Monday 15th January
The next three days of my work placement aren’t the most exciting, but as an outsider to the industry, they were probably the most important to be apart of. Here, the producer and director had final screenings on what would be the final versions of the episodes, and making final changes. This was very similar to the other days, but a lot of the changes were much more specific and important, but covered very similar ground: dialogue levels, checking the ADR sounded right, checking the atmospheric levels, making sure the fades were in the right place and the right length.
I was able to have some creative input during this session despite the heavy watching of the show. In one scene, a minor character is speaking off camera in a separate room to the main character. The minor character’s dialogue was recorded in the studio so it had to be processed with EQ and Reverb to make it sound like the upstairs of a house. Rich was having trouble with choosing the right reverb to make it sound realistic. I suggested that within a plugin he had called Indoor, that he chose and tiled reverb sound, to replicate a bathroom or kitchen. This turned out being the reverb sound used in the final scene.
It was during these next 3 days where I began to think almost theoretically about the work that was going on around me, specifically with the way the show was being mixed in regards to it’s genre. The show itself, This Country, is a ‘mockumentary’, a format which satirises a subject or an idea, presenting itself as a serious documentary. The ‘mockumentary’ format’s earliest work first took place in 30’s, including Orsen Wells radio broadcast of The War Of The Worlds. However, the style was popularised by the 1984 film, This Is Spinal Tap.
In Mockumentaries, the idea is that you present the film as a serious documentary. So with this, the film has to be filmed and edited like a serious documentary, this includes how the sound is presented to. In the book ‘Music and Sound in Documentary Film’, which is edited by Holly Rogers, Robert Strachan and Marion Leonard talk about ambience and sound design within Art Documentaries, but I feel that the ideas and theories they have apply across all types of documentary. In documentary, sound and ambiance tends to be incredibly representative of what is happening on screen, usually in terms of location. “ambient sound at times works as an indicator of realism, providing an (albeit constructed) sense of actuality”. This Country is set in a countryside village in the Cotswold called Northleach, so a lot of the shows wild track recordings were recorded in that village and are heard heavily throughout the show, really building on the realism of the documentary format, despite not being a serious documentary. As said in ‘Music and Sound in Documentary Film’, “It is present but unremarkable, a kind of unnoticed perceptual anchor.”
Once realising this about the sound of the show, and how it reinforces the genre that is attempting to represent, I came to realise and theorise more about how much sound is such a defining factor in defining genre in TV and Film, even across less stylised genres such as Drama, where sound is usually quiet, subtle and sparse. Being able to spot the sound tropes of certain genres I feel is a very valuable and necessary skill to have as some who works in a post production audio world. It allows you to identify and connect with the project you are working on, and also allows you to create something unique with the sound if the project allows for it, as knowing the boundaries allows you to bend them.
Tuesday 16th January
Like Day 4, this day was dedicated purely to watching the almost complete versions of a number of episodes. This day was dedicated to episodes 3 and 4. The producer and director came in for an extended day and watched both said episodes, making notes on what changes could be made or experimented with. Unlike Day 4 however, I didn’t have any creative decisions, so it was a purely observational day. After pondering about the audio stylisation in documentary sound, I was able to understand the decision making made by Rich, the director and the producer more, decisions that I made not have picked myself if I was in their position.
Wednesday 17th January
This was the third day that I would be sitting in on of final run-throughs of the almost complete episodes. Today was dedicated primarily to episode 6, the final episode of the series. What is interesting about this episode is, despite being a comedy series, it has a rather serious undertone, especially in the final few minutes.
For these final few minutes, the producer, director and the creators of the show decided they want some dramatic, building music to lead to the somber cliffhanger and credits. A music producer friend of the producer created a piece of music that everyone liked and felt that it fit the mood of the episode perfectly. The only thing that needed to be done was to mix the track, and also to make some alterations to the intro of the track, which they felt was a little boring. So myself, Rich, the director and producer bounced ideas off one another, discussing different melody ideas and arrangement of chords. Being able to have some creative involvement in music for the show was very rewarding, as being a musician I was able to put some of my knowledge forward that the others in the room may not have.
Once the music had been decided on, a full run through of the show was done like normal, with notes being made on the changes that were wanted to be made.
Rogers, Holly (2014). Music and Sound In Documentary Film. Routledge. New York.