If you’re a voice talent, or someone looking to get into the industry, automated dialogue replacement is an important area to consider. Also known as ADR voice over, this field might just become your bread and butter.

By now, you probably have a rough idea of what ADR voice over is. Automated dialogue replacement (ADR) voice over refers to the process of re-recording dialogue in a studio to take the place of the one recorded on set.

If you’re a budding voice actor or actress, you might soon find yourself doing your first ADR voice over, which refers to superimposing the dialogue of a video on a controlled and treated space. When casted for a movie, the location can become problematic due to ambient noise and equipment lapses. Because of this, ADR voice over is a must for maximizing production value.

Becoming an ADR voice over talent is not as simple as producing dialogue the way you like it. You need dedication and effort to develop essential skills. You may not realize it, but almost every movie you watch features ADR dialogue. Considering this, it plays a vital role in any film or video production. When done the right way, ADR voice over can even save an entire scene from becoming unusable.

This post was updated in June 2021

What Is an ADR Voice Over?

ADR voice over is integral to any video, since the production may have faced problems with the original audio. For example, a vehicle may pass near the set during the take. Or the microphone of the lead star could bleed too much at times. And in some cases, the microphone just does not pick up the ideal amount of sound during a specific take. Also, many television shows ultimately decide to replace some words to make it more suitable for children or a younger audience.

In most cases, ADR voice over improves the vocal performance of an actor or actress. For instance, The Godfather star Marlon Brando is infamous for mumbling his lines when shooting to encourage the producers to ADR his scenes. When in the studio, Brando has more time to finely tune his dialogue based on his understanding of the context of the scene.

The importance of ADR voice over is undeniable. But many film niches avoid ADR voice overs. This belief is because many professionals think that ADR voice over is an added expense that could be avoided. However, ADR voice over could also be the saving grace of low-budget movies.

However, ADR also presents issues, since it’s challenging for many voice talents and actors to perform in a completely different setting than the set. Since they repeat their lines in a studio environment without the rest of the cast, some people find it hard to perform under these circumstances.


History of the ADR Voice Over

During the filmmaking boom in the 1930s, there was no available technology that would allow film producers and directors to factor in the dub, whether it may be in dialogue or sound effects. When studios started to put sound in their films, films took off and offered a better experience for their audience.

Later on, films were dubbed to sell them in foreign markets. For example, movie studio Paramount established a studio in France to remake scripts into 13 various languages. Known as Babel on the Seine, the establishment would keep the same costumes and sets, and simply change the actors for a different language version of the original script.

Although this did not work, it paved the way for post-synchronization, which became popular in 1935. Back then, a dubbing engineer had the same rank as a film editor. Not long after, most audio of films was done in post-production. This change transformed movies into the Hollywood and film formats we see today.

When ADR voice over was first done, studios used to record a loop of film which would play repeatedly. This process was referred to as looping. Now, all studios use computers to loop. This situation is where the term “automated” came from.

ADR Voice Over: Different Kinds

Although most ADR voice over is used for films, not every job will be done by an actor. If you sound like an actor or actress, producers are more likely to hire you to perform an ADR voice over. Usually, a voice actor will cover the entire performance of a certain actor or actress. The recorded audio will be mixed in the studio. Then, the music gets added together with the sound effects to get the final sound.

Here’s a look at the two types of ADR voice over.

Group ADR

This type of ADR voice over involves a group of voice talents commissioned to record an ADR during the post-production of a film or video. For this type, the number of actors or actresses usually total 15 or more. In a group ADR session, the actors will record the vibe of the setting.

Group ADR not only replicates the lead character’s voice, but also chatter in the background, or mimic the atmosphere of indoor scenes, such as restaurants. In some cases, other ADR voice over sounds in post-production include commentaries and announcements.

Principal ADR

There are many talents commissioned to re-record their own work in a studio due to many unforeseeable reasons, such as adding rewrites to a performance. With a principal ADR, the voice talents make use of synchronization to improve their performance and match the scene. They match the level of speed and even emotion of the original studio. However, improvisation is also important. To do this, ADR voice over talents need to work closely with directors and screenwriters to make sure that they deliver superior output.

