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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.

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In my last post I mentioned that NewQuay Times would be recording in the next few weeks. Well ‘the next few weeks’ has more than happened, and over three days in the middle of February we managed to record, mix and master an EP with five songs on it called A Short Walk On A Long Pier. I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved as a band, with everyone stepping up to the plate to contribute to the production as a whole. For the initial two days we locked ourselves away in the studio and laid down the recordings. I’d prepared a drum track a for several songs but it transpired that we really needed to record the band as a whole (sans click track!) to get the feel we needed for most of the songs. Only Baby Blue is recorded to a click track, as the song’s more upbeat nature throughout lends itself to a well timed beat! I still dislike click tracks if I’m honest!

We recorded drums and bass together with Vince (guitar) and Sarah (vocals) providing a guide track from the control room. We initially had problems with nasty vibrations from Stu’s Peavy bass amplifier causing various un-musical noises to be picked up on the microphone. This led me to DI the bass in the end, and to be honest the superb tone available from the Fender is such that it really needs little modification on mix-down, apart from a little compression and EQ, along with some chorus on Moonlight Watcher to add to the ethereality of the song. Vince then added some guitar parts for all the songs. He used his trusty Hofner electric with P90 pickups through an Orange amp for most of the songs, for both clean and dirty parts.

Rainy Sunday is possibly the simplest production on the EP, consisting of drums, bass, guitar and a vocal and the aim was to produce a raw song here that was right there in the speakers with each instrument making itself heard on a similar level with little reverb. Baby Blue again is very simple with some additional guitars provided by Sarah on her Eastwood/Orange combination. Moonlight Watcher again had additional acoustic guitars parts to fill plus an undercurrent synth part throughout. To Want also has two acoustic guitar parts plus this time the Eastwood was paired with a Vox AC30 to double up on the Hofner. The vocals appear at the start of this song so we decided to add an intro in the form of a FM radio tuning effect and a guitar sounding like it’s coming out of the speaker of a transistor radio. Tomorrow is more straight ahead with distorted guitars provided by a double helping of Hofner/Orange and a serving of Eastwood/Vox once again. Sarah’s vocals are effected on this song with some multi echo and lots of feedback at the end, with the aim of recreating an almost chant like repeat of the end vocalisations.

For the final mix my aim was to achieve a good solid sound with lots of presence and detail from each instrument, especially Sarah’s vocals, whilst not falling into a ‘louder-the-better’ trap that plagues so many current chart releases. Hence the overall levels are more akin to something like the Pixies Doolittle album.

Artwork photography was supplied by Vince’s son, who took the cover photo whilst on a visit to the coast. I arranged it with text in a nice rounded typeface called Blippo.

CD case inlay artwork

A Short Walk On A Long Pier is now available to download from iTunes, Amazon, etc.

We’re currently in rehearsals and song writing but do have some gigs coming up and are looking for some radio airplay in the meantime.

NewQuay Times is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newquaytimes

That’s all for now folks.

I recently completed some music compositions and a sound mix for Stephanie Palmer’s documentary about asthma sufferer Lisa and the steps she’s taken to cope with the condition. Called ‘Lisa’s Story: On My Sleeve’, the documentary was made as part of a series of films for Asthma UK and Big Up Your Chest TV to highlight the condition and how it affects the lives of those who suffer with asthma.

The guitar pieces for the film were intended to be simple and light-hearted but also to have a thoughtful tone and feel. This was designed to convey the subject matter and Lisa in the best possible way, and to complement Stephanie’s editing style. The edit audio from Final Cut was remixed and treated to reduce the large amounts of location interference from pedestrians and other building-related sounds. Extra ambience was added to add emphasis to the different locations in the film.

The film can be seen here:

I recently completed the sound mix at Dreambase Studios, in partnership with Echoic Audio for a gaming headphone promotional animation.

Tritton Technologies Inc. manufactures a range of gaming specific headphones, most with multiple speakers in each ear cup. As part of their promotional campaign they needed an audio visual promotional piece to take to trade shows and to put up on-line to show off the products.

I worked with Echoic Audio to mix an engaging and dynamic soundtrack with enough surround to really show off the capabilities of the headphone system.

The sound on this video uses special audio encoding which mimics the effects of surround sound on a standard pair of headphones, sit back, put on a ‘normal’ pair of headphones and enjoy the ‘out-of-the-head’ experience on this fantastic project. The Tritton headphones have 4 tiny speakers in each ear giving a discrete surround sound experience.