Live Action TV Tracklay and Sound Design

I’ve recently been employed by Gorilla, a post-production company in Cardiff. I’ve had a brilliant time here and have worked on some cracking TV. One project in particular has compelled me to write this post. Parch.

It’s an 8 part drama made for S4C and premiered on the 31st May 2015. My job was threefold; Dialogue Editor, Sound Editor (Tracklay) and Sound Designer. This is  fairly new territory for me as one area I’ve had the least experience is in live action drama sound editing.


Dialogue Editing

The first job was to edit the dialogue and production sound. If you can nail this then you’re most of the way there as everything else is now icing on a metaphorical cake. I found it quite a challenge as I hadn’t done anything like this before but for one exception. A year ago Shaun Farley employed me to edit the dialogue on a feature film called Mandorla (it’s still not released yet), he did an amazing teaching me as I worked for him, especially as he was in San Francisco and here’s me in Cardiff, Wales, over 5,000 miles away. I was able to employ all the things Shaun taught me to my work on Parch and the Dubbing Mixer (Re-recording Mixer to you crazy Yanks), Andy Powell, and I came out with a pretty good dialogue track.

[EDIT] I am outraged that my dyslexia meant I missed a who couple of sentences here! Grr. Well, I meant to add that I also had a fair bit of guidance from Andy who’s advice has been invaluable throughout the whole process. He’s been doing this sort of work for a lot longer than I and I learned a great deal over our work on Parch.

I don’t speak a word of Welsh, well I do know a few now. Anyway I’ve actually worked in Welsh a few times before and also spent 4 years recording, editing and mixing Irish language programmes when I worked for Telegael. I actually find it easy to work in a foreign language, mainly as I can’t be distracted by the narrative and focus on the work. It doesn’t take long to get used to the sound of a language to be able to edit it either, even ADR gets quite simple.


Sound Editing

Little did I know that you have to cover a lot of things that I never knew would need covered in live action drama. Car doors being a good example. Always add one in case the Mixer/Producer/Director want it louder for example. There’s a certain satisfaction in editing sounds in live action that comes from hearing the mix and seeing that the sounds have totally embedded themselves in the diegesis. There’s also a lot more detail that I was expecting. Having done a LOT of animation it didn’t impact my work as such, it was just a little surprising. There’s LOTS of car passes that will need covering.


Sound Design

There’s as aspect of sound editing that blends with design. For example, lets take the atmosphere of the church. For the day time scenes I used two general countryside, windy, birdy atmospheres. One would hear the outside world from inside such a building. Then I created the low rumble windy sound that an underfloor heating system might be like. The mixer can then play with the balance of these three sounds and add meaning to the events going on. They could raise the relative level of the heating vent to make the viewer get a sense of emptiness.

One aspect of sound design is to ensure all sounds follow the narrative from start to finish and can give clues or reference things happening later. This isn’t always possible in Television due to tight schedules, while was on Ep1, Ep8 hadn’t been edited for example.

The final part of sound design is creating actual sounds. The protagonist in Parch, Myfanwy, has had an aneurism and is hallucinating (or is she?) and we hear what she is experiencing. The first thing I thought when discussing the sound design with Rhys, the Director, was the sound of blood rushing through veins. I ended up sort of using the cliche of pulse sounds, but without actually using those sounds. I used a lot of wind, running water and breathing that I used to create the desired effect. It all gets quite surreal and I wont reveal any spoilers for those who’ve not seen it. Which judging that most people who read this wont A) live in Wales and B) be able to speak Welsh to understand what the heck is going on anyway.

Being Creative and coping with mental illness

In the spirit of the Coen Brothers, I’m writing about my current creative block. Today I am supposed to be writing music for a short film for an old friend. Alas I have given up as nothing is flowing from me. But why?

