Point & Click of No Return - ADR Session 1 Reflection

Kim Kringle Performing ADR

The first ADR session for the film went really well overall. We were aiming to get all the dialogue done for scenes 2 and 4, which is basically a phone call between Billy (the main protagonist played by Sam-Son) and Gayle (his love interest, voiced by Kim Krinkle) where he wakes up after a nightmare and she calls to see if he’s OK. We had an experienced female voice actor in to play the part of Gayle.

The style of audio the director wants for this film is hyper-real and the references we’ve been given are Tarantino movies and requiem for a dream. I did some research on the sound in Tarantino films and his audio mixer Mark Ulano claims that they have never ADR'd a single line. He is an extremely professional on set recording artist working in a team that has the money to control the environment they record in. Our circumstances are very different this was my first time on a film set, the first time I'd used a boom, lapel mics and had only dabbled with an F8 mixer so expecting the same results as Mark Ulano would be unrealistic.

20 Years of Collaborating with Tarantino with Zero ADR: Production Sound Mixer Mark Ulano on The Hateful Eight

However, the video below explains that if you are going to replace the audio with ADR you can either go back to the same location with the same mics in order to blend the ADR with the sound from on set or just replace the whole scene with ADR. We choose to go with the later because it gave us more control over the environment and access to cleaner sounding microphones. We were confident that we could record with close mics (10-12 inches) and recreate the space of any room with reverb after the fact. We choose to use an SM7B and a Neumann U87. We choose these mics to get a more natural sound from the SM7B and more detail and clarity from the U87. I find for vocal work it is often good to use 2 close mics so that you have the choice later to blend the 2 or to use the one you prefer. We didn't use any distant mics because all the shots are close and the small vocal booth we had access to, didn't really allow for distant miking.

A really good introductory video on ADR whish has helped inform our desicions.

We recorded Gayles parts first she was really professional, doing vocal warm-ups, drinking special tea for her voice and she knew the script. She had quite a range and tried to play the character in a variety of ways with direction mostly from the director but with respectful feedback from the rest of us. She started off sounding a bit too sexy and we were trying to get a performance from her that was both nurturing and vulnerable. The takes got better and better and we did manage to capture what the director was looking for. We took at least 3 good takes of each section so that we would have some backup and hopefully we wouldn't need to get Kim to come back in. There was one section in the film where Billy is not listening to her and she says in his name in a frustrated tone. It was very important that this had the right tone to it, frustrated but not angry, stern but without raising her voice. This one word took the most work to get right and we ended up just leaving the record on and getting her to do it over and over again. She asked us if she could swear and she started saying “Fuck, Billy” which allowed her to get what she wanted out of the performance.

After she left and we all had a break we set out to do Billy’s parts to the phone conversation followed by some inner monologue. Sam-Son, co-wrote the script and understood the character in depth and had already acted the parts on film, so he had a really good idea of how he wanted to play the part. However, this was the first time Sam Son had ever done any ADR work which made for an interesting contrast to the work we’d just done. We had more technical issues such as saliva and mucus so we had to make make sure that he kept his mouth lubricated with water and blew his nose regularly. We also had to make sure a lot of this dialogue was lined up with the mouth movements on screen which wasn't really a concern for the girl on the other end of the phone, just the timing had to fit to the cuts and in between what he said, which was why we had someone read those lines of the script on set in the first place. Anyway, it took a bit of work to get the phrases lined up just perfect but less time getting the right performance. We did learn that some takes are right but just slightly delayed and if you nudge them back a few frames they can sometimes line up perfectly we also learnt that changing a word does not always work depending on how the mouth moves at the end of that word. Every line we meticulously checked watching over and over again to make sure it was perfect and I found the more we did this the better we got at it.

Sam-Son Performing ADR

The inner monologue sections needed a different approach from the actor and from us because we wanted a different performance form the phone calls, we needed it to sound like the voice in his head, thoughtful, reflective and we also needed it to fit to the film. We did need to trim some words and rephrase things a bit to make this work and this was something I was quite good at, I am very interested in the way words fit together and being someone who knew the script well but wasn’t involved in writing it I was able to make suggestions without him stepping on anyone's toes. I think the director trusted me in this regard and we changed things just enough to make the dialogue more succinct and to fit within the edit whilst remaining poetic and keeping the intention of the words intact. I do fully acknowledge that this would not generally be part of my role on a bigger project and it would not be my place to make these changes, but the director and I have built a very trusting relationship and in this particular scenario he was openly allowing the team to work this out. We did quite a few takes of these sections just changing little inflictions on certain words with each take until we were all happy and most importantly the director was happy.

This was an incredibly fruitful session, we all learnt a lot about voice acting, coaching and the anal retentive nature of syncing things up in post for film. I am really glad to be a part of this. I love seeing projects come to life bit by bit and there is something about this film that really makes me want to see it all come together. I can’t wait till the next ADR session.

Check out my previous blog here...

Point & Click of No Return Audio Reflection 1

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