Guest Lecture – Mark Hills – Sound Engineer

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Blog post by L3 Audio Production students Jack Webber.

This week we were fortunate enough to receive a guest Lecture from Mark Hills, a Lincoln University Media Production Graduate and sound engineer in a highly reputable audio post-production house in Soho, London called Soho Square Studios. Soho Square studios are a Dolby approved studio and focus on audio post production for Advertisement, animations, feature films, and voice recordings for games.

Mark began the lecture talking a bit about his background and how he got to where he is now. He explained how similarly to most sound designers he fell in love with electronic music at an early age. He took media at A-Levels and then became a Lincoln University Media Production Undergraduate in 2007.
I won’t go too much in to detail about his background as he has personally blogged about it, this can be found here.

Mark then talked about the challenges of getting into this industry and working in a studio like Soho Square Studios. He explained the importance of ‘running’ and how although we have (will have) a degree, we will still be expected to start from the bottom as runners. He explained how it’s better to go for a running job at a smaller studio with around 10-15 people, as the opportunity to grow, learn and promotion is higher. Whereas the larger companies, you could find yourself being a runner for many years and not get anywhere.

He also gave us some advice for our CVs. He said that the studio aren’t always that interested in how many student films you’ve worked on, what they want to know is, if you have a degree; and have some real work experience. What he meant by that is customer focused work experience e.g. working in a pub. The studio likes this as it shows you can deal with, and work well with clients.

The Lecture gave a great insight to what it’s like working in an industry we are all passionate about, but also gave us all a bit of a reality check in regards to the amount of work it takes to get to his position. This was a slightly different approach than most guest lectures give, however I felt like it was good for us to get a bit of a reality check to push us more to where we want to go.

The day after this lecture myself and another AP student, Matt Jones went to London and visited Soho Square Studios to interview Mark and his manager Tom Mackewn for research in our R&D case study module. We arrived at the Studio and saw Mark in action finishing up a session, where we were quite impressed by the speed of his Pro tools skills. He then gave us a tour of some of the studio rooms and showed us some of his previous work.

When we interviewed Mark, we asked questions about his role as sound engineer and what he does day-to-day etc. I was interested to find out how the working hours were 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday, as most creative industries involve working unsociable hours. He told us that they don’t have ‘official lunch breaks’ and work around their daily schedules to fit in lunch, and also about some of the perks of the job – he said how he loved being able to do a hobby for a job and that you get to work with some amazing high status people.

BBC radiophonic Workshop: Tape Loops & Tape Replay Setups

Elizabeth Parker and Paddy Kingsland from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1979 demonstrate the use of tape loops and tape-replay setups. We hear Elizabeth Parker’s “bubble music” and Paddy Kingsland on the electric guitar with twin Studer tape recorders.

This excerpt is from the BBC documentary The New Sound of Music produced in 1979.

Tape Loops BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Paddy Kingsland demonstrates twin Studer recorders in a delay-replay setup that some might refer to as “Frippertronics’ – named after Robert Fripp I believe. Fripp may have used twin Revox machines in a similar way for some of his compositions. It is an interesting setup, possibly described in some Workshop writings from the 1960s.

BBC radiophonic workshop The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, one of the sound effects units of the BBC,
was created in 1958 to produce effects and new music for radio.

It was closed in March 1998, although much of its  traditional work had already been outsourced by 1995.

The original Radiophonic Workshop was  based in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios
in Delaware Road, London.

 

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We have more on the Radiophonic workshop elsewhere in this blog –
e.g.
free-thinking-bbc-radiophonic-workshop/

doctor-who-how-norfolk-man-created-dalek-and-tardis-sounds/

 

 

The techniques initially used by the Radiophonic Workshop were closely related to those used in musique concrète; new sounds for programs were created by using recordings of everyday sounds such as voices, bells or gravel as raw material for “radiophonic” manipulations. In these manipulations, audio tape could be played back at different speeds (altering a sound’s pitch), reversed, cut and joined, or processed using reverb or equalisation. The most famous of the Workshop’s creations using ‘radiophonic’ techniques include the Doctor Who theme music, which Delia Derbyshire created using a plucked string, 12 oscillators and a lot of tape manipulation; and the sound of the TARDIS (the Doctor’s time machine) materialising and dematerialising, which was created by Brian Hodgson running his keys along the rusty bass strings of a broken piano, with the recording slowed down to make an even lower sound.

Much of the equipment used by the Workshop in the earlier years of its operation in the late 1950s was semi-professional and was passed down from other departments, though two giant professional tape-recorders (which appeared to lose all sound above 10 kHz) made an early centrepiece. Reverberation was obtained using an echo chamber, a basement room with bare painted walls empty except for loudspeakers and microphones. Due to the considerable technical challenges faced by the Workshop and BBC traditions, staff initially worked in pairs with one person assigned to the technical aspects of the work and the other to the artistic direction.
[source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Radiophonic_Workshop]

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