Hello dear readers,
Last week I wrote about my ADR recording session. Since then I've been asked to define what those terms (ADR, looping, voice-over, and dubbing) really mean. Sometimes we use these words to mean things they don't cover. In fact, I've seen a few show-biz websites that have slightly incorrect definitions for these terms.
So, let's take a look at how they are defined by SAG-AFTRA.
All of the terms involve the use of an actor's voice. Sometimes one actor at a time, and sometimes (as we'll see with looping) more than one actor at a time.
ADR stands for Automatic Dialogue Replacement. The original dialogue may need to be replaced if there was any kind of problem with the recording of the actor's voice on the set - such as a passing airplane, wind, crickets, etc., or the actor's voice was too low. Yes, the person recording the sound can raise the level, but that raises all the other background noises as well.
At the post-production facility, the actor will watch the scene that needs ADR and will have to match his lip movements exactly. That means the actor has to do the dialogue at the same pace as they did it on the set. If the scene involves another actor, the one doing the recording will hear the other actor's lines in their headphones.
Voice over is used for narration or in animated films. In an animated film, the character's lip movements will often be drawn after the actor does his lines - this makes it much easier on actors because they don't have to match lip movements on the animated characters.
Looping is used for things like background voices. For example, if a crowd of background actors need to be shouting, as a group, "Go team!" or "Grab that guy!" then a few actors will be brought in to the post-sound studio to record that "wild dialogue."
Dubbing is used mainly for creating dialogue in a different language than the film was originally recorded. So, if a film was shot in Italy and the actors spoke Italian, and now the producers want to release it in the United States in English, they'd dub it. Actors consider this the most difficult of the voice jobs, because you have to act a role that you haven't performed before. You have to capture the mood and emotion of the original actor, as well as the pacing. Dubbing used to be done a lot more than it is today. Thirty or forty years ago very few English speakers were used to reading subtitles on films. Nowadays audiences that go to see foreign films usually expect to see the film with the actors speaking the original language, with subtitles in English (or whatever language of the viewing country is).
There's one more type of recording that falls into the category of "pick up" scenes, and it's part of what I did in my last recording session. I recorded an entirely new scene - one that I hadn't shot on the set. It was a phone call. The other actor - the one who made the call - was shot on film, calling me, during the original shoot. But I wasn't recorded on the set. In the post-sound studio, I watched, and heard, the other actor speak, then I did my lines in between theirs, so it sounded like a natural phone call.
So, how come this isn't simply called "voice-over" since you only hear my voice - you never see me? It's called a new scene, because it's a brand new scene. It doesn't matter that it's only my voice - it's still a brand new scene for me. It falls under the general category of "pick up" scenes, where a new scene is done after the main production of a film or TV show has wrapped.
Hope that gives you an idea of the difference between these voice categories as they are defined by SAG-AFTRA.
As always, drop me a line if you have a question. And thanks for reading.