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Old April 26th, 2014, 02:04 AM   #1
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Audio can make or break a production

Just how important is the audio? Here in the UK we have just had a wonderful production of Jamaica Inn, the filming was superb, the acting was wonderful, the only let down was that you couldn't understand a word of what was being said. I think some heads will roll at the BBC. A record amount of complaints was received from viewers.

"The BBC’s adaptation of Jamaica Inn suffered from “sound issues”, the corporation has admitted after hundreds of viewers (over 2000) complained they were unable to make out the mumbled dialogue.The three-part Daphne du Maurier drama starring Jessica Brown Findlay began on BBC One this week"

Not sure why the BBC gives us independent all their specs for submitting a production, yet they can't get it right themselves. .
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Old April 26th, 2014, 03:02 AM   #2
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

I heard that the Sound Recordist on the location shoot told the Director that the actors could not be understood - but was ignored/overridden. So the fault lies squarely with the Director/Production company.

I have also been told that Sound Recordists tend to avoid looking at the script to make sure that he only hears with his ears (like the viewer at home) so will hear these things, where a Director with the script won't as they can read the words.

So it is doubly annoying that the problem was highlighted at the start and was ignored.

But this does highlight how important good sound is in a video/film as this expensive production was totally ruined due to the words the actors spoke not being understood by the viewer.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 03:50 AM   #3
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

The BBC has been running "Sound Matters" workshops on this subject run by the BBC Academy.

BBC Academy - Sound Matters: audibility and loudness events

Mumbled dialogue was one of the subjects covered and trying to improve the record recording skills of production staff working as single person crew. Unfortunately, there were fewer production people there than they were hoping for and I gather training in audio isn't what it used to be in the BBC..

The main subject covered was Loudness Units, which productions need to conform to for delivery.

Jamaica Inn is made by an independent production company, rather than being an in house production, although there would be the high end BBC producer input that dramas tend to have.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; April 26th, 2014 at 04:21 AM.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 04:46 AM   #4
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

"Jamaica Inn is made by an independent production company, rather than being an in house production, although there would be the high end BBC producer input that dramas tend to have."

Yes, I was aware of this, but the BBC must have seen the production before buying it, at the end of the day the BBC are the ones that broadcast the production and must therefore be responsible for any quality issues. If it is bad then don't buy or broadcast it. Such a shame for an otherwise excellent production.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 05:13 AM   #5
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

I've heard the exact opposite about sound recordists/boom operators not reading script; they're supposed to be intimately familiar with it (at least the scene they're recording at the time, not saying they have to memorize the same way an actor does) so they can know where to put the mic when. They need to know who's going to talk when to have the mic in place to pick them up before the line ever starts.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 06:41 AM   #6
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vincent Oliver View Post
Yes, I was aware of this, but the BBC must have seen the production before buying it, at the end of the day the BBC are the ones that broadcast the production and must therefore be responsible for any quality issues. If it is bad then don't buy or broadcast it. Such a shame for an otherwise excellent production.
The BBC would've been involved in commissioning the production and funding it, most BBC dramas are done this way. There could also be other funders involved in the production, this varies, depending on the nature of the project. It wouldn't have been an acquisition, usually these dramas are proposed by the production companies to the BBC, who get involved in the development before it gets commissioned by the BBC execs.

The BBC is responsible for the quality, so it would interesting to find out how much the BBC executives were across this during the shooting stages and if they watched ( or heard in this case) any rushes. Once it got beyond the filming it seems to have been too late in this case, short of ADR.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 07:39 AM   #7
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

I only know what I've read from googling this incident, but a number of people who had seen the preview showing through non-broadcast methods said the dialog could be understood. They surmised the final straw beyond the actors mumbling was some error in transmission. Any news on the technical front regarding incompatibility of transmission parameters/settings/format? Surely it wouldn't have made it all the way through the process if it was as bad along the way as it appeared to the broadcast viewing audience.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 08:43 AM   #8
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

When doing the dubbing mix they usually check on a poor speaker which is the worst possible case. There could also be a problem understanding the Cornish accent combined with the mumbling delivery.

Previews tend to have good quality sound systems, most TVs don't have quality speakers.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 08:59 AM   #9
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

If the sound was recorded improperly from the start the production would have dealt with it while it was happening. Not the sound departments issue if it is the way the actors deliver the lines. Transmission problems can ruin the audiences ability to hear the audio correctly. Could be a combination of all three but they should be able to determine what happened relatively easily. Certainly they can playback the transmitted feed or file and hear what defects it went out with.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 10:43 AM   #10
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

As I have stated elsewhere, I notify the 1st AD (or director) of an actor's incoherent dialog.. It's up to the director to let it slide or deal with the offender(s).
FWIW, even the best production sound can be trashed in post for that matter, masked by S/FX or unskilled use of processors. (EQ, comp/limit, ect.)
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Old April 26th, 2014, 11:00 AM   #11
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

I don't we can make excuse s for the BBC on this, they are a professional body and should know what works and doesn't work on a variety of domestic TVs. Yes, they may have monitored the production on high end speakers etc. but the final results will nearly always be played on small TV speakers. This could be a good lesson for all of us, we take so much time and trouble to get our audio right, often using high quality monitor speakers, but the reality is that viewers will either see your production through a TV set or computer with low grade stereo speakers. For some time I have been using a cheap set of desktop speakers for a quality check. My editing is still using a set of Yamaha Studio monitors together with a Focusrite or Presonus external card (I have both).

On a further point regarding the BBC and audio. I notice a wide variation in sound levels from one program to another, I have to constantly reduce or increase the volume settings for each program. The worst offender is the News at 10 followed by the regional news and the Weather. I am surprised that the BBC doesn't use a standard output level for all their broadcasts.
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Old April 26th, 2014, 11:20 AM   #12
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Re: Audio can make or break a production

The BBC is now addressing the issue of varying loudness levels and are putting in place loudness meters using LUFS to measure how loud a production is, as against the levels. They're already used for dubbing dramas etc, the problem at the BBC are the links and non standard methods that the announcers tend to use. Some entertainment programmes have a lot of compression,

BBC Academy - Technology - Crazy little thing called LUFS

ITV has a bigger problem with the compressed audio in commercials..
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