This blog, brought to you by UPP Studios, discusses audio dubbing as it relates to filmmaking. Audio dubbing is a practice that dates very far back in cinema. Initially, it was primarily used for films that involved singing. There were many actors and actresses that had acting “chops,” but a terrible singing voice. In these instances, a singer would be brought in to record the singing separately, to be later synced with the movement of the lead actor’s/actress’ mouth. There is a very funny scene in the classic film from the 1950s, “Singin’ In The Rain,” in which they play out that very scenario. This was a practice that was extremely common.
Marni Nixon, who passed away earlier this year, was one of the most notorious of what one might call a “playback singer.” While she was best known for audio dubbing the lead vocals for the films “West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady,” and “The King And I,” she was responsible for lead vocals on several other films throughout the course of her long career.
As time passed, and the film industry continued to evolve, filmmakers began using audio dubbing for other things. The most commonly used term for this practice in today’s industry is ADR. ADR stands for automated dialogue replacement. In an action film, it is often difficult for an actor to properly recite their dialogue, while simultaneously executing intricate fight choreography. In these instances ADR is used to insert lines into the scene after filming the action.
Action film audio dubbing tends to be easier than re-recording dialogue for a scene in which the actors can be seen speaking, but something interfered with the clarity of the sound (wind, other external noise interference, perhaps the volume or intonation of the actor’s delivery was lacking, etc.). In an action sequence, the actors tend to move very quickly, making it difficult to see their mouths moving when they speak. This makes ADR simple, as nothing has to be matched up. In the film “The Dark Knight Rises,” Tom Hardy was delivering his dialogue through a face mask. As such, he re-recorded a lot of his dialogue once filming had wrapped, so that the audience wouldn’t have to make an effort to hear him through the mask.
Trying to match vocal intonation, inflection, and motivation can prove to be quite a feat for an actor. If any of those things are off, even slightly, a performance will fall flat because the audience is immediately taken out of the fantastical cinematic realm. Even if everything seems perfect, recording sound after the fact can be maddening for the actor, as he/she will always know that no matter how well they performed on the audio dubbing, the audio is not the authentic original audio recorded during the visual performance. Unfortunately, this technique is generally used as a last resort, so one must live with whatever comes out of the recording sessions.
UPP StudiosUPP Studios has some experience with audio dubbing. This process has proven to be difficult, and time consuming, so we try to avoid it at all costs. We have found that the best kind of ADR is for sound effects, to enhance a viewing experience. Re-recording dialogue is an obligation, while recording sound effects is actually a lot of fun.
There are some amazing sound engineers in the industry. These masterminds have come up with all sorts of interesting ways in which to create sounds, both real and imagined. Some of the ways in which certain sounds are made would probably shock you. For instance, in the “Star Wars” films, the sound that a light saber makes is actually a chainsaw slicing through a tree. In many films, a kissing sound is generated when two halves of a lemon are being squeezed against each other.
UPP Studios has barely begun to scratch the surface of sound creation. The sounds that we have created, have further facilitated the scenes in which they are used, and made for an even more captivating viewing experience. We are excited to continue to use pre-developed techniques for creating sounds for our future projects, in addition to playing with our own sound creations and seeing what is birthed. Thank you for your interest in our content. UPP Studios releases a new blog every friday and an original new media sketch comedy video every Monday, right here at uppstudios.com, so stay tuned!