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Answer: ADR stands for Automated Dialog Replacement. And it stands for Additional Dialog Recording. And all variations of these. What it really is about is…. (continued in David’s answer below)
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Answer: ADR stands for Automated Dialog Replacement. And it stands for Additional Dialog Recording. And all variations of these. What it really is about is more paid acting work for you, either replacing or adding to sound you’ve already recorded on the set, or for a production in which you don’t appear on camera. Here’s how it works.
ADR work can come to you in a number of ways: from on-camera work you’ve done that needs to be fixed or sweetened, from projects in which you have distinct vocal contributions, and from projects where you blend into an aural background to form a more “real” environment for the lead actors. If you’re a union actor, this is paid union work that generates residuals.
ADR involves you heading into a studio, by yourself or with a team of other actors, watching clips from a project that’s in post production, and using your voices to enhance and strengthen the story line. You’ll watch the clips on a movie-theater-sized screen, and there will be some formal processes you’ll follow.
Every clip you record for will be shown to you in its currently recorded form, and you’ll be directed as to what the sound editor wants you to do. At the beginning of each clip, you’ll see and hear the scene, and just before you’re to begin to speak or make whatever noise they need, you’ll hear three distinct beeps, like this:
Those beeps are designed to give you a rhythm to follow should you be matching your words to the lip movements of the actor on the screen (you, perhaps, but sometimes another actor who you are voicematching). Count to yourself: one…two…three…act. You might also have a vertical colored bar that sweeps from left to right for the length of the beeps to give you a visual cue as well. It’s not that hard to get the hang of it, but the better you get at it, the more accurate your work – and the faster the session will move. That will be greatly appreciated by the post team, and may lead to work on other projects.
I am lucky enough to work with Barbara Harris and her loop group, and I’ve done everything for her from voicematching to featured voices like train station announcers (Changeling), police radio dispatchers and helicopter pilots (The Hulk), sports play-by-play announcers (Percy Jackson Lightning Thief) and news anchors (All About Steve, The Special Relationship). Those were sometimes scripted, and sometimes ad-libbed, sometimes for several minutes at a time.
I also did several ADR sessions for the work I did on Heroes. This work ranged from re-recording lines that were recorded under difficult conditions, usually outdoors, to the addition of grunts, shouts and yells during action sequences. Here’s a scene from an episode where I added a yell as I flew through the air, a hard grunt when I landed, and heavy labored breathing after I landed:
Piece by piece, the scene was assembled from audio recorded in the field, with the newly added scream, grunt and breathing. Other times, it’s matching a recorded line or two (or twenty), ruined by wind noise or traffic or the occasional airplane or helicopter flying by as you’re acting out a scene.
It’s fun work, and it can become a career for some. Doing the occasional replacements or additions to what you’ve already shot is a fairly regular occurrence. But you might also really have a knack for the somewhat strange requirements that you need to be a regular with a team of actors/voice artists that comprise what are called loopers.
A typical ADR session where you’re providing looping services begins with a call from the ADR casting director, giving you the project you’re working on and what you need to research. That research prepares you for the kind of project you’re going to loop, and can vary widely. For Changeling, I had to do some heavy research on the web about the kind of language people used in the late 20s, as well as what train announcements were like, and what police and reporters said to each other in those days.
You may be called in for period piece work, you may be called in for contemporary projects, and you may be a part of the entire wall of sound at parties or ball games or church services, just to name a few. Be ready to be creative and be ready to work all day. And be ready to hear yourself when you projects air or are released in theaters.
What’s your answer to this acting question? Let me know in the comments below.
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This was super helpful to me. I just moved to California and am looking to break into voice overs/ looping/adr. Could you recommend some good agencies? And how to get their attention?
Thank you and congrats on all of your accomplishments!
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