Nothing can take a viewer out of the fantasy that a film creates quicker than garbled dialogue. As a pivotal member of the audio post-production team, the ADR editor makes sure that all the spoken dialogue in a film is of the highest possible audio quality.
An ADR editor’s job begins after the film has been shot and the production tracks have been recorded on DAT, or digital audio tape. During principal photography, it is the shared responsibility of the production sound mixer and script supervisor to take note of any scenes where unwanted noises interfere with the clean recording of dialogue. The noises could be environmental, such as planes overhead or excessive echoes generated in the sound stage. It is also common for the director to give instruction to the actors during a scene, and therefore his or her voice is captured on the recording. The notes taken during production are copied to the editor’s script, and a copy is given to the ADR editor during post-production. Actors are scheduled for looping sessions to rerecord their lines in order to replace the unusable audio tracks.
ADR (automated dialogue replacement, also known as looping) is nothing more than the rerecording of dialogue to synchronize it with to the moving image. The actor uses the guide track to match the moving lips on screen with his or her voice—or, in the case of a crowd scene that requires background conversational noise, the ADR editor supervises a “walla group,” literally a group of people making nonsense sounds to approximate crowd chatter. The ADR editor monitors the actors while they watch footage and re-voice their lines as closely as possible, making sure that the dialogue syncs up with the footage, which is aided by the DAT chasing the timecode impulses. When all looping sessions are complete, and the director is pleased with the captured dialogue, the ADR editor sends the finished tracks to the re-recording mixer where the dialogue is combined with the final sound effects and musical score.
Skills & Education
A college degree in film and television production with a concentration on audio post-production is beneficial to this career but may be substituted for a degree in recording arts with a particular focus in audio engineering. The ADR editor must be proficient in the use of analogue and digital audio recording consoles, as well as Pro Tools digital audio software. He or she should be knowledgeable about the distinctions between dynamic, condenser, carbon, and ribbon microphones and understand the appropriate uses of each in relation to recording dialogue. Excellent communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively are crucial in this position, as the ADR editor will cooperate directly with lead and supporting cast to complete looping sessions. He or she must be confident in communicating the director’s needs but also professional in coaching the actors to achieve their best work. The ADR editor instructs the actor in delivering lines in sync with the picture and timecode as well as in replicating the same quality of performance and line delivery the director demanded on set.
What to Expect
ADR editors may work as freelance technicians or as full-time employees of an audio post-production studio. During heavy production seasons, he or she may be contributing to multiple projects simultaneously, leading to workdays that stretch late into the night and well past the eight-hour mark. Like everyone else in the film and television business, this person must be flexible in accommodating schedules and be willing to be available at 5 in the morning or 10 at night. To prepare for a career as an ADR editor you may seek out an entry-level position at a post-production audio studio. Work as an intern, trainee, or assistant is immensely valuable in understanding the looping process and how it relates to refining the complete film soundtrack.
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