What is ADR?

What is ADR?


28 JANUARY 2017

written by Mike




ADR is a less known area of sound engineering. But first things first. What does ADR stand for?

ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement. It is an art of replacing production sound with re-recorded dialogues in a studio environment.

Sometimes recording dialogue for animation movie or a video game we still call ADR. It is a standard way to address a dialogue recording in the industry. The correct way to describe ADR is an actual replacement of the line with the same content, but different recording.

In some productions, ADR can replace as much as 60% of the original dialogue.

Yes, it’s true.

We don’t record everything on a set, sorry. Why is it so important and why do we need it? In the next few steps, I will try to explain the function of ADR.




ADR can be expensive, and both director and actors try to avoid it as much as possible.


First we need to understand why we need it at all. Imagine a scene where main characters are having a conversation outside.

The set is Ancient Greece.




When you listen back to the recordings you can hear passing planes in the background, maybe cars too. It is impossible to get rid of these sounds, so ADR is needed. This situation is one of many examples why ADR may be the only answer to your problems. Noisy recordings, faulty equipment or inexperienced sound recordist can cause more than a headache during a busy production.

A sound editor will check all on-set recordings and compile a list of ADR recommendations. It is crucial to get all the faulty sounds re-recorded the first time.


The whole process happens long after the filming has ended. Actors may be working on some other projects already. Getting them back to the studio costs a lot of money. It is important to remember that sometimes the director will decide to go with the original line. Even if the recording is bad. The performance will always take priority over quality.



The minute a director approves the replacement lines list it is time for the recording.

A standard session will need a sound recordist, director, and the actor. There may be more people required such as recording assistant, a creative team from the production or even a mixer if he or she wants to be involved. The actor under the supervision of the director will perform his/hers lines to the screen and will try to match earlier performance.

Sometimes the director will request extra, off-screen lines and these will need recording too.

It can be a stressful situation for the actor, as the performance should at least match the original. But it can be much harder to get into a character in the studio environment.

During the filming, the actors are in costume and on set. The whole atmosphere makes acting more natural and effortless.

There are many stories of upset actors walking out from ADR sessions and falling out with their directors.

And you, lonely sound engineer, are stuck in the middle of these heated arguments.



After the recording session, it is time for editing.

This book can come handy in the beginning. It should be a simple sync and clean up a task. The final session needs to match the picture as close as possible. And you want the audio ready for a mix. It is important to remember that there will be more than one take of each line, and all these you will have to edit and make available for the mixer. Editing ADR is a straightforward job as long as you remember to prepare the session to mixer’s liking. Good communication makes everything much easier.





After editing, the re-recorded dialogues are ready to for the mix. The director may want to try different takes and listen to them many times before making the final decision. Often the team will need to reverse to the original, as maybe the ADR does not match the original performance.

The hardest part will be to match the voice to the scene. That’s when the experience pays off and where the difference between the professional and amateur lies. ADR may not be as glamorous and exciting as other elements of production and post-production, but it is often needed to complete the project.


Make sure you finalize the replacement lines list before the recording starts. There is nothing worse than one more missing line to record after the actor has already left the building.


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Acoustics – How To Soundproof a Room

Acoustics – How To Soundproof a Room


25 JANUARY 2017

written by Mike


How To Soundproof a Room


Acoustics is an art of measuring space and treating it with appropriate materials. Acoustic panels or acoustic foam are an easy example.

The minute you decide you want to pursue a career (or just a hobby) in sound and music, a question comes to a mind.

How to soundproof a room? Answer is:


The subject of acoustics is colossal and requires years of in-depth studying and experience. Try to think about it beyond soundproofing a room or recording studio. Soundproofing affects every underground metro station, every shopping mall, school or office. It is noise pollution, reverberation, and general ruckus that we are fighting.

City halls, churches, conference rooms. Architects design all these buildings with acoustics in mind.

