Film Term:

Additional Dialogue Recording. This is just Dubbing, done in addition to or as a substitution for Location Sound. The term ADR, being something of a mysterious acronym, has a certain appeal, as it obscures the fact that dubbing was involved when it appears in the credits of your film. This might have something to do with the current prevalence of the term.

Glossary of Film Terms -
reprinted with permission

ADR is an acronym for “Automatic/Automated Dialogue Replacement” or “Additional Dialogue Recording”. It really depends on whom you ask. It is a process used to replace “bad” dialogue in films and television shows.

How does it work?

An actor/actress (herein referred to as “talent”) stands in front of the microphone watching a scene from the film. Lip synching to the picture, the talent recreates the performance they gave when the film was shot. This process is also commonly referred to as “looping”, a term dating back to the time when the film for a scene was taped in a loop so that it would run in the projector over and over again. The talent could then repeat the line until they performed it correctly. This is also why the process is called “Automatic” Dialogue Replacement as the scene would replay automatically.

Nowadays, the scenes are usually digitized in a computer or recorded onto a videocassette. The talent is then given a cue so they know where to begin speaking their lines.

Common cues include:

  • Beeps: A sequence of three rhythmic beeps preceding the cue is played for the talent. Where the fourth beep should sound, the talent begins their line.
  • Lights: Working much like beeps, a panel of four lights will light up in front of the talent. At regular intervals (usually one second, but this can be set according to the talent’s preference), a light will disappear. When the final light turns off, the talent begins their line.
  • Ribbons: Two vertical lines (commonly called ribbons in the studio) appear, one at each end of the screen. As the scene plays, the ribbons move towards the center of the screen. When the two ribbons meet, the talent begins their line.
  • Time Code: A running clock on the screen telling the talent the current hour, minute, second, and frame of the film. The talent would be told what time their line begins. As the scene plays, the time code rolls and when the time reaches the desired number, the talent begins their line. This system is only used in the direst circumstances. It is extremely difficult to be precise because the line begins on a specific frame and the time code is running anywhere between 24 and 30 frames per second. It becomes very tiring for the talent to concentrate on numbers and performance at the same time. The easier the cue on the senses, the more likely the talent will know when to begin their line.

Recording studios will use any one or a combination of these cues during and ADR session. Most are flexibly equipped in order to make the talent more comfortable. Lights can distract some talent and beeps sometimes drown out the dialogue leading up to the replaced line, making it more difficult for the talent to get into character.

Why must dialogue be replaced?

When shooting a film, the most important thing is the visuals and the performances. It is what you are paying thousands of dollars a day to capture. And if something goes wrong, you must pay thousands more to reshoot the scene. As a result, sound often gets sacrificed. Microphones are very sensitive and pick up a lot of noise. Even on soundproof stages, you can sometimes here the lights buzz or generators outside rumbling. Most scenes shot outdoors are ADR’d. This is usually because of wind but also can be due to heavy traffic or random animals that want to be movie stars.

Big budget action films are predominately ADR’d. These films make the most of explosions, wind machines, and other obscenely loud machinery. These films are also costing so much that crews are sometimes building sets while shooting is going on.

Sometimes directors don’t like the talent’s performance from the set. They will then replace lines with the hopes of improving the scene. Others will sometimes fill in silent spaces with dialogue. This is common in comedies where timing is everything and silence is deadly.

How much dialogue is replaced?

It really depends on the budget of the film and the quality of the production sound. On big budget films, the talent is contractually obligated to be in the studio for a certain number of days. Smaller films will only replace what is absolutely necessary. Studio time is cheaper than reshooting, but not so cheap that it won’t put a dent in your budget.

For an idea of how much some Hollywood films use ADR look no further than Saving Private Ryan. The opening Normandy sequence was shot on a beach (lots of wind and waves), had a few hundred people running around, actors shooting machine guns, and explosions blowing sand everywhere. I would be surprised to find out that any line recorded on set was used in the final film. Rumor has it that 90% of Titanic’s dialogue was ADR (although this is a really high number). This is most likely due to the rushing water and the really big hydraulic lifts that shook the boat during the last half of the film. The dialogue editor for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones has said that 55% of that film was re-recorded in the studio. And that was a record low for a Star Wars film!

Needless to say, ADR is generally avoided if at all possible. It takes an extremely talented performer to recreate the atmosphere created on set. Studios are sterile places. The talent stands alone at a microphone. They are not on a decorated set, in costume, and speaking with another character. Not to mention the fact that it has been months since the talent last embodied the character they portray. Weighing all of these factors together often results in weaker performances than what was recorded on set. But… if you can’t hear the performance, it’s no good for the film.

Undesireable as it may be, ADR is a necessary and important aspect of the filmmaking process. And when done well… the audience will never know the difference.

For a good demostration of ADR, get your hands on the promotional video for THX Home Theater Systems.

