A Little ADR Goes a Long Way

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ColumbiaSome people call it “Automated Dialogue Replacement” or “Additional Dialogue Replacement”, but everyone agrees that it is called “ADR” for short.

Find out what it is, why it’s important and how it is used here on VOX Daily.

What is ADR?

ADR, sometimes referred to as Automated Dialogue Replacement, is a niche within voice over that occurs during post-production of a film after the final edit has been completed (locked).

Who Uses ADR?

Generally, ADR is standard for big budget films and Hollywood blockbusters, in other words, films that need to be as professional and clean as possible for mass audience consumption at the box office and beyond.

Who Decides What Needs ADR?

Prior to an ADR session, technicians at the film’s post-production facility of choice team up to check for any vocal mishaps or unusable lines; this effort is called a “spotting” session. Once areas that need ADR are identified, the team divvies up the work and sets out to book actors for ADR sessions.

How is ADR Done?

If there are lines or words that weren’t delivered properly (or as desired by the director) ADR sessions take place and the actor (or hired voice actor doing the voice match on the ADR) is required to record the lines in question so that the replacement audio can be edited into the film. Many takes are recorded to get the perfect delivery that will be used in the final version of the film.

Why is ADR Important?

As we noticed earlier, ADR is important because it can present a pristine image and seamless production with minimal effort considering the massive size of the overall project.
ADR is also necessary because there are often two different versions of a film made, one for the theatres and DVDs but also another version usually for airing on television that may need to have certain words censored. For example, a substitute word may be included to replace a curse or swear word.

In rare instances, ADR can even be recorded to help complete a film when an actor has passed away before their ADR session or the film is re-mastered decades after the initial filming and a voice match is needed.

Cool Facts About ADR

- ADR sessions can take place on special ADR sound stages
- Voice actors have the ability to make very good money performing ADR for celebrities
- The SAG union pay scale for an ADR session is at least $466.00 (SAG ADR rate from 2005).
- Anthony Hopkins recorded some ADR for the late Laurence Olivier in the re-mastered version of Sparticus

Do you have any experience with ADR? Let us know by adding a comment!

Looking forward to hearing your stories,
Photo via the Columbia Academy Website, Studio B

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  • Mike Sullivan
    August 7, 2008, 10:24 am

    I was the on-camera talent for Hormel’s safety video regarding Listeria/Listeriosis. We shot in the packing plant between 1:00 and 4:00 AM to show the steam-cleaning process, required clothing changes, necessary foot baths and associated procedures. The noise from the refrigeration equipment was intense, even with line shut down. We ended up lip-syncing the entire program, line by line and then dubbing in the background noise at a “more moderate” level. Rather than use a V/O booth, I sat next to the producer in the edit suite and watched their monitors. Communication was easier and the control room noise was fully masked by the overdub of plant noise. No one ever guessed the monologue was “faked.”

  • russ walker
    August 7, 2008, 12:25 pm

    did not know about ADR! yet another great way to make $$ with your mouth!!!
    thanks VoX!!

  • Susan McCollom
    August 8, 2008, 7:33 pm

    In addition to the situations you noted, ADR is necessary for background work in film as well. Take, for example, a restaurant scene where the lead actors are seated in a booth that adjoins another booth containing a couple of extras. The “extras” are requested to mime their actions while cameras roll. When a film is in post production, a group of VO actors will be called upon to “put words back” in the mouths of the couple. This will “get mixed” to sound like general restaurant banter. ADR calls for great improvisation skills and timing. But, you can’t be so busy improvising that you don’t notice your character is taking a sip of wine.
    I did ADR work at Skywalker Ranch for the movie “ZODIAC” and in addition to the above mentioned skills, you had to remember not to use words like … cell phones, computers, iPods etc. that hadn’t been invented yet. It’s also helpful to do a little research on music, news and other topics of the time before your session. Familiarization with law, police, and medical terms was helpful in “ZODIAC”, as we improvised for characters such as police dispatchers and detectives.
    The rate, I believe, is closer to $900 a day for SAG, ADR movie work. I think it’s one of the most challenging and fun areas of voice-over.
    Susan McCollom
    Voice Actor and Coach
    San Francisco

  • larry w jefferson sr
    August 9, 2008, 12:08 pm

    hello my perception of what i have just read of you is very very exciting and want to get involved as well. i love talking to people on a daily basis. hope to hear from you very very sooon.

  • BigBan
    August 17, 2008, 11:26 am

    Oh, Thanks! Really amazing. Big ups!

    March 10, 2011, 11:54 pm


  • Vahan
    July 6, 2011, 1:57 am

    “or the film is re-mastered decades after the initial filming and a voice match is needed.”
    Um, since when is it a policy to hire voice doubles anytime a film is remastered? Unless some of the original audio is damaged beyond repair.