Recently I was asked to record the ADR or overdub for a kids drama series. Being freelance often means prep time isn’t factored into your booking, which means you need anything and everything that can help you work faster on the day to get the job completed on time, to a high standard. With this job, no prep time meant no time to cue up (add in visual or audio cues) for every character in each half hour long episode of a 3 episode series. Each time an actor came in I was frantically trying to cue up their character. One actor spotted this and asked if I had ever heard of or tried a piece of software called VoiceQ. I hadn’t but decided to investigate once the first 3 episodes were completed and try it out.
What Kiwa Digital Ltd Say About VoiceQ
VoiceQ, as described on their website, is “the world’s first licensable ADR and Dubbing application with the largest feature set selection and advanced integration with Pro Tools and other DAWs.” It allows you to create beeps, countdowns and streamers, it has a built in digital Rythmo band and allows you to edit your script within the software.
What Is Rythmo Band?
If you haven’t come across Rythmo band it is defined on Wikipedia as…
“An alternative method to dubbing, called "rythmo band" (or "lip-sync band"), which has historically been used in Canada and France. It provides a more precise guide for the actors, directors, and technicians, and can be used to complement the traditional ADR method. The "band" is actually a clear 35mm film leader on which the dialogue is handwritten in India ink, together with numerous additional indications for the actor—including laughs, cries, length of syllables, mouth sounds, breaths, and mouth openings and closings. The rythmo band is projected in the studio and scrolls in perfect synchronization with the picture.
Studio time is used more efficiently, since with the aid of scrolling text, picture, and audio cues, actors can read more lines per hour than with ADR alone (only picture and audio). With ADR, actors can average 10–12 lines per hour, while rythmo band can facilitate the reading of 35-50 lines per hour.
However, the preparation of a rythmo band is a time-consuming process involving a series of specialists organized in a production line. This has prevented the technique from being more widely adopted, but software emulations of rythmo band technology overcome the disadvantages of the traditional rythmo band process and significantly reduce the time needed to prepare a dubbing session.”
Import Your Script With VoiceQ
But the best feature I found was the ability to import your script into the software and have it converted into region blocks within the Pro Tools timeline, which you can then move and place in sync. These region blocks, once sync’d up to your waveforms, then trigger your beeps, streamers and digital Rythmo band. Unlike using the 3 pip method though, the timing of these region blocks can be adjusted to sync up with each word which means if you are using the digital Rythmo band, the words will be highlighted a different colour when the actor needs to say them which should help with your sync (Similar to how a karaoke system works)
VoiceQ Setup And Installation
The setup and installation of the software and connecting to work with Pro Tools couldn’t be simpler. I would recommend anyone using the software for the first time to go to the support section of the VoiceQ website. Not only do they have step by step guides on setup, connection to DAW’s as well as how to use all the features, they also have video tutorials that you can watch as you go through the process yourself. I was using a single machine setup using an IAC driver but you can also set it up to use on a dual computer configuration.
Unlike other similar software, you do not run your picture through ProTools but through VoiceQ instead. You have the option to play your original or sync audio through Pro Tools or VoiceQ but I opted to play it through Pro Tools as I had more control over the level. I had no issues with picture stability while testing.
Streamers And Beeps
All streamers and beeps are triggered through the software with all of their parameters being customisable to suit your taste. You then have two options for your script. You can display the static script anywhere on your picture screen so the actor can see their lines coming up in advance or you can use the digital rythmo band or both. Personally, I found the digital rythmo band more distracting and opted to just use the static text. All of the script lines can also be amended as you go and additional lines can also be added by using “Command+L” on a Mac or right clicking and choosing “add line”.
Filter For One Character At A Time
If you are using the software and you are recording one actor at a time, make sure to go to “Script, Single character mode” and select which character you are recording each time. This will bring up just the lines for that character. There is also a display window on the top right hand side of the screen, which displays each character name, the colour assigned to that character for their streamer and how many lines or words that character has.
On this window you can also choose to filter which character lines you would only like to see. Your script will appear on the main widow on the left of the screen above your timeline. Here, you can see all the characters lines, numbers, timecodes in, out and duration. You can also edit each line in the section so if you get to the recording stage and a line of dialogue just isn’t working you simply double click on the line and amend as needed.
