Mixing Maestros Help Actors Recreate Emotional Dialogue for ADR Work
hsr|ny, a leading audio/video post-production house that provides top-of-the-line sound design, mixing, original dialogue recording, automated dialogue replacement, offline/online editing, sound effects and stock music, recently worked on the automated dialogue replacement (ADR) for the first season of AMC’s Golden Globe nominated-drama, The Walking Dead.
In order to pull off this feat successfully, two of hsr|ny’s talented sound engineers worked closely with many of the cast members, helping them to recreate the gravitas of the most highly charged moments in the hit breakaway series.
Based on a popular set of graphic novels and brought to television by executive producers Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd, The Walking Dead, tells the story of a small band of survivors led by Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), struggling to endure in the aftermath of a mysterious disease that has transformed most of the human population into cannibal zombies. Filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, the series focuses heavily on the emotional effect of the main characters’ struggle to survive. For example, in one pivotal scene, a woman is forced to shoot her just-turned-zombie sister in the head.
The dialogue in such scenes must convey the emotion of the situation perfectly in order to create the correct dramatic effect, which is why Skip Schoolnik, the post producer for The Walking Dead, turned to hsr|ny. “Someone I was working with at Warner Bros. mentioned Bill Higley [at hsr|ny], and I decided to give him a call,” he says. “We did one section [of dialogue] and I was sold. He’s great technically and he’s great with talent. I was confident he would do a great job. He’s fantastic.”
Higley, a staff mixer with hsr|ny, along with his assistant, A.J. Bartoletti, felt the highly dramatic nature of The Walking Dead warranted a cinematic ADR treatment. “It was more like looping a feature than an episodic television show,” notes Higley. “We put a lot of time and care into it, because the actors involved were really great; they had to handle some pretty emotionally heavy scenes. We helped them get back into those scenes, which was not easy, as they did not have the benefit of being in the context of the set.”
Higley and Bartoletti, who worked primarily with the actors playing the characters of Grimes, Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), say that the success of the ADR really came down to giving the actors as much time as they needed to recreate a piece of dialogue with the correct emotions. And a success it was, as Higley found out: “I’ve read some comments on Internet bulletin boards about one scene in particular, where Andrea has to shoot her sister, and they mentioned the quality of the acting. I know they used our loops in that section, so I guess we did a good job.”
The hsr|ny team worked separately with the actors, performing one-on-one coaching with each. Bartoletti kept track of the takes, highlighting the ones that were good, and moved the microphone around the soundstage as needed. He also worked to ensure that the overall environment was comfortable for everyone involved: the actors, Higley, Schoolnik, Lou Thomas, ADR supervisor, Walt Newman, sound supervisor for episodes 1 and 2 and Jerry Ross, sound supervisor for episodes 3 – 6.
The Walking Dead premiered on the AMC cable network on October 31, 2010, and drew 5.3 million viewers, the most of any show in the network’s history. The show’s production company is AMC Studios, making it the first AMC series on which the network itself has acted as the producing studio. The Walking Dead has been picked up for a second season.