The Process of Working with Voice Actors


The Process of Working with Voice Actors

Michael Kammes, Director of Technology at Keycode Media, began his career as an audio editor. Tonight, he shares his thoughts on the challenges of audio editing and the process of working with voice actors.


Larry Jordan: In his current role as the director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology, but he got his start in audio. Hello Michael, welcome back.

Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, good to hear your voice.

Larry Jordan: Well it is wonderful to hear yours. Tell us about what you did in an audio world.

Michael Kammes: Before I became someone who’s obsessed with zeros and ones, I worked with headphones. I was a creative sound editor both in the mid west, for my home town of Chicago and suburban Chicago and I did that on and off for about ten years, in addition to the technological stuff that I did. So it was a lot of independent films, documentaries, doing sound design and basically everything that you need to do in post sound.

Larry Jordan: In post, what’s the difference in working with a voice over actor than recording audio on set?

Michael Kammes: Well there’s a couple of different things. Traditionally, if you’re bringing the talent in to re-do dialog which is referred to as ADR, or Automatic Dialogue Replacement, which is funny because there’s nothing automatic about it. You’re bringing the talent in to try and recreate dialog that wasn’t recorded well on set. What I mean by not recorded well, there might have been background noises. In Chicago it was the L track. You’re shooting in Chicago, it’s hard to get clean dialog when you’re shooting next to a train. So it was trying to get the creatives, trying to get the talent to recreate the emotion of that moment in time, and getting them to do it to match their lips that the camera caught.

Larry Jordan: That’s non trivial just from a recreating a performance point of view. From a recording point of view, you’re inside a soundproof room and you’re recording something that was recorded outside. How do you begin to match that environment?

Michael Kammes: That’s a great question. Some folks have gone the route of ADR trailers which are actually on set. So if you know that where you’re recording is going to be all wide shots and you can’t lav or you can’t boom the talent, right after the take is done you whisk them away to an ADR trailer, and do it right there, so they’re still in that moment. If they’re not, then there are a few things you can do. A trick that a lot of people don’t know is that if you’re trying to do ADR, call people like Zack who you just had on, and say “Hey, what mic did you use in this scene?” and then rent, or borrow that mic for your ADR recording, because you’re trying to match the location dialog. So it only makes sense for you to use a mic that was used on location.

Larry Jordan: How do you set the room up for ADR recording?

Michael Kammes: That’s a real good question. I’m a big fan of Auralex which have sound dampening, Isopads, they also have base traps, baffles, and you can mount those to almost any surface to diffuse the reverb in the room. Usually you get reverb in a room, some people call it FL, but it’s actually reverb. The reverb you’re getting in your room is the audio bouncing off a hard surface and then reflecting back at you. So, what we want to do is diffuse that so we get as few, what they call standing waves, to hit us back as possible. That’s where diffusion comes in. If you don’t want to go Auralex, you’ve probably seen bands have rugs hung up in their garage. That helps to some degree as well.

Larry Jordan: Basically you want as flat a voice as possible with as little reverb, so that you can manipulate it as much as you want in the editing process itself?

Michael Kammes: If you can’t record ADR in the location the scene was shot at, then yes. You want it as dead as possible so you can recreate that environment, and there are actually plug-ins called convolution reverbs which are modelers. They model environments so when you play sound through them, they recreate what that sound is like in that environment. There are plug-ins that you can download libraries into that will allow you to model different environments to try and recreate that so you don’t have to do it from scratch.

Larry Jordan: Basically you can dial in the external environment on the flat recording and make it sound believable?

Michael Kammes: You can get it in the ballpark. There’s always going to be stuff you need to do to accentuate some of the consonants, or take out some of the pops or … but it does get you a lot closer.

Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to keep track of what you’re doing now, as opposed to what you were doing in the beginning of your career, where can they go on the web?

Michael Kammes: Two different places. You can go to, that’s the number five, or you can go to

Larry Jordan: I like the website, and Michael Kammes himself is the person you’re listening to. Michael, thanks for joining us today.

Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry, thank you.

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