ARTICLE: SOUND ADVICE FOR CREATIVES
This article was originally published in the May edition of TVB Europe
Words by Greg Gettens
Working in the media industry the number one question I inevitably get asked from family and friends is “how can I upgrade my home viewing experience”. There's 55 inch, 65inch, LED, OLED, HD, 4K, 8K (Sony have even just created a colossal 16K TV screen), Dolby Vision, HDR, 8-bit, 10-bit ….... the seemingly endless lists and myriad choices available can lead to all manner of confusion.
The answer is simple – the best way to upgrade your home viewing experience is with an amp and a set of speakers. TV speakers vary hugely in their ability to deliver a good listening experience - so pound for pound even an entry level amp and set of speakers or soundbar will be a drastic improvement over the majority of built in efforts.
Those who have followed this advice have been astonished by the results - Why? Because sound is at the very least 50 percent of a program. It can open up a whole new world in the home viewing experience that they previously never knew existed. A good soundtrack can elevate a program to the greatest of heights. It can convey time, space, location, even the temperature of the pictures being viewed - It can also affect viewers in both a psychological and a physiological manner through both the choice of sounds and the dynamics of the soundtrack.
Unlike picture, sound is not constrained to the viewing area – it can infiltrate your lounge and surround you in a way that only pictures could dream of, especially with the advent of surround sound and immersive audio formats. Imagine the classic scene from any horror film – you know the jump scare is coming, and when it does, most people will squeeze their eyes shut or look away – very few people will put their fingers in their ears.
In the same vein, a static shot of a house can be transformed through sound. On the most basic of levels, is it a nice neighbourhood? Are there birds singing in the trees, lawnmowers mowing and the sounds of dogs barking and kids playing? Or is it more uncomfortable than that, with heavy traffic, angry car horns, planes flying overhead and the sounds of distant sirens.
So why should creatives and content providers be concerned with sound? Well for the very reasons listed above. In the same way that sound can open up a whole new world in the viewing experience, the appreciation of sound by producers and directors can have a similar effect in the creative process. A good understanding of how sound can be used and manipulated in both production and post can be hugely advantageous for filmmakers in realising their ambitions for their projects and elevating the end result to the next level.
High quality sound, once restricted to the large budget productions of feature films, is now expected, indeed required, across all levels of production in both the drama and more recently the factual genres. With these higher quality requirements comes the need for more time and thought to be given to the audio post production of their projects. High-end feature documentaries are now requiring a full dialogue editorial, sound design, Foley and even ADR to bring them up to the levels expected by both viewers and distributors.
“Foley? In a documentary?!” You better believe it. There are also ongoing trials being conducted in the field with multi-pattern microphones to capture multichannel audio on location to enhance and assist in the creation of an ‘immersive soundtrack’.
Broadcasters and streaming services are also fully aware and on board with the importance of sound in their productions. Alongside the technological advancements in pictures there is a quiet revolution taking place in sound with Amazon, Netflix and Sky now requiring Native Dolby Atmos mixes as a delivery requirement. The overall aim is to provide the viewer with a high quality, truly immersive soundtrack across all program genres no matter what device they choose to view content on.
This request for native Dolby Atmos from streaming services coupled with the higher quality requirements from a program's soundtrack is changing the traditional workflows in sound post from both a technological and creative point of view – so an understanding and appreciation of these new workflows is essential for content producers – having a “sound plan” from the very beginning is therefore an essential part of production.
Greg Gettens is Head of Broadcast Factual Sound at Molinare and highly regarded in the factual audio community as one of the best Dubbing Mixers in the country. Greg has won 3 RTS Awards for ‘Sound’, and is one of only a handful of mixers to pick up the award in both the ‘Factual’ and ‘Drama’ categories.