Sound is the Glue!

The old film phrase, “Sound is the glue that holds the pictures together!” really came alive last night. Chaired by Joe Godwin, the Producers Forum networking event was held at BBC studios in the Mailbox, Birmingham.

Sitting in the BBC’s Archers sound studio, it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm for all things audible. Even standing in the BBC Birmingham’s anecohic recording studio, AKA the ‘Dead Room’, was a treat for the ears – in a funny sort of way.

The thrust of the evening wasn’t to say sound is more important than pictures, but rather as Neil Hillman put it, “If you have bad sound you notice the sound, if you have good sound you notice the pictures!”

Despite the age difference in the panel, the passion for creating the very best in audio, be it dialogue or music was universal.


What was even more evident was the depth of the technical understanding of films visual elements, now required to capture ‘good sound’.

For instance, with todays digital workflow, it’s now viable to leave the microphone ‘in shot’ to record the best dialogue and paint the mic out later. One of the (very) few occasions when I think it is acceptable to “fix it in post”. However the ability to pull this off while filming requires more understanding of the ‘pictures’ than you may first think.

For me one other very interesting dichotomy was the enormous range of production scale, the panel had to embrace professionally:

  • Neil Hillman is  a TV and feature film sound designer and editor (Oscar-winning Lincoln, New York I Love You and Grace of Monaco)
  • Marc Silk is an incredibly talented voiceover artist (Aks Moe in Star Wars Episode 1, Danger Mouse, Johnny Bravo etc)
  • Alice Trueman is a classically-trained violinist and award-winning soundtrack composer (BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5)

While Neil is more used to his larger studio in Pinewood, he understands the needs of lower budget productions as well. Alice, meanwhile, is also comfortable working with compositions using orchestras or sampled soundtracks in her smaller studio. Finally, while Marc has worked alongside George Lucas, (in grander recording surroundings) he has also been able to produce last minute voice over material from his hotel room.

In this golden age of digital media great projects can come in all shapes and sizes, and professionals must now be willing and able to deal with whatever comes their way.

Production sound is one of those things that many people think is simple, and a production soundtrack can be bought from a library. Neither is true, but all too often film audio gets the short straw when budgets or schedules are tight. Last night’s event was informative, yet probably more importantly it was a gentle reminder to treat filmmaking as a whole process not a ‘game of two halfs’ if I can steal some football terminology.

I look forward to seeing and hearing many more Producer’s Forum films in the future.

Mark Alexander Todd

Writer/Director and Reluctant Producer

As always I happy to answer questions or discuss thoughts on filmmaking.





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2 thoughts on “Sound is the Glue!

  • March 24, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Mark –

    What a great way you’ve managed to sum up the creative energy that was in the room that night. It was a real pleasure to be there and to be allowed to share my thoughts on sound, alongside such talented panelists.

    However, I would like to gently explain to your readers that whilst I am fortunate to be able to mix projects in cinema facilities such as Pinewood or AIR (usually for movies with a general release, as Distributors generally expect this) my own studios are local, in Moseley, Birmingham; and extremely well equipped to deal with any aspect of sound-for-picture: editing, ADR recording or mixing.

    I’d also like to say that it’s always the merits of a project and the people involved – and not necessarily the size of the budget that they bring with them – that determines who I choose to work with!

    Wonderful (and successful) films by local filmakers such as Pip Piper (‘Last Shop Standing’ and ‘Mountain Biking: The Untold British Story’) and Simon Woods (the beautiful Renaissance comedy ‘The Mandrake Root’, used as an example at the event) were edited and mixed by me, here in Birmingham, on what I would respectfully describe as ‘modest’ budgets!

    Sound is such a wonderful and powerful way to extract ‘bang-for-your-bucks’ from any sized budget; and is only really limited by our imagination, (or the quality of the original recordings…)

    After all, as Steven Spielberg put it – ‘The eye sees better when the sound is great.’

    Kindest regards to you and your readers,

    Neil Hillman MPSE –

    • March 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      Neil, Thank you for the correction and valuable additions. As you’re Midlands based, I hope we’ll run into each other again soon.


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