Opinion Pieces

Opinion Pieces


Clearing up sound and when to use ADR - hints and tips


Clearing up sound and when to use ADR - hints and tips

 

ADR has become more and more of an essential tool for dramas and feature films. Whether this is because of technical reasons (mic failure, background noise etc) additional lines needed to help with script continuity problems or crowd ADR needed for background texture. Or in the case of any BBC commissioned shows, it can be a requirement now as part of their “Best Practise Guide Sound Mixing”  compliance document* to help combat dialogue intelligibility issues. For those not familiar with the new BBC compliance document, all “locked” picture edits are sent to the BBC compliance department who then flag any lines of dialogue that they consider to have intelligibility issues. These lines are then requested to be recorded in ADR.

 

So when should ADR be used and what can we do to salvage location dialogue that is only flagged because of technical reasons? My first port of call, like any good dialogue editor, is try the alt takes. If we’re just trying to eliminate a background bang, knock, some footsteps, I’ll try find an alt take of the sentence, word or syllable if possible, to replace the noise. You always hope the actor has given a consistent performance in terms of projection, pitch and tone but that’s not always the case. If the pitch is ever so slightly off I’ll crack out a pitch shifting tool such as Pitch N Time Pro or even the Pro Tools loaded Pitch Shift Legacy plugin to try to achieve a better match to the rest of the line. 

 

I never automatically go to a noise reduction plugin if alts can’t work due to the background noise being a frequency or buzz. I start with a good notch EQ. The Waves Q10 has long been a favourite. If you’re just starting out though, and have the money, Fab Filter Pro Q 3 EQ is a good way to go. It has a spectrum analyser which can help give you an idea where the problem frequencies are. A tip a mixer once gave me was to Hum the problem frequency and do a frequency sweep on your EQ plugin. When your hum matches the frequency that’s causing the issue, notch it out and find the frequencies an octave above and below the one you’ve notched out as they will usually be causing problems too. If you’re working alone, this tends to help a lot but if you’re sharing a room with others, be prepared to get the stink eye from co workers if you do it too often. 

 

Sometimes EQ just won’t cut it if the problem is a broadband frequency range and that’s when I go to a noise reduction plugin. My current favourite is RX Dialogue Isolate. I’ve found that it’s one plugin I can push a little more and not get too many artefacts on my dialogue unlike other plugins within the RX family such as Voice De-Noise and Spectrum De-Noise. A new favourite is also the Waves WNS Noise Suppressor. Again I find this tends to add fewer artefacts on the dialogue. 

 

If I’m dealing with dialogue that is full of mouth clicks, I can sometimes be old school and manually draw them out if I have the time (a rarity these days) before i go to a processing plugin. I’ve still to find a good plugin that can really reduce reverb on dialogue. RX De-Reverb makes a good attempt but you can only push it so much before the dreaded “under water sound effect” starts to happen. When it comes to cloth rustle I use a combination of EQ, RX De crackle and RX De Rustle. I’ll attempt to roll off some higher frequencies using a gentle slope with a plugin like EQ-7 then I’ll try De Crackle first before De Rustle. Maybe it’s just me but bizarrely I’ve found De-Crackle better at handling cloth movement on dialogue. 

 

If all of the above has failed, that’s when I flag a line of dialogue for ADR and add it to the cue list for an actor.

 

I should point out, generally when I’ve taken on the dialogue edit for a project I’m usually also mixing it so this amount of processing works for me. If I am delivering a dialogue edit to a mixer, I always check how much processing they would like me to do before I start. It’s also important to say is that this is how I approach a dialogue edit. Bar one or two exceptions there is no right or wrong way to dialogue edit, no hard and fast rule. As long as you are achieving clear, intelligible dialogue, the method in which you took to get there shouldn’t matter.

 

www.emmabuttsound.com

 

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