ADR. Automated Dialogue Replacement.

Occasionally (or rarely) also explained as:
Additional Dialogue Recording
Another Dialogue Re-do
Appropriate Dialogue, Revisited...
Again, Dialogue Recording?
Aren't (I) Done Re-Speaking?

However you want to explain the acronym, ADR is a given in an actor's life and those who tell you they absolutely love that part of the process may be smoking something illegal.

Just kidding... it's not that bad. :-) ADR can be fun, actually. It can also be slightly frustrating and a little embarrassing as well... depending on what scene you're working on. Fortunately, I got to experience fun, frustration, and embarrassment in my ADR session yesterday for episodes 101, 102, and 103.

If you're not familiar with ADR, here's the deal. You (the actor) go into a soundproof room and stand in front of a small podium that has on it a list of all the lines that you need to re-record. There's a lot that the post-production folks can do to fix and clean up dialogue, but there always seem to be at least a few lines that need to be re-recorded in a sound booth. Why, you ask? Well, maybe you were shooting the scene outside and airplanes were flying overhead right when you were speaking. Or, you filmed the scene inside a studio but the scene was shot MOS (which means they intentionally didn't capture any sound). Or, you were filming in the studio, which is soundproof, but the tiny microphone taped to your skin was rustling against the inside of your shirt.

So, for whatever reason, you have to do ADR. And there you are in the soundproof room standing at the podium and in front of you is a large microphone. The engineer running the session plays the snippet of the scene for which you need to re-record your dialogue, and you watch yourself on screen as you say the dialogue. For example, let's say the scene is of you haggling over the price of a car with a sneaky car salesman and the brilliant line "Come on, Toyota Man, you can do better than that price!" is the one you need to re-record. Standing there at the podium in the sound booth, you'll watch the 5-10 seconds of the scene leading up to that line, then you'll hear three loud beeps, which serve as your signal that the line is coming up. As soon as the beeps stop, you say the line into the microphone, trying to match what you're saying with how your lips are moving on screen. On smaller bits of dialogue, you can get it in one or two takes... but if your character was flustered, taking pauses, or speaking in an irregular pattern, then you can see how parts of the process might be a bit frustrating. Fortunately, our post supervisor and the ADR guru were both fantastic to work with - and very patient with all the actors who came in yesterday (including me).

Now, I think I maaaaay have mentioned that ADR can also be a bit embarrassing at times... Did I? Yep, I did. How or why would it possibly be embarrassing, you might ask? Well, let's consider a different example. Let's say you filmed a love scene. But since there was no dialogue in the scene (it was lovin' only) and since the director was directing you as the scene was being filmed, the scene was shot with no sound. Guess what that means? Ten points if your answer was ADR!

Yes, folks, shooting a love scene or makeout fest with no sound means that later, you get to go into the ADR booth and watch yourself in action on a VERY LARGE screen - with the engineer and the post supervisor watching you. And, as if that weren't embarrassing enough, you then get the unmitigated joy of making scene-appropriate sounds (referred to as "moans and groans" on the ADR list) into the microphone and trying to synch those sounds with what you're actually doing on screen. Sound like fun? Thinking about trading in your day job to become an actor? Seriously, ya just gotta laugh....... Which I did.

I'll have another ADR session in a few weeks for episodes 104, 105, and 106, so I'll let you know if anything else interesting happens. In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates!


from editing to sound spotting to home!

I'm happy to report that I'm finally back in the smoggy heart of LA LA land after nearly a month up in Vancouver for editing. I've been catching up on my life (and my mail) and happily taking a little bit of a break after weeks of 14+ hour days/nights. The insides of my eyelids missed me. :-)

But never fear! I'm fully recovered... so let the updates continue!

As you may have guessed from my previous editing post, I absolutely love the editing process. There are those people who go insane after staring at second-by-second (or shorter) snippets of a project - but I am not one of those people. I really had a great time and learned a lot. And what happens after editing, you ask? Well, let me tell you... Once an episode has been approved by the network, it's considered "locked," which means that no more picture changes are made to it after that point. But there's still much more work to be done before it's ready to go to air.

The next part of the process is called sound spotting. In sound spotting, you go to a sound studio and sit in a room with a group of sound and music experts including the post-production supervisor, the music supervisor, music editor, composer, sound designer, etc. Our intrepid network executive was also part of the process and joined us by phone. So, with all these people sitting in chairs, on couches, or leaning next to the door frame, you put the "locked" episode into the DVD player and watch it scene by scene. At the end of each scene, you stop the DVD and everyone talks about what's needed for that scene in terms of sound or music.

Which brings us to something you may not know... most of the sounds you hear in a movie or television show are actually added after the fact. For example, if you're watching your favorite crime show and the good guy shoots the bad guy, the shotgun sound is an effect put in by the sound designer. Same with car crashes, doorbells, steaming teapots, and birds chirping overhead (unless you're lucky enough to be filming somewhere where the birds chirp on cue). Music, obviously, is also added later - as is (less obviously) music that the characters listen to as they kick up their heels on a dance floor or drive in their car.

[On a sidenote, shooting dancing sequences is particularly weird if the scene you're filming has dialogue because since the sound folks need to record the dialogue, you can't actually play any music for dancing - so everyone's moving around in silence to whatever beat is going on in their head!]

