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Brian's Voice: WALLA

WALLA...That’s not a new Australian greeting nor am I going to say it twice and call it a city in Washington state. It is however, one part of another area of voice over called either Automated Dialogue Replacement or Additional Dialogue Replacement, nobody seems to know which one it is so everyone just calls it ADR or looping for short.

Always interested in extending my skills, I recently took an advanced class in ADR from renowned teacher and overall super talented guy, Pat Fraley, and his guest instructor for the day, Barbara Harris, who’s company is responsible for the ADR aspects of hundreds of feature films such as No Country for Old Men, Inglourious Basterds, The Book of Eli and countless others.

This arena of voice over includes replacing inadequate or poor audio for specific dialogue, usually done by the stars themselves or it could mean bringing in another actor to voice match the star when they weren’t available. It also includes normal background “people” sounds that one would hear in any group setting (non-people sounds are done by foley artists and that’s a whole other subject). Those background people sounds can be either intelligible or unintelligible and that’s where the term “walla” shows up. Then there’s another term “shoutouts”, where you might have someone in a street scene yell “Taxi” or in a restaurant scene some anonymous voice calls out “waiter”.

Another area of ADR is that of “efforts” or exertion sounds where highly experienced actors are called upon to use another unique skill set, that of coughing or sneezing, laughing or even throwing up. There’s the grunts and groans and heavy breathing, someone has to do those as well. Then there’s the sound one makes when he or she is hit in the face or the stomach or when you fall down. Each and every one of these sounds is unique and specific to the position of the actor in the scene, all viewed on a monitor while recording the sounds. Does he have his mouth open wide or is he gritting his teeth? Is he hunched forward or arched back? Every position has a different sound and it’s the job of the voice actor to know just what that is.

That’s why the voice actor in this part of the business is just as important as any other, his performance needs to be so good that it’s never even perceived. If he’s poor at his job it may draw attention away from the main part of the scene. It’s an area of acting where you’re not drawing attention to yourself, where your performance must blend into the background, where it can be dull and lackluster, where you can mumble your lines or slur your speech… and you’ve done a great job!

My thanks to Pat Fraley, Barbara Harris and D.B. Cooper for imparting their talent and experience to further my education, knowledge and abilities. Also, to Andy at Buzzy’s Recording in L.A. for his expertise and hospitality.

Pat Fraley can be found at

For more info on Barbara Harris check out her listing on IMDB at

Buzzy’s Recording studio in Los Angeles

--Brian Page