Professional movies have insane budgets, so they better have the best sound. But how can you achieve the same standards for much less? The secret is ADR in film.
Have you ever shot a scene and been unable to get around problematic noise in the background? Ever shot a complex walk-and-talk where the boom operator just couldn't keep up? Or maybe you were in a tight space and things didn't turn out the way you wanted.
Well, when professionals run into these problems they use ADR in film.
When asked what disqualifies contest entries, "sound quality" is the number one thing mentioned by some of the programmers we've spoken with over the years. So if you want your projects to come across as polished features, shorts, or pilots, you need to have the best sound possible.
That's where ADR comes into play.
Today I want to go over ADR, how to set up you own ADR sessions, and how to make your sound pop off the screen.
Roll sounds and let's get started.
What's ADR in Film? And Why is it Important?
ADR stands for Automated Dialog Replacement. Sometimes people call it "dubbing," which makes it sound cheap, and not at all the way it's viewed in the modern context of filmmaking. ADR is a complex process where actors re-record dialogue to improve audio quality or reflect changes. This can also be done by different actors so that a movie can be translated into a different language. Actors perform this dubbing in a "looping session."
The Reasons to Use ADR
Like we said earlier, ADR has a plethora of uses. It can correct bad sound taken on set, dub dialogue into another language, or add wild lines that might help improve the story.
Actors have a love/hate relationship with ADR. Some don't like viewing themselves, but others take the opportunity to fine-tune what they said on screen and take chances at different line readings.
5 Steps to ADR your film
You may not have the Hollywood budget, but I bet you have the grit and determination to ADR your film or short on a budget. So what are the steps to get it done? Let's go over some tips and tricks for ADR as well.
Before you begin, make sure you have these all ready:
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Digital audio recorder
- Preamp Interface
1. Soundproof your room
If you have the budget to get some acoustic panels, put them up. Otherwise, grab as many thick blankets as you can and place them on every wall. You want to limit the echo and the bouncing of sound. Renting studio time is optimal, but not necessary. Ideally, you set this up with a clear view of the TV, or screen so the actor can see themselves and sync their voice to what's happening.
2. Get a great mic
If you're going to spend money, this is where to spend it. The Shure SM7B is great as a dedicated studio mic for those on a budget, but the Neumann U87 is the pro standard. Our very own V Renee recommends the RØDE NTG-4+ and the Sennheiser MKE 600. We think the best thing to do is use the same mic you used in the field, that way everything is consistent.
3. Pick your ADR scenes
Chances are, you're not going to want or need to ADR every scene. So go through and cut together all the ones you think need the most help. This will help you and your talent stay focused.
4. Record with options
The secret to great ADR is doing a ton of takes. Sorry to say it, but it's true. You want to have as many options as you can get. That way your editor can work with the director to fit the takes that sync up the best. These sessions can be draining and demanding. So make sure your talent is ready.
5. Finalize with sound effects
After you have all the dialogue captured, layer in some room tone and some sound effects. Bringing in the real world will make every line feel more natural, and help you edit around syncs that are not perfect.
Can you prevent ADR?
Not everyone uses ADR, but Hollywood uses it in almost 50% of scenes. If you're hellbent on not using it, you should plan accordingly. That means scout locations in advance with your sound recordists. Use test tracks to see if there are any potential sound issues. Make sure you always grab room tone. Shoot indoors as much as you can to maintain control. Boom as close as you can to the actors. And see if you can lav your talent as well.
This is a lot to do, and even then you may have scenes that don't work out from an audio standpoint.
Again, the better the sound, the better the movie.
So get ready to add ADR to the mix.
What's next? Learn ADR 101!
Sometimes your audio is going to have some problems that need fixing. Learn how to set up your own ADR studio and get professional results from the start.