Speaking of music (and then I promise we'll get back to the sound spot), here's another thing you may not know... There are actually different categories of music that you'll hear in a movie or tv show. "Source" music is what the character listens to through a radio, CD player, department store speaker system, etc. "Score" is what plays over a scene that gives the scene some sort of emotional oomph, like the symphonic swell when the hero conquers the villain or the squeaky/eerie music when the girl in the nightgown goes down into the basement to check out a sound and you're yelling at the TV that she's an idiot and should go back up and call 911 (which she can't do because the phone lines have been cut, of course). There's also what the music folks lovingly call "scource," which is when music that you'd expect to be "source" actually plays as "score." So, the next time you're watching two long-lost lovers run toward each other on a beach as some Coldplay anthem makes goosebumps on your arms, you can stand up and announce proudly: Scource! (Of course, your friends will hate you for ruining the moment, but here's hoping they're a forgiving bunch).

Anyhow, so all of this ties into the sound spot because after watching scene, we'd discuss what kind of music would be most appropriate (score or source), what sort of sound effects might be necessary, and - in one of the strangest parts of the post-production process - how much "walla" might be required for the background. Yes, folks, "walla" is an actual thing that people do. People who are trained in the art of "walla" sit around in a room talking, and then that sound is taken and put into the show so that it sounds like the background actors (in a restaurant, for example, or a cafe) were talking when you shot the scene. Like music, sound effects, etc. "walla" adds a layer and a texture - and you'd definitely notice it if it were missing.

You'll never watch anything the same way again, will you?

Welcome to my world. :-) Anyhow, so that's sound spotting. Watching the episode scene by scene, giving notes and taking notes, and doing that for all six episodes. And then, once the sound spotting was done last Friday, I came home! Woo hoo!

And here I am now... but it's not done yet! We're now focused on the specifics of music and sound choices, which means: receiving lots of CDs from our music supervisor with sample song choices for certain scenes; watching quicktime files of specific scenes with sounds put in; and, soon, watching quicktimes with our composer's creations in them. It's really amazing to see it all coming together so well. It really looks and sounds great.

I can't wait for you all to see it...


alive... and well... and editing...

Has it been a month already??? Yikes... sorry about that folks. I've been eyeball deep in episodes, scenes, beats, transitions, music cues, sound cues, sound effects, visual effects, graphics, and - of course - caffeine. :-)

All of which is to say that I've been editing.

Well, I haven't been in the editing room the entire time. It's been about 2 weeks now. Before that, Billy, Lee, and I spent many hours planted on my couch watching the directors' cuts of each of the episodes and taking notes. Now, in case you didn't know this, I'm a Capricorn... so "taking notes" actually means pages and pages of timecodes, comments, suggestions, changes, etc. - all of which I then spent more hours and hours typing neatly into an editing document for each episode (maybe I'm also part Virgo... hmmm... ). We brought these documents into the editing room with us and worked from them as the editor did our cuts of each of the episodes.

By the way, if you've never been in an editing room, it's quite an experience (and, parenthetically, one I never get tired of - I really, really LOVE editing). So here's how it works: The editor sits at a desk in front of two very large computer monitors, one nicely-sized television monitor, and a keyboard that has colors and symbols on the keys instead of letters and numbers.
-- The television monitor to the right is where you watch whatever the editor plays back for you... the newly edited scene, the finished cut of the show, etc.
-- The computer monitor to the left shows all the files that the editor could ever possibly need in order to edit the show... all the dailies, his cuts of each of the episodes, the directors' cuts of each of the episodes, bunches of songs and sound effects, etc.
-- The computer monitor in the middle is where all the action is. On the top half of the screen, there are two boxes side by side. One box shows the scene he's currently working on; the other box shows whatever new thing he might include in that scene (a different take of an actor's performance, a song, etc.) On the bottom half of the screen, there are different audio and video "tracks" that the editor can choose from as he works. So, if your scene has an actor smiling but you wanted a reaction of the actor laughing, then the editor deletes the "smiling" version from the video track and puts the "laughing" version in its place. But what if your actor laughed too loudly? Well, then the editor goes to the audio track, lowers the volume for the laugh, and voila: A quieter laugh! Hey, do you want the actor to laugh while surrounded by a menacing green glow? The editor adds a video effect. Concerned that the quieter laugh now doesn't quite fit with the menacing green glow? Pick up the microphone, record your own menacing laugh, put it onto the audio track to match the actor's moving mouth, and voila again: Instant menacing laugh that matches menacing green glow!

Of course, I'm making it all sound incredibly simple... and it's absolutely anything but. Good editing really is an art - and fortunately for us, we have an amazing editor. I never cease to be amazed by what he's able to do. He can craft a moment where none existed. He can raise or lower the emotional intensity of a performance, depending on what we need for the scene or the episode. He can create moods, establish timelines, make something funnier, make something more poignant. He can rewrite an entire scene just by the way he cuts it. He makes one scene flow to the next. He helps bring the writer's and director's visions to life. Editing is another layer of the storytelling process - and an incredibly important one at that. And, on a sidenote, I'm learning so much that will inform both my writing and my acting... which is a lovely bonus for me.

So next time you watch your favorite tv show or see a really great movie, look for the editor's name. And give a shout-out to the unsung heroes of storytelling, won't you?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get some sleep... I'm editing in the morning!