ADR 101: How to Do It Like the Pros Do It
Learn to record ADR like an experienced professional.
Sometimes your audio is going to have some problems that need fixing.
Maybe you shot your scene next to a freeway and can't hear your talent speaking. Maybe you captured a walk-and-talk scene in a long shot and couldn't mic-up your subjects. Maybe you're translating your English-language short film into Swahili and need to replace all of the dialogue.
What are you supposed to do about all that mess?
To get you nice and acquainted with this process, here's Robbie Janney from Shutterstock.
What is ADR?
ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement and is a type of dubbing process that, you guessed it, replaces dialogue recorded on location with dialogue recorded in a studio.
Why would I need ADR?
There are tons of reasons why you might need to record some ADR, including:
- Your dialogue sounds like shit.
- You forgot to hit record on your audio recorder.
- Your microphone ran out of batteries mid-shot.
- You want to add a line or two to spice up your scene.
- You want to dub your project in another language.
- You need to do a hilarious censor for TV.
There are many others, but that first one is probably going to be the most common.
Okay, fine. How do I record ADR?
Glad you asked, darlin'! There are a few things you should probably do to get prepared:
- Sound treat your room: Sound treating means "make the room you're recording in as soundproof as possible." If you've got the budget to buy some acoustic panels or soundproofing material, sweet! Throw those up. If you don't, make your own or cover walls, floors, and other reverberant surfaces with heavy blankets, towels, clothes...anything that will soak up that sound.
- Mic Up: Mics...there are so many options out there; definitely too many to get too detailed here. The Shure SM7B is great as a dedicated studio mic for those on a budget, but the Neumann U87 is the pro standard if you can afford it. If you're looking for a budget shotgun mic, I personally like the RØDE NTG-4+ and the Sennheiser MKE 600. Keep in mind, though, Janney suggests using the same mic you used out in the field to keep things consistent...so, that's something to think about, too.
- Put together an ADR track: I've never done this, but I like this. Editing together a countdown of sorts for your talent could make the ADR process a lot easier for them and for you.
- Clean up the audio: If your raw ADR tracks sound a little funky, which they probably do, you'll want to adjust them a bit in post to make them sound more natural and consistent. Because he recorded his ADR for an outdoor scene, Janney cuts down the base levels in his ADR track, but your situation might require different treatments.
- Add some sound effects: If your ADR still doesn't sound quite as natural as you want it to, make sure to layer some sound effects from the natural environment in your audio timeline. That includes room tone, footsteps, props, whatever else is moving around or making some kind of sound in your scene.
That process sounds horrible. How do I avoid having to record ADR?
Well, to be real...sometimes you can't. Sometimes a car alarm or a gust of wind just totally shits all over your excellent audio work. However, you can always try to record the best on-location sound that you possibly can by:
- Choosing a microphone with a pickup pattern that fits your needs. Filmmakers used to want more narrow pickup patterns, like hypercardioid s,upercardioid, or lobar (which is the most narrow of the three), but as projects get a little more improvisational and handheld, wider patterns, like just plain old cardioid, offer more flexibility.
- Scouting your location so you'll know ahead of time if it's too noisy to record audio.
- Getting that mic as close to your subject's mouth as possible.
- Having a crew member monitor audio so they can know right away if there is noise pollution, flubbed lines, or any other issue.
- Shooting indoors so you have more control.
- Unplugging all electronics (refrigerators, alarm clocks, etc.) if you do shoot indoors to avoid nasty humming and buzzing.
Because audio mistakes are inevitable, knowing how to record ADR is essential to your project looking and sounding professional. Let us know your tips and tricks on doing ADR down in the comments.