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.