Most actors’ contracts already include provisions ADR work for their projects. However, this may not be possible due to their busy schedules. To solve this dilemma, voice talents stand-in for the real actors.

How ADR Voice Over Works

When doing ADR voice over, you will probably do the job using headphones, so you experience the cues that lead up to your dialogue. The sound level should be loud enough for you to hear, but not overly loud to appear in your recording. Most times, ADR voice over talents wear a single headphone that fits them snugly to make sure sound bleed does not happen.

Before recording, the talents will usually preview a scene to have a clear picture of the timing. Then, the sound engineer will play the video again, and they have to wait for the beep, which signals when they should begin their performance. In most cases, voice talents will start saying the dialogue after the fourth beep.

Other times, the performance can also vary. This situation happens when the voice talent makes many versions of the same dialogue, which the editors can either use or scrap. There are also talents requested to do pauses during their performance so the editors can easily pick out which parts to use.

There are even voice talents who still continue to do more takes as long as the recording is still ongoing. This multiple take technique entails more work in post-production. But it is an effective way to achieve optimal results. Even though there has been an acceptable take, it is still helpful to record multiple times to make sure that everything is perfect.


Why Is ADR Important?

ADR voice over is the best way to make audio and video productions as clear as possible with the least amount of effort. It provides many important advantages, which contribute to its importance in the film industry today.

Different versions

Both small and large projects can feature ADR voice over. And a project may have a couple of different versions for TVs, the internet, or theaters. On some TV stations, it is compulsory to edit out parts that contain swear words with something more acceptable to their audience. The edit depends on the market in which the video will appear.

Noisy sets

Although ADR voice over is important, many filmmakers avoid it as much as possible. However, if they are shooting in a naturally noisy location, such as the beach or a mall, it would be virtually impossible not to use ADR voice over in production. This fact is because you can’t simply stop the wind on the beach or ask everyone to stop talking in the mall. Although these scenes may look amazing visually, these settings provide subpar audio quality. For places like these, it’s a must to replace a little, or most, of the audio with ADR voice over to ensure that it is crisp and clear.

On the other hand, studio sets are very quiet. This feature ensures that the production team can capture the dialogue of the leads clearly. However, other actors present in the scene can affect the audio. This situation is called a loop group. Although the original purpose of the loop group is to add more life to the scene, it can become too overpowering at times.

Improve performance

Many times, the performance of actors and actresses may be good on location, but as editors are reviewing, it will seem off. Editors may feel something is missing in a particular scene. This result may be due to word pronunciation, or even the timing of breaths and sighs. If not changed, these problems can reduce the impact of important scenes.


There have been thousands of movies wherein celebrities utilize a different accent compared to their normal speech. It is easy to experience lapses when using a different accent. It happens even with the guidance of an accent coach.

This mistake has happened in Hollywood many times. For example, in the movie Elysium, Jodie Foster played Delacourt, who was supposed to have a French accent. However, the test audiences did not feel as if she did a good enough job. Therefore, the studio decided to replace all her dialogue with an Americanized accent to make it more convincing. Since she was an original American English speaker, she did these changes well. You may notice this mistake if you watch the synchronization of her mouth and the dialogue closely.

Errors do not only happen with accents. Sometimes, in the editing phase, unexpected plot holes may come up. When this happens, ADR voice over can solve these issues by giving exposition on needed scenes.

ADR Voice Over Could Be Your Calling

While it may seem easy to achieve, it is impossible for many productions to record perfect dialogue while shooting on set. ADR voice over can fix this problem. Despite this ability, it’s important to remember that ADR voice over cannot solve any major production issue.

It is important to understand that ADR voice over does not come cheap, since the renting of a post-production facility, as well as hiring sound mixers and engineers, is expensive.

The importance of the ADR voice over in the film industry represents amazing career prospects. So if working in cool projects sounds enticing, start building your skills today!

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