If you want to get deeper into the subject, check

Architectural Acoustics by Marshall Long

This book is useful if you are serious about studying acoustics. It starts with a history of acoustics and human perception. But it also goes into a great detail of different kinds of buildings and designs. It is a heavy, around 800 pages volume. Not a bedtime read.

Why is it so rare to see an open-air orchestra? Or open-air opera?

One answer, there is no acoustics outside.

Ok, but what about these old theaters where people sat outside?

Yes, these places were (and still are) open air. Architects designed them with acoustics in mind too.

Music halls are exceptional in their design. These rooms must deliver the best sound possible. But, for example, think of hospitals.

How can soundproofing be important there?

We build hospital rooms with patients’ comfort in mind. Especially surgery rooms that need to minimalize outside distractions. To become an acoustician, you must learn physics of the sound, mathematical equations, computer programs and specialized measurement equipment. I want to introduce you to some basic concepts of acoustics. I will try to ignite in you a deeper interest in this subject.

I’m not going to lie; it is a bit of a challenge.



Measuring a room is not as easy as it sounds. The size of the room is important, but you also need to think about orientation and functionality of the place. And don’t forget about the volume of the room. Here comes the math.

The perfect solution would be to build the room from scratch. Rod Gervais writes how to transform room into a recording studio in

Home Recording Studio Build It Like the Pros, 2nd Edition

Great book for people, who are not as good in math or physics. Easy to understand text, full of pictures and easy to read graphs. And it goes step by step, from start to finish. There is a cool ‘acoustics myths’ chapter at the end too.

First thing that most people would do is to measure the frequency curve. It will show you what kind of acoustic treatment the room needs. For this task, you will need one of these weird looking microphones.



As critical as it is, think about other variables too. What is the isolation from the outside world? What about the spill from other rooms? How will the room be lit, powered and air-conditioned? Where are you going to put your desk? Also, the room will sound different with all the equipment inside.

So remember to take more just one measurement. Take a note of these few basic requirements that you will need to think about:

frequency balance, acoustic isolation, and separation, reverberation and cost.

Before committing to anything, do your research and analyze results of your measurements. Don’t rush it. There is a cool program that you can you use for your acoustic adventures called SketchUpI used it for my school acoustics projects. We designed a home recording studio with one of my colleagues. It is easy to use and fun. I suppose it is sort of like Sims.

Without actual Sims.


Treating a room is much more complicated that just putting some egg cartons on your ceiling and walls. And by the way, these are quite ineffective so do not waste your money or time on doing that. Acoustic treatment will make you think about the state of the doors, windows, walls and floor in your room.

How isolated are they?

Is it possible to enhance their effectiveness on a low budget?

It is also important to analyze frequency balance of space.

You will need to invest in some materials that will absorb, diffuse and trap the unwanted sound frequencies. Acoustic panels and acoustic foam are something to consider buying.

That’s where sound absorption coefficient charts come in handy



I know. These are fascinating to read.

The aim is to have frequencies balanced as much as possible. It means that whatever you mix in your room will sound good in other spaces. For small rooms like a bedroom, unwanted bass frequencies will pose the biggest threat. Do your research but making your bass traps can also be a great and a low-cost option to consider.




Reverberation is a big part of acoustics.

What is it?

Every time you make a sound (in a room) it reflects and bounces off walls, floor, and ceiling. You can have early or late reflections, depending on a journey of the sound. Imagine sitting in front of the speaker. 

The sound that hits you first is called direct signal. There is nothing between your ears and speaker’s cone that could block it. Beyond that, you have your sidewalls and maybe your ceiling. Some frequencies will reflect off these surfaces and then hit your ears. These are short reflections.

Late reflection is the sound that will travel to the wall at the end of the room and then travel back to you; you hear it after everything else.

How long can the sound bounce around like that?

Definition of reverb.

It is a period in which a sound diminishes to a millionth of its original intensity. You can calculate it with an RT60 equation of 60dB decrease over a certain time duration.

