October 30, 2014

Afraid of Recording ADR? Don't Be! This Sound Tutorial Will Show You How

You may not like it, but ADR is inevitable. And because it's inevitable, it's a good idea to know exactly what you're doing when the time comes to record it.

No matter how careful you try to be about getting clean audio -- unplugging electronics, hiring a mean, mean AD to scream, "Quiet on set!" -- there will always be a car horn, jet engine, or crew member having a sneezing fit that pollutes your recording. Thankfully, Filmmaker IQ has released a video, the fourth installment in their sound series, in which host John P. Hess walks you through his process of recording and editing ADR, sharing vital audio tips for those who may not know exactly how to approach it. Check it out below.

I suppose the first thing you're going to need is a good microphone. And read my lips: do not be a cheapskate when shopping for one. You can get away with shoddy images most of the time, but bad audio will absolutely destroy your film -- which is actually a good reason to not only buy a good microphone, but to also become as proficient at recording ADR as you possibly can. 

Hess uses the RØDE NT-1, but there are plenty of affordable mics and recorders out there that provide good audio, even ones that you can mount to your iPhone like the $200 iXY, or portable recorders like Zoom's H6, H5, or H4n, which I use and highly recommend if your budget is $200 or less. However, take note that when it comes to mics, you tend to get what you pay for, which is why it's wise to start squirreling away some dough for when you're ready to buy something higher end.

If you're unsure of what to buy, there's a discussion going on right now on our boards about this topic, so head on over and tap all of the juicy knowledge of the NFS community.

If you're interested in strengthening your education on sound, we've got our coverage of Filmmaker IQ's series listed below:

Your Comment

19 Comments

The one thing that might help you on your microphone search - try to get the exact same microphone used in the production. The important part of ADR is to be able to blend it in seamlessly with the production audio so you never even notice that you pulled out a line. Going for a large diaphragm studio microphone will produce GREAT sounding dialogue, but if you're matching it against a thinner sounding production microphone you're going to have to spend a bunch of time EQing out a bunch to get a match and it won't be perfect. Instead, try to match microphones to the production, match typical distance, and if you're lucky it'll drop right in.

October 30, 2014 at 9:26AM, Edited October 30, 9:26AM

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Marcelo Teson
Filmmaking Instructor/Sound Editor
296

This might even work for your budget as well considering you could only have to rent/purchase 1 mic!

October 30, 2014 at 12:26PM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1422

You bring up a good point. Using the same mic gets you closer to your production environment. I also think what the video pointed out is applicable: redo the entire scene. Nothing takes me out of a TV show faster than when one line of dialogue is ADR and the rest is the original.

October 31, 2014 at 1:16PM

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Clifford Duvernois
Director and Producer
84

another consideration is to use the same preamps that were used on set...every preamp imparts a different "flavour" so to speak...so i would bring the same recorder used on set into the studio and run the mics through that instead of the studios preamps (especially if its a studio primarily focused on music, as their pres are more than likely very coloured in tone...post guys need clinical preamp sound...too much colour is bad)

November 1, 2014 at 10:15AM

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Kerrin McLean
Director / DP / Editor
184

I've always been of the school of thought that ADR should be recorded with the same mic and hopefully as close to the same distance as when originally recorded. Using an NT-1 seems more useful for VO and not ADR.

October 30, 2014 at 12:58PM

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Steve Yager
Filmmaker
292

Which he hits at around 5:45. Watch the video, then comment, Steve!

October 30, 2014 at 1:04PM

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Steve Yager
Filmmaker
292

I've been a recording engineer for about 10 years or so and was actually doing that before I even got into film/videography so ADR is sort of a no-brainer. Even if you don't use the same mic, there's a wonderful plugin called "Speakerphone 2" that emulates tons of different room types and mics. Amazing piece of software for ADR.

October 30, 2014 at 2:50PM, Edited October 30, 2:50PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
550

Awesome plugin…especially for beginners. Thanks, Dantly!

