I haven’t written here for a little while due to to other projects, including a house move. However I watched ‘Parade’s End’ last week and then, a day later, the comments regarding the sound of some of the dialogue. As a result I just have to speak in defence of the entire sound crew and point the blame to other areas.

In fact, some of the comments regarding the sound quality such as bad mix, levels too low, etc., underline how little many understand about sound – even that of their own voices. In my opinion the main problem here was the slightly inconsistent performance from Benedict Cumberbatch (in the main). He was dealing with a tricky-to-deliver accent and at some points I thought the voice was simply too theatrical. This led to certain sentences, particularly at important moments being delivered in a less than clear manner. Cumberbatch is a fine actor, but in this role he looked a little uneasy with the character I thought. The movement of his mouth was also restricted, I suspect, due to the accent and characterisation here. This certainly doesn’t help with our understanding of the dialogue, regardless of it’s overall level.

I’m sure the sound was recorded and prod mixed correctly from the outset via boom and/or radio mic, but if the performance is mumbled, etc. there’s little that can be done to help it. Dialogue delivery isn’t just about level – it’s the attack, sustain and decay that’s important too. One option would be to ADR (dialogue replacement) certain sections but not all directors/producers are keen on this method as the loss of adrenaline in the recording studio can lead to a less than impassioned performance. There was ADR in this episode, as there is in many productions, and most people don’t notice post sync dialogue anyway and would assume it was done during the recording of the scene on set.

In any case sound often gets the lowest attention on a typical production. Why, when it constitutes more than 50%* of the finished article? Sound adds the emotion to the picture so why are budgets and time being reduced on the sound side. Crafting a convincing soundtrack (i.e. one that no one notices but thoroughly enjoys) takes time, effort and great understanding from the entire sound crew. So please can we all, from Directors and Producers, to the viewing public please remember the love and effort thats gone into creating the soundtracks that we all take for granted these days.

*OK, so I’m slightly biased!

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author.