RT60 = Vx0.049/AS

V is the volume of the room

A stands for absorption coefficient of the room. That is the amount of acoustic energy absorbed rather that reflected

S is the total surface of the room

This formula can explain the reason sound lingers in a big cave.

You can calculate it here.


Accurate measurement of reverberation will help you to design your space for the best possible result. As you can see acoustics is a vast and deep subject. We haven’t even scratched the surface and already there are some equations to remember.


But consider this. If you want to build a small studio, space to record your online video channel or even just a home cinema, consider soundproofing your room. You will realize it is not as scary as it sounds.

Well, unless you want to design a concert hall or something.



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7 Tips for a Production Assistant

7 Tips for a Production Assistant


21 JANUARY 2017

written by Mike





Studio runner, production assistant, a gofer.

A fancy name for getting people coffee?

Perhaps. But it can be so much more.

I’m going to switch between assistant and runner to accommodate for both sides of the Atlantic.

I’m also going to focus on post-production runner position, but still, the principles will apply to any junior position.

Most of the top professionals started as assistants.

It is a sort of rite of passage. You have to pay your dues and prove yourself before moving up.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way too.

I was never a runner, and I know a lot of people who haven’t done it too.

But I worked in bars and restaurants, so I understand the principles of serving clients (customers).

And getting them coffee.

Why being a good studio runner matters?

Well, there are quite a few reasons for that.

One, it can lead to other, better things.

You can find yourself in the environment that will give you a chance for something else.

New departments start and grow out of ideas. Ideas from people who were assistants around the studio and who saw the opportunity.





Meeting new people is another thing.

Being a runner forces you to interact with tens of people every month.

Actors, directors, producers.

You can study their behaviors, their habits, their workflow.

You will gain “people skills” that will help you advance.

If you are a shy and introverted person, this will help you to learn how to adapt to social situations and how to behave in different circumstances.

When I asked runners “So, what do you want to do in the future?”

the answer usually was something like “Uhm, I want to work with films and media.”

Ok, that’s great. But where is your focus?

Being a runner helps to answer that question.

You are going to be all over the place.

You will see how mixing works, what is a sound design, what is editing. It will give you an understanding, and I can guarantee you, it will help you to find focus.

And even if you learn that you don’t like working in sound, that already is a success. You will be one of a few people who know what they don’t want to do.

And that’s important too.

I want to share with you a few tips, advice how to get the most out of this junior position.


Stay busy



Yes, I know you’ve just cleaned the kitchen, and all the clients are happy.

But sitting on a coach, playing on your phone while everyone else is working is not cool. There is always something to do.

Ask people if they need something.

Help out in the office. Check if everyone is alright.

In busy post-production house, there is always something to clean or something to move. Show that you are willing to do a bit extra, people notice this kind of thing.

I can’t tell you how many times I saw runners chilling on the sofa when the dishwater was full.

Do you think I was the only one to notice that?

And yes there are quiet days too, I know that. But ask if you can sit with someone.

If a mixer is busy, the editor will do. Apart from just the sound stuff, there is a lot to learn in other areas.

Scheduling, data management, archives.

Learn about these things, make notes. Your days will go by faster, and people will perceive you as an interested person.


Positive attitude



Running for other people is not very glamorous.

Or rewarding.

Try to stay positive; it is your first step to greater things. Your attitude will determine how clients and other people will treat you. I know it sounds cheesy, but a smile goes a long way.

Remember last time you were in a restaurant and your waiter was moody?

I’m sure you and your friends talked about it afterward.

See, it is the same with runners. Clients are often stressed out, mixers and production team have a lot on their minds.

Ask yourself, how can you make their life a little bit easier?

If that was you on a mixing stage, what would you expect from your assistant?

Of course, read the room first. If there is an apparent tension, be swift.

Serve the food and drinks and leave. Other times you can have a chat and a laugh.

“Yes.” “No problem.” “Sure!” should be your go-to phrases.

Some studies show that if you force a smile, you will trick your brain into happiness.

And there will be days when you don’t feel positive or happy.

