is an art of replacing production sound with re-recorded dialogues in a studio environment.
Sometimes recording dialogue for animation movie or a video game we still call ADR. It is a standard way to address a dialogue recording in the industry. The correct way to describe ADR is an actual replacement of the line with the same content, but different recording.
In some productions, ADR can replace as much as 60% of the original dialogue.
Yes, it’s true.
We don’t record everything on a set, sorry. Why is it so important and why do we need it? In the next few steps, I will try to explain the function of ADR.
SELECTING THE LINES
ADR can be expensive, and both director and actors try to avoid it as much as possible.
First we need to understand why we need it at all. Imagine a scene where main characters are having a conversation outside.
The set is Ancient Greece.
When you listen back to the recordings you can hear passing planes in the background, maybe cars too. It is impossible to get rid of these sounds, so ADR is needed. This situation is one of many examples why ADR may be the only answer to your problems. Noisy recordings, faulty equipment or inexperienced sound recordist can cause more than a headache during a busy production.
A sound editor will check all on-set recordings and compile a list of ADR recommendations. It is crucial to get all the faulty sounds re-recorded the first time.
The whole process happens long after the filming has ended. Actors may be working on some other projects already. Getting them back to the studio costs a lot of money. It is important to remember that sometimes the director will decide to go with the original line. Even if the recording is bad. The performance will always take priority over quality.
The minute a director approves the replacement lines list it is time for the recording.
A standard session will need a sound recordist, director, and the actor. There may be more people required such as recording assistant, a creative team from the production or even a mixer if he or she wants to be involved. The actor under the supervision of the director will perform his/hers lines to the screen and will try to match earlier performance.
Sometimes the director will request extra, off-screen lines and these will need recording too.
It can be a stressful situation for the actor, as the performance should at least match the original. But it can be much harder to get into a character in the studio environment.
During the filming, the actors are in costume and on set. The whole atmosphere makes acting more natural and effortless.
There are many stories of upset actors walking out from ADR sessions and falling out with their directors.
And you, lonely sound engineer, are stuck in the middle of these heated arguments.
After the recording session, it is time for editing.
This book can come handy in the beginning. It should be a simple sync and clean up a task. The final session needs to match the picture as close as possible. And you want the audio ready for a mix. It is important to remember that there will be more than one take of each line, and all these you will have to edit and make available for the mixer. Editing ADR is a straightforward job as long as you remember to prepare the session to mixer’s liking. Good communication makes everything much easier.
After editing, the re-recorded dialogues are ready to for the mix. The director may want to try different takes and listen to them many times before making the final decision. Often the team will need to reverse to the original, as maybe the ADR does not match the original performance.
The hardest part will be to match the voice to the scene. That’s when the experience pays off and where the difference between the professional and amateur lies. ADR may not be as glamorous and exciting as other elements of production and post-production, but it is often needed to complete the project.
Make sure you finalize the replacement lines list before the recording starts. There is nothing worse than one more missing line to record after the actor has already left the building.
Originally published at mikemigas.com on January 28, 2017.