If you've ever called your vet and told them you need an appointment because, well, you don't know what it is, maybe it's nothing, maybe you're being too protective but SOMETHING just isn't right with Fluffy, what the vet staff probably wrote on that day's schedule was something along these lines:

11:15 Smith, Fluffy (F) ADR

ADR is universal veterinary terminology. It stands for Ain't Doin' Right. And, while it might sound like a joke, if you call any veterinary clinic in the USA and tell them your dog is ADR, they will know exactly what you mean and they will make an appointment for you.

So what is that exactly? The ADR dog or cat is usually a little mushy (yes, that's another professional vet term), generally has somewhat decreased appetite and thirst, and is acting oddly. More often than not an ADR dog is acting needier than normal, and an ADR cat is generally more antisocial, but exceptions abound.

ADR is an abnormal behavior with an absence of obvious symptoms or visible injuries. Fluffy may have vomited once or twice, had one urinary accident, or occasionally show a slight limp, but these are usually clues that the veterinary staff have to ferret out of the client, rather than obvious problems that are reported in the initial phone call. Most owners who call with ADR pets are embarassed about it, because they really don't have a concrete problem to report, and the phone call will often begin with them saying "you probably think I'm silly, but..."

If this is you, then first of all, relax. There's nothing silly about it. Just by making this call, you have shown that you are a responsible pet owner. Like an observant parent, you probably know your pet and his normal behavior, and if you think he's not doin' right then he probably isn't. Granted, every vet has a few hysterical clients who suffer from Munchausen's by proxy, but most of the time ADR is a sign that something really isn't right, and it just hasn't become obvious yet. Both cats and dogs are far more stoic than most humans, and their natural tendency is to hide their weaknesses. Cats are especially private about their ailments, and ADR cats can turn out to be hiding anything from infected gums to early stages of kidney failure, thyroid deficiency or diabetes. But dogs have their share of hidden illnesses, too.

Unfortunately, not all of these problems are cureable. But many of them can be managed successfully if they are diagnosed in time. Hyperthyroid, diabetic and kidney-damaged cats can live long, happy lives on a proper regime. Other problems like dental issues and tick-borne diseases can be treated. The key, of course, is catching the problem before it starts to damage multiple systems. If your critter is ADR, there's a decent chance you've acted early enough.

At this point, I should point out that although it is a valid reason to call your vet, ADR does not constitute an emergency most of the time. If your companion is eating, moving, peeing and pooping, and not showing limping, sneezing, coughing, diarrhea or vomiting, your vet is not going to bump other, sicker patients from this morning's schedule so she can see you. It is reasonable to expect an appointment in the next few days, though.

So, what can you expect to happen after you make the call?

Physical examination by the vet often turns up clues that may be enough for a tentative diagnosis of the empirical sort, AKA "let's treat for X and see if he responds". This may sound scattershot, but if your vet is confident enough to recommend it, chances are he's made the right call and Treatment X will work. When the diagnosis is not as solid, most vets will recommend further diagnostics - which usually means bloodwork. The most common screening panel checks blood chemistry, thyroid and a complete blood count. This panel, which requires 3 ml of blood, gives the vet enough information for a good diagnosis for the majority of ADR animals. Results should be available overnight in most cases.

Another diagnostic that is advisable for active outdoor dogs is the 4DX test that checks for heartworm and tickborne diseases. The three most common tickborne diseases - Lyme, erlichiosis and anaplasmosis - are all stealthy diseases that very often show no obvious symptoms until they enter advanced stages that are tough to treat, and all three have been found throughout the United States. Here in Connecticut, we find exposure to either Lyme or anaplasma in about 15% of the dogs we test. (Cats are fairly resistant to these diseases and are not routinely tested for them.)

One of the most basic veterinary diagnostics, which should not be overlooked in ADR cases, is a fecal flotation to check for intestinal parasites. The sad truth is that our outdoor pets are exposed to other animals' poop, and are prone to investigating and sometimes ingesting it. This is a wonderful way to pick up giardia, roundworms and other beasties. While these parasites are rarely the sole cause of an ADR pet's distress (typically they show clear symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting), the possibility does exist, and low-level parasitic infestations can make it hard to recover from other problems. A piece of fairly fresh stool about the size of your thumb is more than enough for a fecal flotation. It does not matter if cat litter or grass are mixed into the sample.

The vast majority of ADR cases can be diagnosed and treated based on some combination of these tests and a physical examination. Some cases will, of course, require other tests, while some will need only the physical and some actually turn out not to require treatment. Most of them, however, do have some kind of real problem. So if you know your pet's normal behavior and you feel that he ain't doin' right, don't ignore it. Call your vet.

If Fluffy could talk, he'd probably already have told you to.

Note: I am not a vet, I just work for one. I am not trained to diagnose your critter, so don't ask. Call your vet.

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