Efficient ADR Sessions

Introduction

I’m sure if you are already reading this then you are most likely aware of what an ADR session is, it has been called a number of things but I always refer to it as ‘Automated Dialogue Replacement‘. It is pretty much the process of re-recording any dialogue captured on set which is not of sufficient quality. You would likely be surprised as to just how much location sound for film and television is scrapped and re-created in the studio afterwards! This guide should hopefully make your dubbing sessions a little more efficient when using Pro Tools.


Preparation

The most important process during ADR, much like music studio sessions, is to be as prepared as you can. Usually the film/television production company would provide the ADR engineer with the rough or ‘ghost’ recordings with enough time prior to recording. If you’re even luckier, these recordings will have been ‘spotted’ which means you will have a cue sheet with the timecode in/out times of each line required to be recorded again.

So you have your Pro Tools session with the video file along with all the on set recordings placed, you are good to go right? Well this is a good place to be, but you could do even more preparation.

One last step at this stage which will make your session navigation much quicker is setting up memory locations, just go down your cue sheet jump to that timecode spot and pop in a memory location, making sure you name it well and note the location number on your cue sheet. This may seem like a bit of a lengthy process, but trust me, your vocal talent will appreciate it when they have to stand still repeating lines all day!


Tracking

I won’t discuss loop recording or headphone mixing in this article, as this is more focused on making ADR sessions specifically more effecient.

An ADR session will make use of a ‘sync tone’, three frequency tones spaced equally apart with the fourth ‘imaginary’ tone being exactly where the line of dialogue starts, think of it almost like a metronome.

So you need to place the end of your sync tone region right where the original recording starts, when broken down into processes this is any easy procedure, but here is a very quick process (after practice) using shortcuts which I was shown by another engineer last year.

  1. Firstly have your sync tone ready on a separate track away from anything else. Your ‘on set’ recordings should also be on a separate track and your blank recording track should be separate as well.
  2. While the cursor is on the ‘on-set’ original recordings track, use the ‘tab to transient’ function to jump to exactly where the line starts.
  3. Without moving the cursor, unlink the timeline and edit selection – this can be performed by using the shortcut SHIFT_/ this will allow you to go and select your sync region while leaving the cursor exactly where you left it.
  4. Select the sync tone region (using the smart tool you can click in the middle bottom of the region)
  5. Once the sync tone is selected, and while making sure commands focus is active, press the K key; this will sync the end of the region to the current cursor placement which should be at theĀ beginningĀ of the reference recording.
  6. Link your timeline and edit selection again – SHIFT_/.
Yes on paper it is six steps which will take a little getting used to, but during an ADR session it will only take two or three times before you are doing it without thinking and even without looking down at the keyboard!

Final Words

So as I mentioned, this was not going to de an in depth recording guide but instead a few techniques which should hopefully let you get more from your session no matter how much time you are given!

Have a practice with the shortcuts in the next ADR session you do and enjoy watching the guys around you baffled as you hop around your Pro Tools session ready to record before your vocal talent has had time to read their next line!

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