If you’ve ever been on a set, you know how important it is to stay quiet when the 1st assistant director signals action. Unfortunately, there are some sounds that can’t be controlled. Planes overhead, unexpected cast or crew coughs, or even car horns, all contribute to the need for re-recording sound. So what is ADR in film and are there any other reasons you might want to use it?
What is ADR?
If the sound is off in your project, it will be hard to miss. Getting it just right can make or break the film's success. But deciding if you should use ADR is entirely up to you. Some filmmakers loath it, while others swear by it, claiming it saved their films. In order for you to decide, it’s probably best you know exactly what it is.
Before we jump into an ADR definition, let's see it in action.
Naturally, not every actor has to repeat such physically demanding performances. But it is inspiring to see Hugh Jackman putting just as much energy into his grunts and screams as he did on-set. Let's quickly define ADR so we can get to the good stuff — pro-tips on how to execute ADR on your own projects.
What is ADR in film?
ADR in film is the process of re-recording audio in a more controlled and quieter setting, usually in a studio. It involves the re-recording of dialogue by the original actor after filming as a way to improve audio quality or reflect dialogue changes. ADR stands for Automated Dialog Replacement, it's also referred to as “looping.” In earlier film days, when the dialogue replacement was first being done, each re-recorded line of dialogue used a loop of film which would play over and over again in a loop. Modern techniques use computers to loop the section which is where we get the “automated” part of ADR.
Even though there have been advancements in ADR in film, it requires a great deal of work. These are called ADR sessions. An actor watches the image over and over again, while listening to the original production track on headphones to help guide them. They then re-perform each line to match the lip movement and wording.
This process can also be separated into Visual ADR and Audio ADR. Visual ADR is when the actor only watches their performance and re-records their lines, while Audio ADR refers to the actor only listening to their performance on headphones.
Why is ADR used?
- Re-record inaudible dialogue from set recording
- Creative purposes — capture a better performance
- Altering intent of dialogue
- Adding in voice-over or off screen dialogue
Should we avoid ADR in our own films or embrace it? Bad audio is a sure-fire way to sink your project. ADR might seem difficult to pull off well but all it takes is practice.
Learn ADR tips, techniques and best practices, and the brief history of ADR below.
What does an ADR session look like? In this next video, these filmmakers walk you through a simple ADR scenario with suggestions on what equipment to use, and how best to conduct the ADR session.
Did You Know?
Marlon Brando is said to have purposefully mumbled his way through his lines to force producers to ADR his scenes. During the ADR session he could more finely craft his performance based on seeing the context in the rough cut of the film.
Your first instinct should be to get the best audio recording possible while on set. There's nothing better than being able to capture the ambience of the location and the actor's original performance. In other words, ADR should be a last resort.
Also, sound and the way actors deliver dialogue is an art in and of itself. So if they realize an aspect of their character late in the game and want to give a new audible performance, it's their artistic prerogative. ADR can enhance the quality of a scene and provide the film with nuances not explored on set.
Sound Recording Fundamentals
Before you get to ADR, or maybe to avoid using it all together, know the basics of sound recording. The next post is your ultimate guide to the essentials. Know the different audio cables and mics to get the best quality possible and learn how to manage “controllable noise.”
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