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ADR and Me

This week I'll be returning to Melbourne from having a long not so hard earned holiday and with my return, a return to my course work. Although I've got two game projects on the boiler and a podcast, I decided to devote this weeks blog to my post-production project. We will be recreating the dialogue, foley, sound effects and music of a movie scene of our choice. My group and I decided to do the Vegan police scene from "Scott Pilgrim vs the World". The scene is mostly dialogue and after our tutor introduced us to the process of ADR which stands for, Automated Dialogue Replacement, I decided to devote this week to exploring this topic.

So first of all I asked myself the first important question of Why? Why is this process needed and what circumstances call for it to be used.

Filmaker IQ outlines 4 specific reason why ADR is used in film making, these are:

1. Technical Issues

These are issues with microphones mainly such as background noise or problems with placement. For example if a train goes by during the best take or if a microphone falls off axis.

2. Vocal Performance Replacement

Problems relating to a vocal performance, more often than not to do with singing. Although occasionally can be related to a spoken performance. For example a singers voice blows out during a specific part of a song and another is brought in to re-do the line while the original actor heals.

3. Censorship

This is when a line needs to be changed to make the film appropriate for a different audience. Often involves removing swear words and changing them into something more family friendly.

4. Creativity

Sometimes ADR is used for a creative effect such as in the film "Kung-Pow" which has almost all of it's dialogue recorded in post-production to parody old kung-fu films in which the dialogue and lips didn't line up due to poor translations.

I came up with some general rules about ADR and have created a method of my own synthesized from the previous videos and some further reading.Some important things are to always try and use the same microphones at the same distance within a similar environment when doing ADR and avoid doing partial ADR when possible. It is much less noticeable to the viewer when an entire scene is dubbed as opposed to partially dubbing a particular line or phrase.

Playing the scene back to the actor will allow them to deliver at the right time and might help them synchronize better with their own lips or the scene itself. This will help the authenticity of the scene and make sure the viewer stays attentive to the narrative and is not drawn out by the disassociation of the sound and picture. I'll be sure to remember these things when doing my own overdub in a few days time.


I found two examples of bad ADR, the first is from a fan dub of a scene from the movie "White Chicks". It's awful for a number of reasons but something I noticed specifically was that they re-used a couple of dialogue recordings which I think is something that should be avoided at all costs, as it completely takes away from the authenticity of the scene.

The second example is from "The Great Gatsby" and being a piece of professional work the flaws are much more subtle. The problem is mainly that throughout the entire scene the audio doesn't match the lips very well, although the timing is on point the volume and dynamics don't make sense. The characters are close together and instead of shouting like the audio would suggest, the scene displays the characters lips moving very subtly and it appears as though they are talking quietly. Again this error takes away from the authenticity of the scene. The idea was right as obviously the characters would be shouting to talk over the engine, however ultimately I think it's more important that the audio and the video match. If it was me I think I would have recorded the voice so that it matched the lips more so than having it match the expected volume of the ambiance.

This video sums up ADR in an extremely short, concise and entertaining way, it's definitely worth the 6:45. Made me subscribe and I'm a conservative when it comes to Youtube...

So as I walk into my intensive this week I'm going to try and treat our overdub as an ADR session and put into practice all the things I've learnt during this research session. I think the most important thing for our chosen scene will be the dialogue and I'm sure if I put these practices into play we'll come away from our session with some synchronized, location appropriate dialogue.

Till next time, thanks for reading!


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