Unforgotten is a brilliant drama with sound production you don't notice - a really good thing !
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
TV sound production is an interesting subject that often gets lost as we focus on the pictures. Good telly sound is difficult but important. You soon hear people complaining they cant hear the words or have simply 'lost the plot' - often because of concentrating on tricky sound.
Having been involved in the production of TV commercial soundtracks I'm impressed with the care and attention taken by the sound production team at West End agency Karmarama. This is why, when watching Unforgotten the other night, I was minded to think about the effort and skill shown in creating the sound mix. During the hour, every word was clear, inside and out sounds were rich and exciting, even down to doors opening and closing. ADR was excellent.
ADR stands for Additional Dialogue Replacement and many people don't know it even happens or what it is. Having conducted a few ADR sessions for TV and even a movie I'm always excited when I see and hear it done well.
ADR is the process of overdubbing dialogue when the voice sound is poor, cluttered with background noise of just simply unclear, ADR can also be used to make subtle script changes, start the sentence in vision, go to a cutaway and replace the words in the script with ADR. your actor may have given the performance of a lifetime and on review you can hear a plane in the background - on set you'll often hear the phrase 'fix it in post production'
" We can't hear you !"
Looking back at many old TV dramas it's very clear now of the advances in sound production and ADR. BritBox has old episodes of The Sweeney a 1970's cop show. Much loved and fondly remembered the sound is terrible! If an actor moves slightly away from the camera or walks down the stairs often you really can't hear them. Nowadays a problematic distant sound would be re recorded, with the original actor, lip-syncing the original words to the picture in a studio.
Unforgotten on location - Looks Noisy !
Sound in Unforgotten it's been brilliant. In a noisy scrap yard, you hear every word, the wind is rushing and blowing hard, you hear every word. These sequences have been painstakingly recreated in a studio and then some very subtle sfx of wind and mechanical machinery added - excellent. You stay immersed in the drama and really importantly - you don't notice anything and that's the skill in great ADR.
In the picture above if that digger is working and the actors move towards it with a very technical conversation concerning police matters it is more or less certain the scene will feature ADR. Re record in the studio then dig out the sound effects, add some nicely compressed and lower in the mix diggers and you have the perfect mix!
Next time you watch a great drama, and don't think about the sound, try to remember reading this article about ADR and listen and look out for it! It's a great, often uncredited, skill to be aware of in television and movie productions.