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I recently completed a short film that needed a full dialog re-recording. The only space we were able to find was in a musician's studio with a sound booth. It sounds good as voice over, but for natural sounding dialog, I cannot make it sound like it is in the environment.

I need to make it sound as though it is outdoors in a large snowy field, and in a bus. I've always struggled with making any sound feel "outdoors" and can't seem to dial in the right reverb to make the dialog on the bus sound right. The ambiance and SFX outdoors and in the bus sound right, the dialog is the last unnatural sounding element.

Here is a sample of what I'm working with (none of the changes listed below have been applied - these are the raw recordings): http://vcprod.com/testADR.wav

I've currently:

  • Cut out much of the low end under 400Hz
  • Thinned out a lot of the mids
  • Put a low pass filter at 10k
  • Added very slight reverb, although it seems echoy when the actors yell.

Specifically, what do you do to make ADR sound natural in its environment, and what suggestions would you have for better dialog re-recording in the future?

Thank you so much!

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You have less to worry about than you think, as you are not having to match the ADR with production dialogue.

Concentrate on adding all of the sounds that you might hear within the bus.

Interior noises include

  • Powertrain/Propulsion: air intake, engine radiated, exhaust...
  • Wind/Aerodynamic: smoothness of air flow around vehicle, transmission loss of panels, seals, external features (signage etc.)
  • Road/Tyres: structureborne, airborne
  • Fellow passengers: movement and walla
  • Passing vehicles: engines and music

If you are feeling brave go to a bus terminal and record an impulse response in a stationary bus, and then gently add the convolution reverb to the ADR track.

With regards to the snow, it is highly absorbent as it is mostly air, so it should be acoustically dry.

You can suggest that they are standing in snow by adding some foley cornstarch underneath, as if the actors are moving from foot to foot gently as they stand.

Try and be gentle with the EQ as the audience rarely wants to listen to reality, they are more concerned with clarity and 'not being distracted' by the sound.

  • Good point on the EQ.. the sound criticism has all been from film people - the laymen who have watched it have had no comment on sound (a good thing, I suppose!) – VCProd Jun 18 '10 at 16:24
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95 percent of the time it boils down to PERFORMANCE. The reason ADR often sounds unnatural is because of the way people speak outside is different than the way they would speak inside. For example in a large snowy field there would actually be a fairly minimal reverb. However a person would talk much louder, because they are A) outside and B) usually farther away from the person they are speaking to then they are in a room. Also there's often more ambient sound outside a person has to speak over.

Some good tricks I've found during the record:

  1. Turn down the Headphone feed... If the actor is hearing themselves in the cans loud, they'll often speak quieter. Doesn't always work, but often does.

  2. Feed ambience into the cans. I did an ADR session where the characters were on a pedestrian overpass, and there was a TON of traffic. We still wanted to keep the traffic bg, but obviously couldn't keep the production. In order to get the actor to project correctly, I fed a loud traffic ambience into his cans, which he was able to project over. http://www.zedfilmworks.com/films_interchange.php -check out the 7 minute mark...

One trick I've found for AFTER is Pitch Shift. When you speak louder, your voice naturally takes on a higher pitch. I've used the DIGI TimeShift in Mono, to subtly (less than a semitone) pitch up a voice to make it "fit" better. Any Pitch Shift that allows you to pitch while keeping the formant constant should work.

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This will be difficult if you recorded everything close up in a non ideal room....

This thread on DUC covers the main issues of ADR recording:

http://duc.digidesign.com/showthread.php?t=270918

For the bus, it depends what the perspective is but have you tried using IR verbs? Altiverb has specific vehicle IRs.... The other option if you can access the bus would be to go record your own impulse...

  • I have not looked for a bus IR. I'll track that down today and see if it improves the sound. Thanks for the link! – VCProd Jun 18 '10 at 13:14
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Hi, before adding plugins and EQs I start recording the ADR with the same type of microphones and positioning as I would use in location sound, a Sennheiser 416 or MKH50 / 60 positioned above the head pointing the mouth or if you have have a boom operator for the ADR sessions is way better. The talent should try to act naturally not only with his voice but using all his body, just as he/she does in front of a camera. The key of convincing ADR starts with acting, then spatial location (right reverb and EQ) and then sync, in my humble experience. For yelling or loud passages try changing the microphone axis and if the sound "colors" the voice try a different booth or placement of the talent in the room, if he yells facing the glass you always will get those harmonics changing the natural timbre and destroying the illusion of outdoor. I'm in a tight deadline now, but I will give a listen to your files next week to see what can be done in this case. Thanks.

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