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Introduction to ADR and Dubbing

ADR and dubbing (and looping but that’s a whole other thing) are all different processes.

However, it seems that the term ADR has become something of a catch-all term for any work that requires audio to be recorded and timed accurately to video.

ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement but there really is little about the process which is automated.

My ADR Beginnings

ADR is a voiceover genre that I started exploring seriously these last couple of years. The popularity of Anime and streaming services seeking to localize foreign language content have made it a booming industry. It has also led to my first feature cinema animation where I am part of the English Language VO Cast of the film Warrior King, a feature-length Chinese animation. I voice General Zai & Ancient Spirit, along with a wonderful cast.

ADR Sessions - In Person or at Home?

Until recently, dubbing has almost exclusively been conducted in live sessions in a studio. It requires a great deal of collaboration between the engineer, the voice director, and the voice talent. For me that’s the best situation, I don’t need to manage the recording, the video or the test to see how accurate the sync is, and so on. I get to focus on the sight reading, the performance, and the character. Even so, I have found myself working remotely on projects with an engineer sending the video session to me via SessionLinkPRO and controlling it from their end. I’ve also been sent the video and the script to record and manage the sync process myself.

The Great ADR Challenge

Matching your voice to an original animation, video game, advert or movie/series is a time-consuming process. I worked in a studio recently for 4 hours (2 x 2-hour sessions) lip-syncing a 0:30 TV commercial! This was a live-action piece, so the mouth movements of the actor were more complex than typical for an animation. So please be aware that ADR/Dubbing is both a performance (pitch, tone, emotion) challenge and a technical process (timing to the 10th or 100th of a second) that usually requires more time and takes than standard voiceovers. The lip movement, emotions, and voice must match as closely as possible to the original format. Sometimes the director may have to alter the script or speed of voice to make this happen. The director and sound engineer work closely with the voice actor. When working with Stephen Weese on Warrior King we had to discuss and eventually change several words to enable the sentence to match the lip flaps of the animation. We didn’t quite need to reach for a thesaurus, but it can be a challenge to find the right matching word at times.

Is ADR right for you?

If this is an area that you are interested in, I do recommend working with an experienced ADR/Dubbing coach. There really is no substitute in this genre to getting some training and practice in a safe place where you can experience what it feels like to hear the beeps or watch the timeline whilst still maintaining your performance. I’ve attached some links you might find useful, if you want to train or learn even more about the industry.

Other resources:

The Voiceover Network featuring Stephane Cornicard Introduction to Dubbing

Fannie Brett-Rabault Facebook Dubbing Community

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Ian Russell

Ian Russell is a British Voiceover Artist specializing in commercial voice over, narration, video game, character voices, animation and more. He is a frequent guest speaker on conference panels and podcasts, sharing knowledge about voice over. Read More >>


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