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September 18, 2008 2:40 PM   Subscribe

I have noticed that TV ads for prescription drugs that feature actors directly addressing you always (?) have the voice track lip-synched. The audio is obviously different from what would have been recorded originally, and this seems to be consistent. Why is this? A friend suggested this somehow avoids some FDA regulation about endorsing drugs. This is in the USA.
posted by adamrice to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm GUESSING that its because making commercials isn't a 1-step process. They first have to be filmed, then approved (by the company's own legal team...and maybe the FDA or something). By the time it comes out of that process, so many things have to be changed that they would have to film it over again if they wanted it to be compliant. Its probably easier (and cheaper) to keep the video, and redo the sound.

It makes sense to say "Well why don't they have the script approved and then shoot the commercial". Yeah...but I'm guessing the legal team or the FDA (or whoever approves this) knows that you have the view the entire commercial and not just read the text to see what is being said.

Again, this is just a guess.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2008


I can verify that a friend of mine who appeared on a prescription drug commercial did not have his voice rerecorded.

Maybe it's just a bad audio sync by the editor.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:55 PM on September 18, 2008


I can tell you that almost no film or video that's professionally produced uses "practical" sound. Every non-indy movie you've ever seen in your life shoots the film with sound recorded on set; then they bring the actors into a sound studio, where they listen to the recorded sound (which is of poor quality, with all sorts of camera noise and the like), and record reproductions of their performance. These are then synched back up with the video, mixed with the rest of the soundtrack, and printed.

So, everything is done with lip-sync sound.
posted by Netzapper at 3:13 PM on September 18, 2008


Netzapper—Okay, but if that's the case, it's done in such a way that I'm not conscious of it. With these drug ads, the lip-syc and difference in acoustics (ie, obvious sound-booth acoustics overlaid on outdoor scene) are drawing attention to the lip-synciness of it.
posted by adamrice at 3:18 PM on September 18, 2008


I can tell you that almost no film or video that's professionally produced uses "practical" sound. Every non-indy movie you've ever seen in your life shoots the film with sound recorded on set; then they bring the actors into a sound studio, where they listen to the recorded sound (which is of poor quality, with all sorts of camera noise and the like), and record reproductions of their performance. These are then synched back up with the video, mixed with the rest of the soundtrack, and printed.

So, everything is done with lip-sync sound.


Sorry if I'm not answering the question but this is just fantastically inaccurate. Wow.

Yes, overdubbing is done. It's called "ADR" or "looping" in the movie business, but it's done as an absolute last resort.

One or two movies have been made with everything overdubbed, but they were actually low budget, like Kubrick's first film (I think). In those cases, it's to avoid the hassle of sound recording on the set and in noisy locations altogether.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:20 PM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Netzapper: not in my experience. Post-production dubbing does happen, but only for bits and pieces that didn't come out well. Like Dr. Jimmy said.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 3:21 PM on September 18, 2008


I've noticed this too.. not it all drug ads, but some. If it's an older lady it's almost as if they use a younger sounding voice. Another crazy guess is if the same production place is doing all the ads, maybe they are just really bad at picking quiet locations.

and thirding that looping is a last resort.
posted by starman at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2008


In TVCs looping is less common.

The approvals thing is one possability. Commercials have an huge number of 'stakeholders'. The director, the agency creatives, the agency account manager, the client marketing manager, the client brand managers, the client media co-ordinator.

In many cases it's not until all these people are sitting on the comfy couches in the back of the edit suite that many of them even really see the ad. At that point there's very possibly changes requested - some could even require a reshoot, others might be simple edit changes, and a voice change is certainly not out of the question.

However the most likely answer, I think, is that the 'face' and 'voice' have been cast separately. The agencies are often very very specific about how they want the product presented, they want a certain look and a certain sound, and if both things can't be found in one person, they will cast two people.

This can also have practical benefits - imagine a series of ads where the piece-to-camera introduction is always the same, but then there a variety of voice overs descibing different products under product shots. In this case the voice talent is possible cheaper and easier to book than the 'face'. So you shoot the face guy doing the intro (or a couple of them) then get the voice guy to revoice his intro and all the content of the ad - he can be brought back again and again to create new ads, keeping continuity of voice without having to reshoot anything.

While I've never worked on any US Pharma ads, I've had involvement with ads that exemplify all of these scenarios.
posted by sycophant at 3:47 PM on September 18, 2008


Once, I seem to recall, there was a guy talking in an advertisement for a travel company and he had an Australian accent and then a month or so later he was over-dubbed with a New Zealand accent.

Maybe the ads are Canadian or something?
posted by meech at 1:09 AM on September 19, 2008


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