The phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” would be correct if ADR didn’t exist. ADR stands for Automated Dialogue Replacement, and is a very interesting process that gives actors a second chance to make a first impression with their on-screen vocal performances.
Well, Eric Gotthelf is one of the guys responsible for giving some of our favorite actors that second chance to impress us the first time. Eric’s work has helped make films like, Sandra Bullock’s recent box office hit, ‘The Blind Side,’ Oscar worthy.
I Am Entertainment Magazine caught up with Eric, to share his interesting road to film success.
Can you please tell us where you’re from and what inspired you to want a career in the film biz?
I’m originally from Windsor, CT. When I was about 12 years old, I bought a used Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder and I’d go around and tape stuff, but really didn’t know I’d someday become a mixer. My dad owned a record store in Hartford (Connecticut), and I had been very much into music and sound for as long as I can remember.
What schools or training programs did you attend in order to become a film audio mixer?
I started out at 16 years old as a bass player in various Honky-Tonks and nightclubs, working full time. Then when I was 20, I came to LA to audition for a touring rock band and landed the job. So I spent the next 10 years on the road, touring and recording albums in LA, which helped me become very familiar with recording studios.
How did you get your start in the world of mixing for film?
It was sort of by accident, how I got started. I was between tours and a friend of mine, from Connecticut, bought an independent post-production facility and Foley stage for like 13 Grand from a guy named, Howard Warren [known for his work on 60s TV Show ‘Flipper’]. My buddy had no clue what he had purchased, but he had a knack for putting together some great crews. One day, he asked if I could mind the studio for him while he went into the hospital to have surgery, but I didn’t know how to run a studio; fortunately my only responsibility was simply unlocking the door in the morning, and locking it back at night. Those were the only job skills I had at the time [laughs]. I became very fascinated by what Foley engineers did, so that began my transition from music to post-production [for film], and I never looked back. I think my bass playing experience was invaluable in learning to mix. The process of recording Foley and ADR is very musical to me. I ended up going from an assistant [at the studio], to being the “Studio Manager,” then “Recordist,” and finally, “Re-recorder/Mixer,” which I’ve been doing for roughly 20 years now. But that’s how I got started.
What is the difference between Foley Mixing and ADR Mixing?
They’re both recording mediums, but with Foley, you’re working with Foley artists to create sounds in a collaborative environment. You’re on a schedule and within that schedule you have to figure out how many cues you can create in an allotted timeframe. If you’re doing a television show in Foley, you have to get the basic material [recorded] very quickly. Your sync has to be great because there is usually no time to edit the work before it goes to the dub stage. If you’re doing a big feature film, there are more opportunities to create cool effects and a lot of other interesting information that’s not there when the movie was shot.
With ADR, on the other hand, you work directly with the actors and directors. There’s very little room for error in ADR, and you don’t have the time to experiment. It’s a little more pressure, so in order to get things done in a timely manner; I have to create an atmosphere of trust with the actor I’m working with. I will usually make all of my technical judgments on the first rehearsal, as we listen to the line we’re going to replace. I have to take into account the sound of the microphone, the distance of the microphone to the actor, and the level the actor will be performing at. The reason I do this is because my next [recording] pass [after rehearsal] might be the only performance the actor wants to do, so II have to nail it. A lot of actors are afraid of the ADR experience because they either think they’re not that good at it, or that it compromises their performance. So, when I say that I must “create an atmosphere of trust,” it means that I want them to hear that they are doing a great job and actually enhancing their performance in the film. Sometimes, I’ll edit the actors’ line [in ProTools] to create an in sync track before I playback. This usually only takes a few seconds. I’ll also add ambient backgrounds and reverb if necessary to fill behind the playback. The talent likes what they hear and they get into it, giving me their best stuff. Once you can do all that, the session becomes a very enjoyable experience for everybody.