Advice for that?

Fake it; it does work.





Lunch time



During lunch breaks eat your food with other people.

Don’t sit in the canteen by yourself.

I understand you don’t know the crew that well yet.

So what?

Sit with them, laugh when they laugh and nod when they talk.

One of our runners always had lunch on his own. We did ask him to sit with us; he preferred his company.

For six months he worked for us, we didn’t get to know him.

It was only on his last day we learned that he had a funny video channel, he was a gamer and quite an interesting guy. By then it was a little too late.

I know you can be a little introverted, overwhelmed or just shy.

It doesn’t matter. Lunch time is when you make friends. During work hours, everyone will be doing work. Downtime is the moment to establish rapport.

After a couple of weeks, the pact will welcome you.

And you will become one of them.

Don’t be a stranger and make sure everyone knows who you are.



Shadow people



There are times where there isn’t much to do. Ask people if you can shadow them, even for an hour. People like to talk about their profession and believe me; you will learn from them a lot more than in school.

It will also give you an understanding of the craft. Do you see yourself sitting in the dark room all day long? If not, then mixing job is probably not for you.

Maybe it’s the managerial aspect that you enjoy?

Or maybe recording sounds?

Learn from other people. Ask them why they like it.

Do you see yourself in the future, sitting where they are sitting right now?

Remember, if you don’t ask you won’t get.

And people, in general, are helpful. Especially when they recognize that you are interested in what they do.

If you feel confident, you can try to sneak in a little compliment.

“Wow, you are fast with shortcuts!”

“I didn’t know you could do that; that’s so cool!”

We all like a bit of flattery. It helps us to get through the grind.

Don’t overdo it, though; you need to play it cool.



Be controversial



I know it sounds strange, but trust me on this. If you are indistinctive, and your behavior is boring no one will remember you. Quirks, little mannerisms, jokes will make you stand out. Three years ago my friend did a freelance job in the studio. It was only for three weeks. My manager still talks about him from time to time.


My friend’s outgoing personality, his craziness about extreme sports and his general attitude make him likable. And memorable.

In contrast, we had a guy working with us last year. He didn’t speak much.

Sat with his headphones in all the time. No one remembers his name now. Everyone moved on.

One more thing. When I say controversial, I mean in positive, quirky way.

You don’t want to be sexist, racist or offensive. We had people like that as well. They end up in a meeting with Human Resources. And yes they may be remembered after they are gone. But probably not in the way they wanted to.


Be tidy



Be tidy, be organized.

You will be on the phone, taking requests, receiving demands. Have a little notebook. Write people’s names. Write what they do, what they like.

Someone asks you something; you want to deliver it the first time.

What you don’t want to do is to mess up a lunch order for a group of clients. Especially, if someone has some allergies or food preferences.

It’s not that hard, but you need to stay on top of that.

You may not feel appreciated all the time, but people will remember.

Individuals who can help you with your career later on.


Enjoy it!



I know it sucks sometimes.

You want to be a famous director, but you are serving coffee.

Remember that you need to put in some hard work.

Show what you are worth. Be humble and do it with a smile.

Yes, some clients are tough. And rude. Don’t worry about it.

Your skin will grow thicker every day; your character will build up.

My friend had to deal with a rather unpleasant client.

I could see it was his first as he was quite stressed.

At the end of the day, he spoke to one of the mix assistants.

“Don’t worry man; she tests all new people like that. It was the same with me.”

After a couple of weeks, I asked my friend how the client is.

“Oh, she is fine now. We joked about the other day.”

There will be days that you will have enough. I mean the pay is low, everyone is busy, everyone shouts at you, you are running to get the post for the fifth time today. And it’s raining.

Control your emotions, enjoy the moment. Believe me, in few years time when you are the manager; you will look back at this time and remember it as the best time you ever had.

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What is Dubbing?

What is Dubbing?


07 JANUARY 2017

written by Mike



Dubbing is an art of replacing original dialogue in a movie with localized recordings.

