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  • Writer's pictureRyan van Eerde

How to ADR (and what it is)

When it comes to media formats such as TV and Film one of the most important aspect to get right is the recording of dialogue, making sure that every spoken line can be understood as clear as possible without having any excess background noise is paramount (Alten, 2011, pp. 251). The on set dialogue is usually just captured with an overhead boom mic, or radio mics hidden on the actors which would be assessed by the location mixer to make sure the audio is up to a usable standard. Unfortunately there can be instances where the on set dialogue recordings are unable to be used such the boom operator not getting the mic where it needs to be properly, on set noise that isn't being dealt with, or extraneous noise from actors picked up by radio mics (Purcell, 2013, pp. 40, 41, 44). If any of these occur then the process of ADR or Automated Dialogue Recording will be required.

ADR is the process of rerecording specific dialogue in a studio environment that perfectly matches up to what has been recorded on set, with the task of making it not appear to be blatantly stuck on after the fact. Most of the time it is desired to keep the original on set dialogue as the is a potential for the actors to not recreate a performance with ADR that's as good as the originals (Purcell, 2013, pp. 278).

ADR is also used to add narration over a scene or add character lines that can help the flow of the story, this is much easier to accomplish seeing as there is no synchronisation required. Another thing you can do with ADR is the recording of background dialogue and human interactions that wasn't recorded on set, for example a scene where there is a group of people in the background making what would appear to be a large amount of noise it would be odd if you didn't hear any sound coming from them. To make the scene believable you would need to hear at least a little sound coming from the group not just clear isolated dialogue from the main actors (Purcell, 2013, pp. 279-280).

The video below is a good example of actors being called into the studio to do ADR because the on set dialogue was muffled by wind. What I like about the video is that it gives a small insight into to difficulty of getting the new recorded dialogue in sync with whats being replaced.

(YouTube, 2007)

The recording process for ADR is relatively straightforward, the actors watch the scene on a TV inside of the studio, a series of beeps or a line across the screen will indicate when they need to speak, all whilst the audio engineer monitors to check the sync. The process is repeated for each line of dialogue as many time as it takes to get perfect or close enough not to be distracting (Purcell, 2013, pp. 281). Most of the time ADR is recorded with more than one microphone, usually microphones are placed at different distances from the actor to capture different perspectives of their voice and to potentially pic up some room sound (Purcell, 2013, pp. 297).

The the video below shows added sound being recorded for a movie.

(Santos, 2017)

This Hugh Jackman behind the scenes session is an excellent example of ADR where it probably wasn't very feasible to record on set audio for the scene, no boom or radio mic would be able to capture a good clean sound of his performance. It also shows that you don't always have to record every sound on set especially when there are actors like Hugh who can bust out an insane performance in the studio.

Below is a video of a group loop session where people record the audio for background sound.

(Vaughn, 2018)

I like how the video discusses that they are there to fill in the atmosphere or "human noise" which would be very noticeably missed if it wasn't there.

As for my own project I shall be using ADR to replace the actors lines as well as the group loop process to capture a crowded bar fight atmosphere, see video below.

(Entertainment, 2018)

In the time between 0:26 to 1:30 there isn't a great amount of actual spoken dialogue so that shouldn't pose to be too much of a challenge, the main difficulty will be the group loop for the background noise. The challenge will be to emulate the atmosphere of the background fight with a small group of people in a studio setting, too do this I will record multiple takes of people shouting, screaming, grunting etc. then layer them together to thicken out the sound to make it appear to be a larger crowd than what it is.

The main plan is to tell the group of people in the studio to basically go crazy and pretend that they are in an epic pirate bar fight which will hopefully producing the desired aesthetic I'm after. After the group sound is captured it would be a good idea to also capture individual grunts and shouts that can be placed where ever its necessary to highlight certain individuals in the clip. For capturing the sound I plan to use two condenser microphones each being placed on opposite sides of the room with the purpose of creating a stereo track, the idea for this being as the group of people move around the room it will create a more interesting and realistic feel than just a mono recording. That being said if it doesn't end up working well and there problems then only one of the mic recordings will be used, but it will still be interesting to experiment with this set up regardless of the outcome.

I feel relatively confident now about doing ADR for the project, I have a good idea of what I want to achieve and how to do it, the main thing now is to capture the best sound I can. My next step now is to research how to produce/record some of the Foley sounds which I will be covering in my next blog.


Alten, S. R. (2011). Recording and producing audio for media. Retrieved from

Entertainment, S. (2018). Pirates of the Caribbean- Tortuga fight scene 4K video. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2019].

Purcell, J. (2013). Dialogue editing for motion pictures : A guide to the invisible art. Retrieved from

Santos, D. (2017). Hugh Jackman's ADR session (BTS) Logan!. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2019].

Vaughn, M. (2018). WTF is a Loop Group?. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2019].

YouTube. (2007). The Navigator ADR Behind the Scenes Featurette. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Feb. 2019].

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