On the Universal Studios lot, the new NBC hit series Parenthood is shooting on Stage 44. In between takes, one-by-one, the actors walk 200 feet from the stage and into Voice Over There‘s compact trailer. There, when the door is closed, the din of nearby trucks and teamsters disappears. The actor enters a small sound booth and records ADR. Ten minutes later, the actor returns to the set.
This mobile recording studio/ADR stage just completed its 100 session, on location on Universal Studios. Other primetime TV shows include Bones, Lie to Me, Men of a Certain Age and United States of Tara.
The VOT ADR trailer was the brainchild of veteran TV director/technical directly Amir Soleimani. “I’ve done a lot of ISDN work for the previous company I used to work for and we did a lot of voiceovers in our building,” he says. “We’d bring people in to record or ISDN to Thailand or NY or wherever they needed to go. I always knew it was hit and miss when they booked someone to come, especially if it was a celebrity. No shows are typical in that business. The idea stayed with me: what if I put this set-up in my garage? Then, I thought, what if we put wheels on it?”
The voiceover trailer was designed and built by accoustician/studio designer Jay Kaufman, who explains the challenges involved. “It’s hard to make a small space sound good,” says Kaufman. “For the very small space it is, the VOT trailer has a high level of isolation and is very neutral. I think it turned out very well.” The trailer is fully soundproofed up to -50dB and outfitted with ProTools, Telos Xstream and Verzion wireless internet for digital sound recording, processing and transmission technology. The trailer is powered by a Honda Whisper generator and air conditioned by a dual zone Fujitsu 18,000 BTU HVAC unit.
Although Soleimani had the idea of a soundproof room on wheels, he initially thought the best use would be to take it to various events for interviews. Then he met Tony Schmitz at an HPA (Hollywood Post Alliance) event. Schmitz had a very different idea.
“Actors hate ADR, but they have to do it,” says Tony Schmitz, who is now VOT director of sales and marketing. “They have to set aside a day to go to some sound stage. But, with Voice Over There, if they have a break during the shooting day–like during a lighting set-up or a scene they’re not in–they go down to the trailer and they’re done in ten minutes.”
Because of his background in the post industry, Schmitz had a lot of contacts, and he made the best of them. “Tony was my gateway to the world of ADR,” says Soleimani. Schmitz says he called all the heads of post at the studios. What they quickly found was how useful the VOT trailer was when a celebrity or high-profile actor needed to do ADR.
“The main thing is really convenience,” says Soleimani. ” We went to Sean Penn’s house in Malibu [for director Terence Malick’s Tree of Life] and doing ADR only took one hour and 20 minutes. That could have been an all-day project for him if he’d had to travel to Burbank or Hollywood.” Toni Collette and John Corbitt from Showtime series United State of Tara and Christian Slater for My Own Worse Enemy are others who’ve taken advantage of the VOT convenience.
Most importantly, using the VOT trailer is gaining enthusiastic approval of some producers. Parenthood co-producer Patrick Ward is one of them. “It works quite well,” he says. “I love the convenience. I heard about it from a studio head in post at Warner Bros., and I tested the quality after the first session and I was hooked. It doesn’t take time out of the actors’ day and they don’t have to leave to go to the sound stage. I will take this with me wherever I go.”
Next up, says Soleimani, is a bigger trailer containing a virtual studio with cameras and green screen. “We’ll be able to do a live studio show from anywhere,” he says. “That’s where we’re going with this thing. You don’t always have to go to the building. We can take the building to you.”
Topics: Blog ADR recording audio Hollywood Post Alliance HPA mobile ADR mobile recording studio Parenthood Production ProTools studio designer Jay Kaufman Tree of Life United States of Tara Universal Studios Voice Over There voiceover workflow
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