To put it into even simpler words, can you remember the latest big animation?

Now as you can imagine a lot of children want to see these movies but, not everyone speaks English.

We estimate that there are around 6500 languages in the world today!

Of course, we don’t dub movies into all these languages but major releases can get provisioned up to 44 languages.

Dubbing is a lengthy and time-consuming process, but we can identify a few major steps in the undertaking:



Everything starts with translation from the original script to a specific language.

Production companies send out the transcripts to recording studios where creative team translates all the dialogue.

It is not an easy task because a lot of jokes and references would not make any sense in different countries.

Production team tries to analyze it and make suggestions for the best way to translate.



When the script is final, casting commences.

In countries with established dubbing scene, star talents have been playing the same actors for years.

For example, a Spanish or French voice talent can play Bruce Willies in every movie he has ever done!

Voice acting is a good way to make money as there are plenty opportunities in dubbing.

Not only in movies but also in books, games or commercials.

Check freelance sites like Fiverr for example.

Also, if you get recognized as a dubbed voice of a well-known actor, you can have a long and steady career.

Well, as long as the other person is doing well too.




After the casting, a creative director schedules several recording sessions for the voice actors.

During these sessions, the actors under the guidance of the director will record his/her lines while watching the screen.

The idea is to mimic, as close as possible, the original reactions and style of the movie character.

This process can take a long time as it usually occurs during the same time as the original dialogue is still in works. It means that some lines will change.

It is a lively and organic process.


After sound engineer records the dialogues, a creative team will listen to them, and dialogue editor will edit and clean the lines.

The job of a dialogue editor is to prepare the recording session for the dubbing mixer.  

When the session is ready, a mixer loads it up in a mixing theater –a special room that replicates the acoustics of cinema. 

The job of a mixer is to take the original music and effects from the movie and mix the foreign dialogue into it.

The process is quite complicated, and dialogues must be at the good volume level.

But what happens when characters are underwater, behind a door or maybe they are from another planet?

You will have to process all the recordings so they resemble, as close as possible, the original mix of the movie.

A team of editors checks the sound mix several times to spot any potential errors. A mixer will correct them before the movie release.

The standard software of choice in the industry is Pro Tools by Avid.



After a mixer completes the mix, there are a lot of different releases to be aware of.

A mix for TV will be different to a cinema mix.

Blu-ray and DVD are usually surround mixes, same as cinema releases.

Stereo mixes are rare these days, but they still get used for TV or Airline release.

The interesting fact is that every swear word gets listed and replaced with a softer equal for the Airline release.

Must be a cool job.

There are also more complicated mixes like IMAX or ATMOS where sound plays an important role in a story immersion.

Dubbing is an important side to an industry as the international box office usually makes more money than domestic release.

Next time, when you are watching a movie on Blu-ray or DVD, check the back of the box.

There are always a few foreign mixes included with your film.

Switch between them and listen how close and accurate the dubbing is.

I guarantee that it will surprise you.


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What is Sound?

What is Sound?


03 JANUARY 2017

written by Mike




The sound is a part of life. It is around you when you wake up; it is there when you go to sleep. Most of the animals communicate with sound. Humans use it to express their emotions, artistic creativity, and ideas.

A powerful speech, a roar of an engine in a sports car, chanting crowd during a big sports event. All kinds of sounds from quiet to deafening can have a big impact on us.

But what is sound?

Why things sound like they do?

Where does the sound come from?

And why should you care?

These questions puzzled people for millennia. But thanks to development in technology, now we can answer a lot of them.

Not all of them, though.

I want to give you a short introduction to the science behind the waveform, frequency and sound content. I hope it will inspire you to dig deeper into a wonderful world of sounds and noise.





We describe sounds as changes in atmospheric pressure.

Compressed air molecules cause the change to flow in the form of the wave through the atmosphere.

Molecules do not move with the wave. They only compress and decompress as the wave moves through a medium (air, water, and others) over time.

There is a difference when sound moves through water and air.