October 30, 2014 at 3:45PM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Altiverb 7 (made by the same guys who make Speakerphone 2) also has really cool features that can match the acoustics of a production space using the sound of the slate clapper...

November 1, 2014 at 10:24AM

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Kerrin McLean
Director / DP / Editor
184

Remember.. You must not pan dialogue. If you want to create that feel go 10% at the most, In real theater situation people on the left will hardly hear a dialogue hard right located. Cheers

October 30, 2014 at 5:49PM

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Yeah, the decision to pan the dialog was a bit odd and very distracting. But still very glad for such a well-crafted tutorial.

October 31, 2014 at 6:04PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
946

I actually never do ADR in a studio environment. If I can help it, if the take was ruined by a passing plane or a sneeze, I'll take the damn camera and replay the take to the actors and let them recite the line right then and there. Same room tone, same position, same mics, same placement. It usually sounds more natural. If the environment was really noisy though like a bar or something, I'd recreate the scene in a quiet area but with the actors and mics in the same place as the original shot, not by themselves in a studio.

October 30, 2014 at 10:03PM

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Miguel Sotto
Cinematographer
255

I had the chance to work with big motion pictures here, in México, were bad sound was the signature of national productions, because a lot (most) of directors didn't care about sound, and there is an awful saying: "its coming out in post". So, you might imagine, with bad recorders, bad sound field guys who didnt take care of hearing what they were picking up. So, ADR was my best and sometimes only option.
Because, of course, most producers and director hate it, the best call is to improvise with anything you can get. The things i've learned so far.

1. You can work with the same mics, but sometimes you dont, so, you have to choose your mic placement, because sometimes the best track for after and before your cut is the lav mic, some other times is the boom. If you put the mic in front of the nose you get one resonance, that can affect the sound quality. If you choose to put it lower, on the mouth you get some other quality.
2. If you make it to a recording studio, even if it is small, for music-specific, avoid corners, get as much space as you can get into the back of the mic, and try to block to be in front of the wall, try to avoid to be in a parallel position, and most important, avoid to be close to any window or flat surface that can vibrate with the voice.
3. When recording, you have to point to the actor the peculiar behaviour of the voice: the slang, the moment they finish up or down the sentence, the quantity of air they had, if they were moving in a particular way, and sometimes you have to deal with the need of the actor to follow some movements to accomplish, so you have to make them (by default) to leave jewelry, clock...
3.1 when you make the call back, ask them to bring silent clothes, because there are fabrics, like the ones that are used for sports, that make a lot of noise.
4. Clean their noses, bring them water, because dry mouths can make a lot of clicking noise, and that take a lot of time of cleaning.
5. When Directing, i wanted to work with directors by my side. Sometimes (most) they dont like it at the very beginning, but once they found the benefits of correcting and even improving the scene, you only worry about the technical stuff, directing the director, and keeping an order. If the director is not available, you cannot improvise, so, take the whole scene, or pick a 2-3 minutes handle, so the actor can recall the situations that took the dialogue to that color on the first time.
5.1 Directing the director is about making them notice that sometimes there are more loops needed than the ones they think are just critical, and you have the point the fact that they listen better because they know the lines, they can decode the voice from a lot of noise.
6. You have to be ready to find some resistance from the actors. Some are very afraid to stand in front of a mic. Some dont understand and some are afraid of not getting the same performance, and, trust me, even great actors can feel very insecure. So, try to not be limited to a fixed loop. Try to arrange them by colors. Dont distract them with instructions, let them find the right way to follow their lips, their intention, and the strength of the voice.
7. Remember that while on field, stage, or location, people keep certain volume of sound, and now you are working with very low levels of noise, and, trust me, that makes a lot of difference! Make them try to emulate the same sound level they had.
8. when editing, i prefer to use (on pro-tools) elastic Audio. I duplicate the track, and change the settings so the elastic audio is developed with the algorithm that you get from a better plug-in (the default is good enough some of the times), and then i twist, stretch, and move, taking care of the digital distortion (kind of flanger).
To get the best of my sound, i prefer to work with the classy basics, and use the 7 bands eq, i am totally agree with the suggestions from the video, and i might add the 5-7k to avoid the "S", and sweep the bands to clean from room resonances.
9. When cleaning, and even helping the edition, IZOTOPE RX is a MUST! It saved my life so much times, that, well, it is the owner of my deepest true good feelings, love it.
10. when mixing, i use the reverb that can handle the job, as long as it dont bring that awful wash. I found useful to use a send bus, with pre fader option, and then control the wet-dry- ratio, and be as exquisite as i can, changing the levels depending on the direction the actor is turning his head (STAY WITH THE DISTANCE, THE WALLS, THE DOORS, BUT NO THE CAMERA PERSPECTIVE, IT WILL AFFECT FOR SURE THE IDEA OF BEING IN A POINT OF VIEW, WHEN THE IDEA OF THE SCENE IS NOT TO PLACE YOU IN A GOD'S PERSPECTIVE).

