Friday 24 January 2020

The dialogue recording

Once a script was marked as "final", it could then be made available to record the dialogue.  It would then fall to the production company to book a recording session and voice director, as well as contact the voice actors' respective agencies to book them for the session.

A voice actor would have a maximum number of three speaking roles for every session.  If there were one-off roles or incidental voices required in the script, these would be distributed among the actors who had not reached their three character limit.  On shows with large ensemble casts, there would sometimes be a small amount of dialogue lines from a character in the script that proved insufficient to justify booking that character's voice actor for the session.  In these instances, dialogue would be reassigned to a character whose voice actor was already booked.

If a voice actor was unavailable for a particular session due to prior bookings, a separate "pick-up" session would be booked to allow their dialogue to be recorded as soon as possible.
For shows intended to be broadcast on one of the three US networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), scripts were reviewed and approved by network executives and the approved dialogue had to be rigidly adhered to.  For syndication broadcast, a looser approach was permitted, with changes made in the recording session itself.  One notable instance of major change was to the opening scene of Transformers episode Five Faces Of Darkness, part 1.  The broadcast scenes of the Constructicons fighting over energon cubes had to be created on the spot, as the original dialogue scripts reveal that the miniseries was meant to open with a fight between the Insecticons (characters who were reformatted in Transformers The Movie and who effectively no longer existed) in a fight with Menasor.

Five Faces Of Darkness, part 1 dialogue script on the bottom left....

...and the broadcast version.

However, allowing changes during the session could lead to potential errors, as dialogue would sometimes be swapped between characters.  Or at other times, characters would read written on-screen text differently to what had been directed in the script and first-draft storyboards.  In both cases, due to the hectic production schedules, there was often no time to accommodate these changes in the final storyboard revisions that were sent to the overseas animators.

Where scheduling permitted, the dialogue scripts that every voice actor worked from would be drawn up using scene numbers from the first draft storyboards.  This has been confirmed as being the case on all of G.I Joe season 1, Inhumanoids and Transformers up to and including the episode The Insecticon Syndrome.

At the beginning of 1985, a change was made on Transformers starting with Dinobot Island, part 1.  From then until the end of the series, finalised scripts would have each line of dialogue numbered and transcribed to the dialogue scripts.  This enabled recording sessions to be booked and take place ahead of the completion of the first draft storyboards.  

 MP 700-28 The Insecticon Syndrome dialogue script, organised by storyboard scene numbers

MP 700-29 Dinobot Island, part 1 dialogue script.  Drawn up using dialogue lines numbered on the full script.

Script page from Bucky O'Hare episode MP 6610-12 Bye-Bye Berserker Baboon, with dialogue numbered, to be transcribed for the dialogue script.

Due to the manic production schedule of season 3, several episodes would have their scripts finalised on a Monday or Tuesday, then go into a dialogue session on the Thursday or Friday of that same week.  Among those episodes that were rushed to dialogue were Thief In The Night, The Big Broadcast of 2006, Only Human, Grimlock's New Brain and Call Of The Primitives (see the production timeline for dates):

To listen to a sampling of dialogue recording from this era, follow this link to a playlist of deleted dialogue from Transformers season 1 (Thanks to Transformers At The Moon).

For a lot of animal noises or human sounds known as "Body English", particularly ones that were strenuous for an actor to perform at every session.  Additional Dialogue Recording sessions would be booked to put these sounds on tape.  The tapes could then be re-used by the production company sound editors over and over again.  Some notable ADR tapes include:

  • The late Bob Holt recorded stock roaring sounds for The Incredible Hulk in 1982.  The recordings would be frequently used by Marvel Productions on multiple shows.  Including Juggernaut on Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, various monsters in Dungeons and Dragons and the barbarian Ramar in the first G.I Joe miniseries.  As well as the final, posthumous use:  the roars of Unicron in Transformers The Movie
  • Shortly after production of Transformers season 1, director Wally Burr recorded Frank Welker to make a stock library of sounds for the Decepticon jaguar Ravage.  Excerpts from this session would be used for all of Ravage's appearances throughout the rest of the series.  The tape would see it's final use in 1986 on the final episode of G.I Joe: Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep.  The tape can be listened to at this link:
  • Around a similar timeframe as the creation of the Ravage tape.  Chris Latta was brought in to record a stock library for Laserbeak, which again was used for all of Laserbeak's appearances throughout the series.  For over 30 years, it was assumed that the role of Laserbeak had been performed by Frank Welker, due to his long association with performing animal noises for animation.  However, when Transformers dialogue recordings surfaced in 2016, it was revealed to have been Latta's role all along.  The tape can be listened to here: