The work of a Post Production Supervisor ebbs and flows. In pre-production, it’s all about setting things up, working with vendors and establishing a workflow with a crew that will enable a strong end to end pipeline. In production, it’s making sure the dailies are going smoothly, troubleshooting any issues that might come up, lending support to the editor and generally anything related to post that needs attention. And then there’s actual post production, where I become immersed with the elements of a finishing a film— from VFX, editing, music and score—to all of the technical elements that hold each piece together. Currently, I’m in the thick of post on three feature films with sound work, specifically ADR (stands for Additional Dialog Recording), just around the corner.
ADR is an interesting beast—a strange combination of artistry, timing skills and technical understanding is needed in order to successfully capture dialog (and emotion) from an actor while he or she is wearing a pair of clunky headphones and watching a typically un-color corrected, low-resolution picture of themselves in a darkened room, and make it sound believable. Here’s a few tips for the first time filmmaker in the ADR booth:
1) In most cases, it’s the first time actors are seeing footage of the movie. Try not to show them too much of the film at this point, and just keep to the scene. The actor is usually only concerned about how they appear in the film, and if they see something they don’t like, this can lead to an uncomfortable conversation and distract from the business at hand.
2) As the director, you should be alone in the session with the actor. An obvious point, but important to state. This will allows you to find a comfortable rapport with your actor and re-build trust that’s needed for the session, since it’s most likely been several months since you’ve seen each other on set. It’s my opinion, ADR sessions should only involve the director and actor, the less people the better in order to make quick decisions, stick to the vision of the film, and stay on schedule.
3) Try to schedule the actors one after the other so that the energy and momentum of the work has a flow. Buffer a half hour in between sessions at most.
4) Decisiveness is key when doing ADR. Make sure you are prepared and can make quick decisions in order to save you time later on in the final mix.
5) Keep an ear on things to make sure you don’t spend too much time on one line reading. Sometimes the actor and/or the director can get fixated on a very small piece of dialog that is not going to make or break the movie. If need be, suggest you come back to a line later on in the session.
6) Don’t start with voice over. Allow the actor to warm up with other dialog first and find their groove.
7) Time is generally scheduled pretty tight, so it’s a good idea to prioritize what lines are most important to get from your actor. In a pinch, you might have to drop the TV safe lines or at least move through them quickly. Generally speaking, budget an hour of time for 10 lines.
8) When possible, try to minimize the number of lines you’ll need to get in ADR by asking your Sound Supervisor to examine alternate takes from production sound. When there is less than 10 lines needed for a specific actor, you’ll can weigh out the necessity of bringing them in, versus trying to also get what you need in a group session.
9) Sometimes it’s advantageous to bring in two actors at once for a scene in ADR. Overlapping their ADR schedule by a half-hour or so will allow you time to work with them alone and with another actor only for the scene needed.
10) Lastly, try not to cringe every single time (sometimes ridiculously numerous times) an actor says,“Oh my god, I look so fat,” in between takes, when they clearly appear to be a size zero and look like they could snap in half if you stepped on them by accident.