Well, those are the things that come to my mind to this moment... Hope some find this usefull, and, i apologize for the grammar, and all the mistakes you might (and for sure will) find.
OK! 2 Extra points that i was missing:

11. About the hardware... well, if you choose cheaper, it means noisier, and it means that the dynamics of the voice are very affected, so a whisper is not going to work as good as you have planned.
12. RECORD ALWAYS THE BREATHING, THE BREATHING IS PRESENCE, THE BREATHING IS LIFE, PLAY WITH IT, IT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE! Take the time to close your session with breathings, grasps, mout noise (opening, saliva, etc...), you will thank yourself.

Good day!

October 31, 2014 at 1:38AM, Edited October 31, 1:38AM

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Mono_Malo
Producer, Sound Design and Sound Editing, ADR.
79

great post

March 28, 2015 at 9:54AM

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This is the part I fear the most, the freaking audio.... I'm very confident in many fields of film but I still have not mastered good audio. Thanks for this wonderful introduction to ADR V Renee!

October 31, 2014 at 10:24AM, Edited October 31, 10:24AM

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Luis Garcia
Director/Editor
359

awesome post

October 31, 2014 at 9:09PM

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Thanks for making me laugh! (And learn...) Very well done - and love the ADR dialogue twist at the end of the scene...

October 31, 2014 at 10:29PM, Edited October 31, 10:29PM

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Steve Underwood
Deep Blue Design, LLC: Owner
79

great post nice one

November 23, 2014 at 4:31AM, Edited November 23, 4:31AM

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Very good advice. Most of what I've learned about recording sound in a "studio environment" was picked up from music producers. Here are my two cents:

You will need a good preamp if you record straight into a computer (preferred). If you record into your Zoom H4n, the recorder is your preamp. It is said the Scarlett 2i2 is one of the best out there, this company makes all models to the same high standards, prices vary just for the number of inputs.

Sound professionals want the cleanest, most accurate recording possible, just like film professionals make no compromise on the video quality. You can add environment sounds later. In the under $1000 range I find the MXL V89 condenser mic to deliver the most accurate, clear voice. This takes phantom power.

The MXL R144 ribbon mic is very flattering to the male voice (gives it timbre) but when you plug it into your preamp you need to remember turn off your phantom power or it will fry. A ribbon mic will need the most powerful preamp you can get to deliver good output. It also needs to be transported gently, not get thrown around.

I suppose there are probably RODE equivalents to what I mentioned above. Also, I assume many of you already own an H4n and an NTG3, in which case you should just tweak your settings and work the equipment you have, and you will also get decent results.

One last note, pick a data rate that works for you, no need to work at the highest common denominator. Don't go above 96, even that is overkill. What is important is that you record in a format your editing software finds easy to manipulate. Just like when you freely mix frame rates in video, weird things can and will happen, which range from chopping and crackling sounds to some really strange behavior, if you jump haphazardly between sound data and compression rates and formats hoping the software will figure it out.

January 14, 2015 at 11:23PM, Edited January 14, 11:23PM

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Dan Banici
Producer
1

very nice post the way of your writing should be appreciated

March 17, 2015 at 7:28AM

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