Using ADR to Create Cinematic Wedding Productions

So you’re a wedding videographer and you’re pulling your hair out to try and achieve great quality sound recordings at your events. Well, good luck. It ain’t happening. Ok, just kidding. It is actually possible to achieve great audio recordings at each and every event (Well, almost. Up until that six month old baby in the first pew in the church starts screaming at the top of her lungs during the vows). Listen, are you going to run into some major monkey wrenches every once in a while? Absolutely. But the key is having the presence of mind to deal with any major issues right on the spot and not waiting until post production when you’re pulling your hair out.

I remember being at a wedding where they literally spent millions of dollars on the event. They constructed a tent for the ceremony as part of the wedding design. Problem being, there was no air conditioner to keep the guests cool or to keep the Mother of the bride’s $1000 hairdo from frizzing out of control. So just before the vows and ring exchange (of course), the Father of the bride (who was footing the bill for this extravaganza) gave the signal to the wedding planner that it was too warm. And just like that, I suddenly realized they were about to unleash the deafening sounds of a giant generator to power the cooling system in the tent. My heart sunk. Now, miking the bride & groom with RØDE Lavalier & having the RØDE Stereo VideoMic X back-up is truly a beast of a setup and it can handle anything within reason. Unfortunately, the sound of the giant power generator was going to be far beyond reasonable. It was such a perfect wedding and now disaster struck. So what do I do? They’ve paid me a ton of money to fly to Puerto Rico and produce an incredible film. Can I just give up? No way. I still have an obligation to the couple. The ceremony ended and I immediately brought the incident to the couple’s attention. They were fully aware of the generator noise and were actually devastated because their parents couldn’t even hear their vows.

Since I was on the island for a couple of days, I told them not to panic, but we would definitely need to record an ADR (automated dialogue recording) the next day. They agreed and we met the following day. I’ve only had to do ADR for two weddings in my career when situations that were beyond my control happened during the ceremony. The other time was when a paparazzi helicopter literally hovered overtop of an outdoor ceremony I was filming in order to snap some shots of the couple (again, right during the vows!).

I want to cover these ADR sessions because they can really get you out of a jam if you end up in a really bad audio situation. These are last resorts. You MUST do them if something happened outside of your control and ruined the audio recording. DO NOT accept this poor audio and think you’re going to fix it in post. It’s never going to sound good if the interference was terrible. If you or the couple are being lazy and rush the ADR session, it was all for nothing. While you need to make sure you use the right mics for your ADR sessions, like the RØDE Pin Mic or RØDE Lavalier, you also MUST be patient and stress to the couple just how important this recording is for the film. The key is getting the couple back into the ‘zone’ mentally.

First, I will have them sit across from one another and ask them to read their vows as if it was the first time they were doing it. Secondly, I instruct them to look into each other’s eyes and recite the vows as if they really mean it. I let them listen to the original recording as a reference, so they keep the same pacing (it’s never going to be exact, but we’re just looking to get it as close to the original as possible). Also bear in mind that this was a high profile couple and I didn’t have all day to try and get it right. We recorded the ADR and I left after I felt comfortable enough with the recording.

Listen to the end result, a combination of ADR and location sound.

Now the really great thing about an ADR session done properly is that you’re going to end up with even better quality sound than if you would have recorded with no problems at the ceremony. With the help of the RØDE Lavalier, you can get really great audio out of your ADR session. That’s because you’re in a completely controlled setting with reliable equipment, where you can control all background noise and interference. You can check out the highlight film and take a listen for yourself. Honestly, if I never told you the backstory, you wouldn’t have figured out that an ADR session was done for the vows.

Of course, you want to be prepared for every type of situation and that means making an investment in your audio gear. No, it doesn’t mean go out and buy the latest toys then spending the couple bucks you have left on audio gear. Invest in the essentials first and then worry about the cinema toys. The RØDE Stereo VideoMic X is a rugged and reliable mic that you can rely on for ambient audio, and the RØDE Pin Mic and RØDE Lavalier are staples in any wedding shooters arsenal. You can have the most epic wedding film in the world, but if it has bad audio, it's basically garbage.

If you would like to learn more about how we produce these stunning wedding films and acquire great audio for our events, check out the Capture Cinematic Weddings workshop tour. I will be on a 28 city workshop tour across the USA and Canada where I show absolutely everything I do from shooting techniques to audio acquisition, proper ceremony and reception coverage to final editing. Lastly, I cover business and branding, so you can earn top dollar. There are no text book definitions or philosophies covered in the workshop, just flat-out learning without the BS. Whether you’re just starting out, in a rut, or a photographer looking to add video to their studio, this is definitely a great opportunity to attend a complete workshop at a very reasonable price (plus there’s $300 in giveaways for each attendee). I look forward to seeing you there!

Ray Roman is an International Award Winning Celebrity and Destination Cinematographer, as seen on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifetime Channel, FOX Sports, ABC News, NFL Network and Good Morning America.