August 1, 2014

Having Problems Syncing ADR? Adobe's 'Automatic Speech Alignment' to the Rescue

In theory, ADR is a relatively simple process. You bring your actors into a vocal booth, show them their original performance, then record a clean take of them mimicking that original performance. Easy right? Well once you start replacing the production sound with the newly-recorded audio, things can start to get tricky. Oftentimes minuscule variations in performance can lead to ADR that just doesn't work because of barely-perceptible sync issues. This can be fixed in most audio post production programs by subtly warping the audio file to match the original clip, but that process is tedious and time-consuming, and often the results still aren't up to par. Luckily, there's a feature in Adobe Audition that will do all of that work for you with a few clicks. It's called "Automated Speech Alignment" and the good folks at PeachpitTV have a tutorial to show you how it's done.

First things first, before you ever launch Audition, make sure that you have your timeline built in Premiere Pro with both the original audio and the ADR clips. The ADR clips should be loosely aligned with the original audio, and if you can get them perfectly in sync like that, then there's really no need for the 'Automatic Speech Alignment' process in Audition. However, if you're having sync issues, then that process will save you from some major headaches.

Besides being an incredibly simple way to fix minor sync issues in ADR tracks, the technique used in this tutorial can also be used to sync dual-system audio, thus providing a practical and cost-effective alternative to programs like PluralEyes if you're using Adobe's Creative Cloud video applications.

Link: PeachpitTV2 -- YouTube

Your Comment

11 Comments

In a practical environment, for the most part, It doesn't work as well as the video suggests. There's nothing like real manual intervention, and recording small bite sized clips of dialogue.

August 1, 2014 at 9:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

+1

It works well in a limited number of cases, but produces a very "synthetic" sound in most.

August 2, 2014 at 8:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Matt

I used this feature on a PSA I did for school. It isn't perfect by any means, but it defiantly beat the winded audio I recorded on set. You can see it here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvgRhkwB1lA . It was used between 0:45-0:48.

August 1, 2014 at 9:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Doug

It's interesting for ADR, but not a good workflow for dual system audio since the release of CC. Premiere Pro CC will let you sync video with dual system audio automatically - no round-tripping through Audition necessary.

August 1, 2014 at 11:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

8
Reply
Michael H

Great find, Robert. I didn't realize audition had this feature. Looks like I need to spend some time in the program. Do you use it as your main DAW, or just for some of it's amazing features?

August 2, 2014 at 2:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

If you ever saw the origins of ADR, you'd wonder why they ever called it that int he first place :-)

This is a handy tool. I tried a quick test and realized that you're still going to have to try and nail the dialog replacement. You don't just rap off a live and let the software line it up. There's more to it than just using the software to sync. Not because the software can't sync, but because you need to replicate the nuances of the speech as it originally occurred. Otherwise it will sound weird, no matter if you add live background noise or not.

Ultimately of course you should get the audio right at the shoot, but this can come in handy.

August 2, 2014 at 4:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Spy Black

IMO, the problem is with this particular ADR track and less so with the idea of it. If you're dubbing an outdoor scene, you might not want to have a VO spoken into a perfectly isolated mic from less than a foot away because the presence is missing entirely. In that sense, it'd be a better idea to just clean up the original dialog a little.

August 3, 2014 at 12:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

8
Reply
DLD

"" you might not want to have a VO spoken into a perfectly isolated mic from less than a foot away because the presence is missing entirely. In that sense, it’d be a better idea to just clean up the original dialog a little."

Not really, because you can synthesize a room environment using digital reverb. You either try to make something along the lines of the room it was in, or more practically make a new space that isn't overbearing, simply implying of a room.

August 3, 2014 at 11:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Spy Black

There is also a software plugin available in AU, VST and RTAS that does this very well, for those that don't use Adobe for ADR. You can check it out here: http://www.synchroarts.com/products/vocalign. I have used it in the past to align vocal doubles when tracking a singer; easy to use and it works like a charm. Just FYI.

August 3, 2014 at 1:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply
Stephen Kerr

ADR which I have done a hell of allot of as an actor over the years and even when I managed EFX systems in Burbank 30 years ago is a necessary tool. There are three things we deal with... Wild tracks for environmental sound beds, Foley and ADR. But as an Actor You have to get it right. I cant imagine a software being able to sync up a bad take. Maybe for mom and pop not recognizable but You have to get it right whether in the studio or even nowadays in your own home studio. Let's see how this works out in in the real world of sound. There are to many other performance factors involved. This may be good for straight pitches or corporate deals what ever but sorry not dynamic performances.
.

August 3, 2014 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Nice that you're getting this info out there, but really - I was doing this nearly 20 years ago on Protools using 'VocAlign'. And in the interests of helping any newbies out there who may be wanting to record ADR, here are some general tips:

1: Proximity to the mic!!! I've had to re-record ENTIRE films after supposed 'professionals' recorded the ADR too close to the mic (as you have in your demo). I cannot stress enough the importance of NOT having your talent too close to the mic - have them the distance a boom mic would've been on location for a great match (as you may have to massage in your ADR with sync location sound - that's normal practice.). Of course, this assumes you room can handle the distance (ie, this is why we have 'sound studios'....) without early reverb reflections messing with your track.

2; Where possible, use the SAME MIC as was used on location - remember, you may need to match location dialogue. Make it easier on yourself!

3: You should use your original location take... NOT your arbitrary best guess of watching the video for sync. Just play your location audio along with you studio ADR take - they should come close to 'phasing', which makes picking up any sync discrepancies easier to hear than see.

4: For final checks - ALWAYS view your pics as large as possible. So many times I've seen work where the (junior) ADR editor will say 'yep, that's great, all done', only to find when we looks at it closely that it's not. You really gonna guess how that sync looks on a 60" TV by looking at it in a quarter screen sized preview window? Seems obvious - you'd be surprised!

Happy ADR'ing all ;)

KdC

(I was - amongst other things - an ADR recordist, editor and mixer on numerous feature films and 1000's of TVCs for 17 years before becoming a DP :) )

August 9, 2014 at 12:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

6
Reply