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Children and ADR

March 20, 2014

Go check out THIS POST about “The Proposal” (if you haven’t already read it), and click the link to watch the film (it’s only 4 minutes!) and then “like” it in every way that you can, because we’re in one of those stupid online contests where I need to beg everyone I know to watch my movie and like it. Sigh.

We left off talking about ADR – there were two big tasks in the ADR of The Proposal. We’ll take the obvious one (Emma!) second.

The first problem we had was that as director, I had told Jim to aim for the laughs in this film, and he gave me exactly what I asked for. He’s a pro, and one-hundred percent nailed what I asked for, but in the edit bay we realized that I’d led him the wrong direction. It’s such an easy trap to fall into – this is a small little character piece, and we have to believe that the character believes what’s happening is real and important, and that feeling wasn’t coming across in the edit, because that’s not what I’d asked the actor to do.

Fortunately, we had lousy sound for the film. Not my recordist’s fault – it was a windy day, and we were fairly close to a road, and Emma rarely kept quiet over Jim’s dialogue, so we needed to re-record all the dialogue in the film.

I brought Jim in and we talked about the character, and we pulled back the performance to make it simpler and more sincere. And again, 100% pro, he nailed it, while syncing to his own lips in an ugly TV studio with a mic in front of his face and a script in his hands. ADR is tough – I don’t envy any actor having to slug through even a short ADR session. But the ADR is the performance you’re hearing in the film, and Jim did a great job!

Emma’s ADR was a very different experience. She was 14/15 months old when we were recording, and starting to say a few words, including “mama.” We made a checklist of all the sounds we needed – some were just generic grunts, laughs and cries.  Some were more specific like the “huh?” after “I love your Mommy!” or the “Mama!” line. And we rehearsed them with her for a week or so before.

To get the audio, we brought her into a big quiet TV studio, with just her, me as recorder, and Mommy as baby wrangler. We all took off our shoes so that we could move around without making noise, which was very necessary, because she got bored quickly.

More than half of what you hear in the film was recorded as Emma ran across the floor of the studio, with me holding the mic in front of her, running backwards and trying not to run into walls and equipment. But she was mostly happy to make the sounds we wanted if she was allowed to run while doing them.

The other trick, especially with the specific sounds, was to hold her and swing her towards the mic – we’d say the word or sound we wanted while swinging her, then we’d stop her in front of the mic, and about half the time, she’d then say it. It was slow-going, but it worked.

I expected the ADR to take about 4 hours to edit and place in the film, but after about 8 hours, I finished the first pass. That’s for a 4 minute film (3 minutes that actually had ADR). “We’ll just get the audio in post” is always the dumbest thing you can think on set.

Another trick we did with Emma on Sympathy Pains, when we needed her to cry, was just to record at naptime and bedtime. About 50% of the time, we knew we’d get a cry, and sure enough, 3 tries into it, we had all the crying audio we needed. :)

And that’s the behind-the-scenes on The Proposal. Did I mention that you can watch it (and “like” it) here, and it’ll really help us?

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