And because water is denser, sound travels much faster.

A waveform is a graphic representation of that journey.


Sound doesn’t look like this in real life.

But for now, don’t worry about it.

Waveform’s main characteristics are amplitude, frequency, velocity, wavelength, harmonic content and envelope.

Amplitude in the easiest. It is the loudness of the wave, the value from negative to positive peak.

Frequency is the rate of the vibrations in given time. Higher frequency equals higher pitch.

Velocity is the speed of sound. It is approximately 344 m/s (1120 ft/s) through the air at 20°C (68°F). The speed is temperature dependent, and when it gets hot the sound travels faster.

Wavelength is a physical distance between the start and the end of one wavelength cycle.

Harmonic content is the spectrum of frequencies called overtones.

Many frequencies create a sound, not just one.

Unless it is a single frequency sound.

The envelope is a characteristic variation that happens over time to played sound.

Envelope describes how quick sound makes a noise, how long it lasts and how fast it quiets downs.

What is up with Noises? (The Science and Mathematics of Sound, Frequency, and Pitch) is a great video that explains sound science in more detail.







Loudness is a general characteristic that we describe a sound as either loud or quiet.

But what is the measurement of loudness?

And what is the human threshold of withstanding loud sounds?

Do you remember last time when you went out to a live gig and the next day your ears were ringing?

Yes, it means it was too loud.

We measure loudness in the decibel or dB. There are a lot of variations, but the most common is sound pressure level SPL measured in decibels.

For example, a quiet conversation can be around 40dB, but a close up a jet engine is around 160dB.

Decibel is a logarithmic value that articulates differences in force between two levels. SPL is only one unit of measure, and there are much more such as voltage V and wattage W. It can get a bit complicated.

You can use SPL to describe loudness. It describes the built up of acoustic pressure in defined space, like a room.

Sound mixes in studios have the reference set between 79dB to 85dB.

The threshold of pain can start around 130 to 140dB.

Gunshots are around that barrier. That’s why you can see people wearing

noise-cancelling headphones at a gun range.

It is important that I mention human ear’s average sensitivity to different frequencies at various levels.

We describe this effect as Fletcher-Munson curve.

It is one of the studies that try to explain our perceptions of sound.

Our sensitivity to certain frequencies will make some sounds more dominant over the others. Even if they have the same loudness level.

For example, a 40Hz tone has to be about 6dB louder than a 1kHz tone at 110 dB SPL so you can perceive it with the same loudness.

We are more sensitive to sounds that are in a spectrum of a human voice.

The loudness can also deceive our perception of pitch.

Sounds with certain frequencies will overshadow other sounds. For that reason, EQ and frequency filtering are such a powerful tools when it comes to mixing.



Ok, so you need to hear a sound first. Sound pressure waves arrive at our ears where they journey as electric impulses to our brain.



The human ear has three basic parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.





The outer ear

gathers and transports sound to the middle ear. It includes Pinna (ear flap) and approximately 2cm long ear canal. It protects the middle ear from the damage and delivers sounds to the eardrum on the border with the middle ear.

The middle ear

transforms sound pressure energy into internal vibrations and compression wave. It contains an eardrum and three bones, the hammer, anvil and stirrup. Eardrum’s membrane sets off the bones. It transmits the vibrations to the fluid of the inner ear as a compression wave.

The human body is sensitive even to the most delicate sounds.

The frequency range of hearing is between 20Hz to 20000Hz.

Cats can detect frequencies as low as 45 Hz and as high as 85000Hz.

Any frequency below 20Hz we call an infrasound and anything above 20 000 is ultrasound.

The barriers to watch out for are the threshold of hearing, feeling, and pain.

The loudest sound possible is around 194dB.

But you will lose your hearing at 180dB!

Wear earplugs when working with loud sounds.

Even if you are going to a gig, some earplugs can make the music more enjoyable as you will hear it clearer.

And you won’t have to listen to drunken people singing around you.

A clear win-win.


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