Why Do Films Re-Record Voice Overs?

When producing films, and in some cases television shows, the production team will sometimes need the actors to enter a voice-over studio to record more audio, even if the actors have already spoken and recorded their dialogue on-set.

This is a major part of post-production and happens in films for many different reasons and as part of several different processes. These are generally collectively known as dubbing, mixing or re-recording.

Here are some of the main dubbing processes and why they are used.

 

Automated Dialogue Replacement

Most film sound stages are very loud and filled with external noises from camera rigs, practical special effects, ruffling of clothes near microphones and nearby traffic.

Whilst studios often do what they can to reduce the noise on-set, sometimes it is necessary to re-record dialogue with the original actors and synchronise new lines or new recordings to the filmed performance.

This is known as Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) and is the main reason why actors will end up in a studio to re-record audio.

As well as this, for singing performances or non-standard vocal performances, the traditional method is to have actors mimic their performance on stage and then either singing or having a vocal double sing in the studio.

Two notable exceptions, in this case, come from director Tom Hooper’s film versions of Les Miserables and Cats. In both of these cases, the musical performances were recorded live to retain some of the spontaneity of the original stage musical.

To achieve this, the sets had to be heavily soundproofed and the camera crew specially prepared to ensure their movements did not make noises as it would require the take to be thrown out.

 

Avoiding Reshoots

In many films, dialogue needs to be changed after the end of production. This can be to clarify the context of a scene, to improve the timing of certain scenes for comedic of dramatic effect, or changing content for legal or marketing purposes.

In some cases, if there is a dramatic difference between the initial script and the new script it would require reshoots, which can be expensive and take time to organise.

Rerecording a line of dialogue instead and editing it in later is considerably cheaper as the time and money have already been factored into post-production.

This is also used for much later edits of a film such as “director’s cuts” and television broadcasts, where certain language in the original film needs to be removed.

 

Translation

The most common use of voice-over studios in films is as part of the localisation and translation process, and can often be seen in television adverts.

Typically the localisation process is a five-step process, starting with the initial translation, segmenting the translated script into takes, adding the dubbing symbols, lip-syncing and writing dialogue to fit the initial mouth movements.

It is an exceptionally difficult process as the translation needs to sound natural when voice actors read it and at the same time match the initial performance.