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ADR Production Challenges Overcome With Revoice Pro - Peter Shaw

Having worked on films including Hunger, The American, Mrs Brown’s Boys, United, The Falling and many more, Peter Shaw uses a variety of state of the art studio equipment and software during the dialogue editing and ADR supervision process. He shares his many years of audio post-production experience with us. 

How did you get into film and TV audio post-production

Like many people in the post-production world, my interest in sound stems from music, although I don’t confess to being a musician in the purest sense. As a teenager during the early nineties, I was caught up in the House Music scene. I bought myself a cheap pair of belt-driven turntables and a simple 2 channel mixer just to see if I could DJ. It wasn’t long before I started to do DJ sets in clubs and private parties. The natural progression from there was to start to produce my own material so I bought myself a Roland Synth/Groovebox (which I still have). It was a steep learning curve back then because there weren’t many courses around in the North West that could teach you the intricacies of sampling and synthesis. It was generally a matter of trial and error and reading the manual several times over from front to back. The only way I could improve my technique was to try and find professional audio engineering tuition somewhere else. There were a number of degree courses in London so I moved here in 2000 with a plan to find a course, get a degree and then hopefully find work at a professional studio or radio station.  

I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do so long as I was engineering in some capacity! During my course, I was introduced to film and television sound. Until then I had no idea how much skill, creativity and effort went into making a soundtrack for film and TV but I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for. As soon as my course ended, I found a job as a runner at a post-production facility in Soho, London (formerly called St Anne’s Post now Encore). I spent all of my spare time getting to know the sound editors and mixers, completing little tasks for them and trying to learn as much about the job as I could. One day, a big project came into the facility that required a team of people working 24 hours a day so I volunteered to cover the night shift because none of the other runners fancied making tea in the middle of the night. During the entire schedule, I was never asked to make a cup of tea but was instead taught how to conform video files, sync sound rushes to picture, author DVD’s and digitize tapes – all key aspects of the digital workflow we see in post-production today. To add icing to the cake, I had my dinners paid for every night and received a free taxi-ride home in the mornings. Do bear in mind though that I was on minimum wages at the time! 

"The pitch process also comes in handy if I need to replace production dialogue with an alternate production take. Generally, you would have no control over the pitch apart from trying to choose a close match to the original."

Soon after the project ended, I was approached by the Sales Manager who said that there was an Assistant Editor position available with a sound design company - PDSoundDesign who were asking whether I might be interested in going for an interview. 

I attended the interview and discussed everything I had been taught over the previous 2 months. Luckily, I was offered the job and started conforming sync sound, finding alternate dialogue takes, general sound FX database housekeeping and equipment maintenance etc. After several months, I was asked to edit the dialogue on a film. It always brings a smile to my face when I think back because there were only 20 minutes or so of dialogue throughout the entire 96 minutes of film and I spent around 4 weeks editing it. That’s an extravagant luxury in today’s terms. Nevertheless, the boss knew that it was the best introduction to sound editing I could get and I had the luxury of the full support from some very talented people around me. 

What have you been working on most recently?  

I’ve just completed the dialogue on a six-part BBC 1 Drama called ‘Ordinary Lies’. 

It was quite a challenge trying to keep the ADR down to a minimum. In one particular episode, a young couple elope to a beach somewhere in the North West of England. It was an extremely windy day, but the production mixer did a great job of capturing the best possible sound he could under the circumstances. It gave me a decent platform to work from and present to the dubbing mixer who in turn, did a fantastic job of mixing the final edit.  

I’ll often search through the production sound for alternate takes to try and keep ADR to a minimum. 

Which project are you most proud of your work on and why? 

It really isn’t easy to pick out one individual project that I’m most proud of. Each project comes with its own unique set of challenges. At times, I may be required to record ADR for entire scenes or to work on sync dialogue so as not to need any ADR at all. Both scenarios are difficult and take a lot of time and effort but both are equally as rewarding. 

If I had to choose something then I would probably say it has to be my first ever project, the twenty minute dialogue edit – four week extravaganza. It’s a great feeling to see your name on the list of credits for the first time and to know that you were part of a talented team of highly skilled craftsmen who created something that will be around for a lot longer than one’s self. 

What do you find most useful about working with Revoice Pro 3? 

The introduction of the APT Audio Suite plugin has sped my workflow up quite considerably. For me, one of the most important aspects of a piece of kit is that it has to be intuitive. The APT plugin gives you the ability to put the finishing touches onto replacement dialogue with just a couple of clicks of the mouse. 

"The introduction of the APT Audio Suite plugin has sped my workflow up quite considerably. ... [It] gives you the ability to put the finishing touches onto replacement dialogue with just a couple of clicks of the mouse."

Is there a particular ‘go-to’ feature you keep going back to Revoice Pro 3 for? 

I use Revoice Pro for all my ADR and sometimes for replacement production dialogue. The algorithm sounds great with virtually no artifacts unless used for extreme time stretching/pitch shifting. I mainly use timing but sometimes a combination of both can work wonders especially if it’s technical replacement ADR that’s sandwiched tight in-between production dialogue.  

The pitch process also comes in handy if I need to replace production dialogue with an alternate production take. Generally, you would have no control over the pitch apart from trying to choose a close match to the original. Occasionally, the actor might deliver their lines consistently so choosing a suitable alt can be straight forward but it’s not always the case. The pitch process gives you that extra edge to help sit the alt take into context. 

The ‘Protected Area’ function is really useful if things do start to sound awry. 

After working on some great films and programmes and with various well-known actors over the years, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you would pass on to those starting out in your field?  

I believe that whether you’re designing sounds for films, working in studios with famous actors and actresses, repairing motor vehicles or selling clothes in a department store - if you’re passionate about what you are doing then everything else will fall into place. 

On a pragmatic level, I would say remain focused on exactly what you want to do and where you want to be. Take advantage of anything that is offered to you that might assist you in getting there. The night shifts I volunteered to do as a runner are a prime example.  

On my university course we had several studios and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment and mixing consoles - for example, the Neve V series, SSL G series and Icons. We could book as much time to use them as there were hours in the day. I couldn’t believe that the majority of the students in my class chose to go home early instead. I spent a lot of time in those studios and in the end I was recording bands with the lecturers. It gave me the knowledge I needed to pass my signal flow exams.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the audio community? 

How many sound engineers does it take to change a light bulb? 

2. Testing 1. 2. 3. 

Visit Peter’s website here.

For downloads and more information on getting the best from using Revoice Pro, click this link and select your DAW.

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