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Jungle Studios’ Guide to ADR


Sound designer Stuart Allen-Hynd breaks down the best use cases for automated dialogue replacement and what to look out for

Jungle Studios’ Guide to ADR

Automated dialogue replacement (ADR) - sometimes referred to as post syncing or voice dubbing - is the process of re-recording dialogue during post-production in order to dub new dialogue over the original take. It is often used to replace lines that are inaudible on set, to correct any mistakes made during filming, or to change languages.

With years of ADR session experience working on big movies such as Turning Red, The Chair, and Against The Ice as well as Oscar nominated animations and star studded commercials with actors including Oscar Isaac, Sandra Oh and Joe Cole, Jungle Studios is well set up to deliver the highest quality ADR. 

In this guide, sound designer Stuart Allen-Hynd takes you through how ADR work can best be utilised, what your options are and what you can expect when incorporating ADR into your project.

In what cases should you use ADR?

When dialogue is recorded on set, it’s often impossible not to capture external sounds. For example, helicopters flying overhead or an ambulance in the distance, even the noise of a generator in the background. All these sounds can bleed onto the take and ultimately ruin an actor's performance. The actor will then need to re-record the lines in an audio post studio, repeating the lines as they did on set to capture a clear recording.

For us sound engineers, it gives us more flexibility when it comes to the mix, adjusting the levels with more clarity, without having to increase the level of that ambulance in the distance!

The other case in which ADR might be needed is if the director decides to change or add a new line to the script. If you can’t see the actor’s lips, you can get away with this, but with the face in shot, it's often difficult or impossible to re-sync.

What elements make for successful ADR work?

A key element for successful ADR work is the actor's performance. The actor needs to sonically re-create their performance from set, with the same energy, tone and movement. Without this performance, it can be difficult to match the new lines against what was previously recorded on set. It’s often helpful to play the actor the edit of the scene so they can get a feel for the mood, tone and energy. They might read along with the lines before to help find the pace and intonation of the new line. It might be helpful to dim the lights… whatever the actor needs to get back into character. We as engineers are there to support them.

At Jungle Studios we also have a new camera rig setup that not only allows us to track the actor over Zoom, but record a good reference/image for lip sync at various sizes and frame rates, whilst also tracking the timecode. This is particularly useful for recording dialogue for animation, as the animators often need a reference image, to help with lip sync. 

What options are there when it comes to style and budget?

Depending on how many lines there are, it might be better to split the ADR session over several days to allow time for the actor to rest and recover. The last project I did for a show called Black Ops was split over two half days which worked well for the actor. ADR sessions can be quite energy consuming, and the last thing you want is the performance level to drop, due to a fatigued actor.

How has ADR evolved over the last decade? 

The studio techniques haven’t changed much over the last decade, however the remote aspect has. In the last session I did, the actor was with me in London, the sound studio mixing the film was in New York and the director was in Los Angeles. All were able to speak to each other, give feedback and check for lip sync with very little latency. It is amazing what the internet has allowed us to do!

What does a typical timeline look like?

Often ADR sessions are booked well in advance, so this gives us enough time to prepare and load in any necessary elements. During the session, the only people communicating are the actor, director and maybe a voice coach. The rest of the team generally gives little input.

Depending on who is mixing and editing the project, they will need the files after the session, but that takes very little time to get exported and uploaded.

What else should be considered?

What I have noticed about working on ADR projects is they are completely different to recording VOs for commercials. It’s more about recording a feeling in how a line is delivered, as opposed to brand clarity where the objective is to sell a product. Sometimes an actor may say a line whilst warming up which might be the ‘perfect take’… So it's often important to keep recording, regardless of what’s being said.

In the booth, actors have a lot to think about, (the direction/delivery/script etc) so the more we can prepare prior to the session, the less stopping and starting needed during the session, and the better results we get! This helps ensure we get the best performance from the actor as they find their flow, and the session runs smoothly.

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Jungle Studios, Thu, 04 May 2023 09:43:00 GMT