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Thursday, 12 April 2012 16:59

ADR with Todd-AO’s Ron Bedrosian

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Obtaining optimal sound quality while recording on set can be an arduous task for production sound mixers. Let’s face it, exploding bombs, rapid-fire machine guns, massive tanks and even spaceships can get obnoxiously loud — and they can create challenging sound problems on set. To resolve these issues, Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR), or the process of re-recording dialogue in post to improve or clarify the diction of the actors, has become an essential part of film and TV production.

pre_adr_ron_bedrosian_mlv6426Todd-AO (part of CSS Studios) is one of the industry’s leading audio postproduction companies, boasting an impressive track record of Academy Award wins for films like The Bourne Ultimatum, Black Hawk Down, Dreamgirls and Gladiator. ADR Mixer Ron Bedrosian has been working for Todd-AO for 12 years, after an unexpected opportunity launched his career. “I originally was going to start out as a projectionist but an opening in the sound department opened up so I took that and it was at the very bottom and 29 years later here I am,” says Bedrosian, whose recent film work includes The Help, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Hunger Games. “I started at a company called Ryder Sound Services before I ended up at Soundelux. As Soundelux evolved and became part of a bigger force in postproduction sound, I was asked to come to Todd-AO.”

Bedrosian says that all ADR starts in the editing room between the director, picture editor, sound editor and writers. “First of all, it’s technical,” he explains. “If there’s something technically wrong with it — an airplane flies by and it’s a western — you’re not going to use that. If there is any kind of technical noise over the dialogue, which takes your mind off the dialogue, they will replace that.” It’s surprising how much of the industry’s dialogue is done on an ADR stage — so many of today’s TV and film productions rely on ADR sessions in post, with action films creating the most business. “You think about it: When they are shooting [an action] movie you’ve got gunfire going off, things blowing up [so] you’re not going to get that dialogue crystal clear,” Bedrosian notes. “And you want it separated so you have to have the dialogue separate from the effects, to allow for greater control and flexibility on the mix stage. Then, when they mix the movie, you have the dialogue, effects and music tracks separate. You hear them all playing together, but actually if you take them away one by one they are all separated.”

The need for ADR can come from a technical issue during production or from an actor wanting to enhance their film performance or dialogue to clarify the plot or further the story. For an ADR session, the ADR mixer will play back a scene or line of dialogue until the actor is ready to do a take. “We just finished Mission: Impossible [Ghost Protocol] so I had Tom Cruise in here for three days,” reports Bedrosian. “[Cruise] is a perfectionist. He doesn’t let it go until it’s perfect…. After it leaves here, it goes to the editor’s cutting room and they can finagle it and cut it and move it in microseconds to fit the lips perfectly. But when [Cruise] leaves [the session], it’s almost to that point [where] cutting it [isn’t needed] because he’s that good.”

post_adr_stage-5-adr-at-todd-ao-hollywoodGetting actors to match their on-set performance can be challenging. “When we are going to replace a scene, I will play the whole scene for the actor, until he or she feels comfortable with the material and ready to start recording lines.  Then, when they go for that first attempt, I am often impressed by the ability of actors to hit their lines, adjust their performances and sync it up to the picture.  Sometimes, they will just go through a whole scene, without stopping, and just nail every line,” he admits. “You just sit back and go ‘Wow.’ Kiefer Sutherland is someone like that. He’ll just nail it. It’s pretty amazing, but these guys do it a lot.” And when Actress Octavia Spencer came by Todd-AO to do ADR for The Help, Bedrosian applauded her work ethic and humor. “She’s the kind of person that I love to see come in and just have a good time because she was so charming, talented and committed to her role.”
Bedrosian records to Avid Pro Tools and uses an ICON D-Command mixing board, but which Bedroasian shares was completely custom-designed by Bill Johnston, CSS Studios’ chief engineer.

Bedrosian has collaborated with a wide array of creative clientele over the years, and when asked with whom he most enjoyed working, he doesn’t hesitate to answer. “Cameron Crowe is a director I admire and loved working with,” he enthuses. “He’s just the nicest guy [and] knows the process of it. [He] knows what our jobs are and gives you the time you need to do your job and to do it properly, which is going to affect the outcome of his movie. And that’s what I like about him. Plus he’s just an everyday guy.”

Ultimately, it’s important for the ADR mixer, the actors and production team to work together toward a common goal. “We are all trying to do one thing: Make your movie better,” stresses Bedrosian.
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