As we have mentioned, VoiceQ allows you to import your ADR Cue sheet or timecoded script straight into the software and it will automatically create region blocks on the timeline, which act as your cues. These region blocks actually contain the words from the lines of dialogue that the actor needs to say, which you can then sync up perfectly in time with the audio waveform. This means if you are using the digital Rythmo band each word will be highlighted in time with when the actor needs to say it.
I have to say I was initially sceptical about this function. My thoughts were, “well every client I work with uses and provides me with a script or cue lines in .pdf format and VoiceQ can’t work with .pdfs”. Automatically I had decided this isn’t going to work for me. However, most of the common software used to export cue sheets does give you other export options and VoiceQ accepts nearly all of them from what I could see, and after speaking to the VoiceQ support team, they are hoping to add .pdf support. UPDATE: VoiceQ 4.3 now supports PDF Screen play script import.
I tested out the software with .xlsx, .txt files and .fdx and they all imported really well. The only issue I had was with a .xlsx file where the client had provided me with the incoming timecodes as mins:sec:frames (00:00:00) as opposed to hours:mins:sec:frames (00:00:00:00). It meant that unfortunately the software wouldn’t recognise most of the lines and I had to import without the timecodes and sync up manually. Obviously if the script you are provided doesn’t have timecode in it, it will still import it and create the regions blocks with the words embedded in them, but you will have to move them manually to the correct place on the timeline. UPDATE: VoiceQ4.3 now supports the import of Timecoded scripts with mins: sec
One of the very clever features of the software is their AutoSync function. It will import your script and dialogue and automatically sync both up, all you have to do is quickly go through and play the first few words of the preview to make sure the sync is correct and you are good to go, your session is cued up.
However there are downsides to this function. You are limited on the type of files it can import with it only recognising .txt and Microsoft Office files (it wouldn’t recognise my .xlsx file) Also your dialogue track needs to be completely clean. This function would work really well on animation where the original dialogue you are over dubbing has been recorded in a controlled environment. For something like ADR it doesn’t quite work as the dialogue will almost always have some form of background noise on the recordings. I did try it out with a dialogue wav, which had background noise and it didn’t do too badly, finding about 40% of the lines.
Having spoken with the VoiceQ support team this function is as good as it will ever be. They did tell me there was an additional add on you could purchase separately that might do a better job with a non controlled recorded dialogue, however I have not been able to test it.
Export Full Cue Sheet
Another feature I really liked was the ability to export a full cue sheet for every character with cue number, timecode in and out and character name information as well as take count and preferred takes space just by going to “File, Report, Export ADR Cue List”.
You can also export export individual character script reports, with the same information, by going to “File, Report, Export Individual Character Script Reports”
What We Think Of VoiceQ By Kiwa Digital Ltd
Overall this is a really clever piece of kit. The streamers, video, audio cues and static script all work really well for ADR but I think VoiceQ’s strength lies in over dubbing or animation work. The AutoSync function, as it can work with clean recorded dialogue, just speeds up the cueing process massively. With any live action dialogue (dialogue that hasn’t been recorded in a controlled environment) there still is a bit of manual prepping to be done, even with importing your time coded script as you’ll need to check all region blocks and move them slightly if you want to use the digital Rythmo band.
Being able to edit and amend script lines on the fly is also a big time saver, meaning if you are over dubbing a show into a foreign language and the new language is just too long compared to the original, you can easily re write it there and then and display it on the screen for the actor to read, no need to reprint the scripts. Working in kids animation years ago, I was always left to create and export all character scripts which was a time consuming process. Having a piece of software like this where I could cue up all characters and then export all sheets in a few button clicks would have saved me so many hours. All in all, a good piece of software that I would recommend checking out.
VoiceQ Pros And Cons
For animation Autosync will speed up workflow
Incredible customer support and online tutorials
Ability to export all character ADR cue lists
PDF Not supported (Now supported in VoiceQ 4.3
Autosync cannot work perfectly without clean,recorded dialogue
Update: VoiceQ 4.3 Released
VoiceQ has been updated with several new features and fixes, including 2 that were highlighted in this article…
PDF Screen play script import
Import of Timecoded scripts with mins: sec
Preview window with stylised onscreen comments
Customisable Timeline Window
Logic Pro X (latest version) Support