ADR Recordist and Editor Emma Butt gets asked a lot of questions by people starting out about how to do ADR. What format should tracks take, stereo or mono? Why use a fill track? What is a good way to cue up your session efficiently before starting? How do I deliver the session once completed? In this article Emma will answer these questions and you can download her Pro Tools ADR Template too.
The honest answer is practise and experience but a reliable session template is a good place to start. In this article I go through the basic steps I take before every session which can then be expanded on by a session by session basis.
The majority of Dialogue Editors I have worked with all ask for a fairly standard session delivery…
Stereo tracks with Boom on the left and Lav (Clip) on the right,
Selected takes at the top of the session with all other takes below and everything else removed from the session you deliver them.
The only variable when recording and delivering a session for a film is if the dialogue editor would like all reels recorded in the one session or multiple sessions, this you always ask in advance.
Once you know your delivery spec the basic set up is easy.
How To Build An ADR Session Template
I usually start with 5 Selected Takes tracks and 20 Take tracks. 2 Aux tracks with no compression or EQ, one for my boom mic in and the other for my clip mic.
I’ve found that generally if the studio I’m in is using a Mic Preamp like the Focusrite Red which will only allow you notch up the input gain by notches of 8, having another opportunity for volume control before it reaches the record track comes in handy and can allow me to increase the level just slightly with the fader as opposed to adding another 8dBs of gain. Another tip is if you find you are are really pushing the the input gain on your mic preamp and on your fader then it’s a clear sign your actor isn’t projecting enough.
I also create a mono dials (dialogue) track, mono sfx (sound Effects) a music track and a fill track. Finally I have a stereo record track and 2 mono playback tracks, one for the boom and one for the clip.
All this can be seen here. You can click on the image to see a larger version…
Get A Split Guide Track
Usually you will be provided by an embedded Quicktime with a split guide track. For most dramas, the guide track will just be a mix from the picture edit. For Feature Films, depending on what stage they are at in post, this guide can actually be stems from the temp (temporary) mix. If you are not provided with a split guide and there is time before your session, send it back and ask for one. Actors need to be able to hear their lines clearly and this can’t be done when the guide track is covered in music where they need to record a line of ADR. With these guide tracks I then split them off onto my mono dials track and my sfx and music track/s.
I only use a fill track if there is time and budget there. I will go through through the session to each ADR is, find a piece of ‘atmos’ from that shot that has no dialogue or music on it and “fill in” where we will be recording the line of ADR. This way during playback I can give the clients a proper sense of it the line will sit well in the mix. The easiest way I’ve found to create my fill track is by using RX Ambience match but not every studio will have this.
This template is designed for recording in a studio with separate booth and control room. I’ve created a master bus called “Actor Master” which controls the level of everything being sent to the artist and created sends on my guide tracks and record track which all feed this master. This gives me control of the various levels of the guide being sent and their mic level. Everyone else will just be listening through the speakers in the control room. If you are working in a open plan studio, you will need to create additional master buses for the dial super (dialogue supervisor), director and yourself and sent to their headphone inputs.
For the routing of my mics, I create a stereo bus called “Mics” with mono sub paths, again with boom on left and clip on right, and send this to the stereo record track. Everything else goes to the control room outs and my Actor Master bus for playback.
I personally do not like to listen to both my mics at the same time while recording, this is a personal preference and something you need to decide for yourself, so I pan all my stereo tracks dead centre and place a stereo Trim plug in on each Selected Takes, All Takes and Record track. Depending on which mic I want to listen to while recording, generally the boom, I mute the right hand side of the Trim plug in, which mutes the clip feed and leave the remaining side unmuted. (On your plug in make sure the “link” function is switched off otherwise both sides will mute). During recording I will always check on my clip mic every few takes by unmuting the right side and muting the left on the trim plug in. I also make sure to keep checking my waveform as rustle noises and hits are instantly recognisable.
In terms of a cueing system I have both beeps and wipes set up. The most common cueing systems used are EdiPrompt from Sounds In Sync and a Colin Broad system, either the VM-15 or the VS-1. The one I know and love is the VS-1. You can either manually programme in all your cues (time consuming and not advisable) or it has an audio input at the back of the box, which means you can take an audio out from Pro Tools into the audio input on the VS-1 and trigger your wipes this way. EdiPrompt is a really clever piece of software, it creates a video overlay window which is placed over your guide video in your Pro Tools session. In its settings you can then choose if you want wipes, a countdown, flash frame or beeps. You can add the text of the line of dialogue you need to record onto the picture screen and you can set the programme to rename your record track during your session. My one and only downside to Ediprompt, which may have changed, is that it knocks out the function to use 3 on the numeric keypad to hit record.
If the facility I’m working in has not got EdiPrompt but instead uses a Colin Broad system and the dial super has provided me with EdiCue (also from Sound In Syncs) MIDI pips I create an Aux track called Midi Pips. On this Aux track I place an instance of Structure Free, which comes as part of Pro Tools Ultimate. I set Structure Free up to use the Sine Wave patch and in the transpose section set the Octave to +3 and semi to +11 to create the most common pip sound. You can adjust these settings if you wish but I find this a good place to start.
I import my MIDI cues making sure “Midi track” is selected on import and I send the output of these to an available Structure Free port, take your pick on whatever one you like. The output of this Midi Pips track goes out via my Pro Tools audio out and is connected to the Colin Broad audio input to trigger the wipes and then depending on whether the artist would like to hear the actual beeps, it can also go to their Master feed. If MIDI cues have not been provided I have a seperate Pips track which I use to manually pip up before a session and again send this to the Colin Broad system to trigger my wipes.
You can click on the image to see a larger version…
For playing back a take I have 3 standard reverbs set up, a small room, large room and ambient verb. I prefer to use Altiverb but not every studio will have this so find a reverb you know well and use that. I also place an EQ plug-in on my playback tracks so when playing back a scene or take, in order to “sell it” to the client, I can quickly add some reverb and EQ the mic to make the match to the rest of the location dialogue more seamless.
That is my basic set up. When Source Connect, ISDN or Skype become part of your session obviously things need to be adjusted but I always use this as my starting point and work from there.
I really hope you find this useful and if anyone has any helpful tips or suggestions please do leave comments and suggestions below. I’ve also provided a copy of this session template which you can download and adjust to your own setup. The session file contains just a standard Avid EQ and Reverb but adjust it to a reverb and EQ you know and love. The most important thing about your session template is that it is one you know well and are comfortable using no matter what studio you are in.
A big thank you to Garret Farrell at Screen Scene Post Production for training me in most of this method many moons ago.
More About Emma Butt
Emma Butt is a freelance ADR Recordist, Dubbing Mixer and Sound Editor working professionally in post production sound for over 11 years and she has offered to produce articles for us.
Having spent most of her career at Screen Scene Post Production in Dublin where she worked on everything from ADR on drama and feature films to sound edit and dubbing mixing on animations, documentaries, entertainment shows and anything else that came her way, she relocated to London three years ago and worked at various post houses before joining the big bad world of freelancing.
She is a council member of AMPS and actively tries to support and promote more women in the sound industry.
She is usually found saying "Feck" a lot like a bad Father Ted comedy character.