I make no secret that I suffer from depression and have been on medication for it for many years now. My depression is managed by using an SSRI which stops any serotonin being reabsorbed back into the brain. However, some of my symptoms are never far away, the main one at the moment is a general feeling of fatigue. This is manifesting physically and mentally at the moment. There’s only so much one can do to lift your own spirits and sometimes it’s impossible. This is particularly tough when we work in the creative industries and we need to have that creativity on tap.

Today is one of those days where nothing is working and I’ve given up. I feel bad, I want to get this music written and the film finished. Thankfully this is a freebie and there’s no delivery date or deadline to meet. It’s incredibly frustrating. Is there any I can do? That’s a genuine question as I don’t know of any technique beyond the usual ones books and doctors will suggest to people with depression.

This Wikipedia page looks at the link between being creative and having a mental illness. It’s something that I’ve wondered for a long time as all the people that I know with any form of mental illness appear to be of a creative temperament. This is, of course, anecdotal. However, it does look like some serious research is being done to explore this link.

As Winston Churchill said, I need to KBO (Keep Buggering On).

Online Mixing Webinar

I’ve been asked to be part of a panel discussion about mixing for online only distribution by Shaun Farley (AKA Dynamic Interference). As readers of my blog will know I recently did two episodes of an online comedy series called The Clandestine. Hopefully I’ll get to talk about my experience on that series and also learn more about this new platform for mixing from the illustrious company I’m with .


I’ve copied this from the Designing Sound website.

We’ve got a new Film Sound Discussion Group lined up for you. I thought it was time we started having some in-depth discussions centered around the growing omnipresence of internet streaming as a distribution medium and how it impacts our jobs as audio professionals. This one is going to be set up as a virtual panel, and there are some great participants lined up. We’ve got:

  • Michael Coleman of Soundworks Collection
  • Paul Fonarev of Miso Sound
  • Lew Goldstein of Parabolic
  • Cheryl Ottenritter of Ott House Audio
  • Ian Palmer (Freelancer)

The panel will take place on Saturday, June 23rd, at 1PM (U.S. Eastern Time). The discussion is scheduled to last one hour, including some time for Q&A. You can register for the panel here.

Yes, the discussion will be recorded. A link will be posted here on Designing Sound once it is available.




iPod/iPhone Apps

Way back in 2008 I bought an iPod Touch. To me it was an amazing device that did everything what I wanted from a handheld computer. I had owned an HP PDA a few years before that and while it was good, I never used it much as the technology wasn’t around to do what I wanted. I wanted a handheld device that I could type on, connect to the net, do email and most of all handle audio. The 2nd Generation iPod Touch almost did all that. Back in September 2010 I was in Gatwick Airport and picked up a duty free 4th Generation model. Wow, what a difference. Having the on board mic and cameras really transformed the device. Finally I could start using it for audio.

Before you start to think ill of people using such devices in a professional environment I urge you to stop and really think about it. I wouldn’t use it to do any editing or mixing work obviously but it does have some peripheral uses. Here is a list of Apps and how I use them. Some are actually really useful and some are more fun geeky things.

Cleartune – Being a failed composer I find it easer for me to isolate frequencies musically. If I have a drone/noise issue I whistle the frequency into my ipod and it tells me the MIDI note and frequency, I can then remove it with EQ and quickly work out the harmonics involved in my head. It’s pretty accurate too as you can easily test by playing some 1KHz tone into it.

SPL Meter – An handy and configurable SPL meter using the built in mic. Fascinating to use.

Mini Piano – I use this to help identify frequencies (mainly before getting Cleartune)

Frequency Generator – I’ve not found a use for it personally but if I was doing OB or live I dare say it’d be handy to plug in to send tone down a line for checking signal flowss.

RTA Lite – Made by the same company as SPL Meter but gives you more information about SPLs across the frequency spectrum.

AC-7C Core Mini – A control App for PT. Handy having a second controller for things missing on my MCMix like a shuttle control.

Retro Recorder – This is my weapon of choice if I am out and about and not got my H1 on me. I’ve never used any of its recordings but there better than one would imagine.

I do have some other fun stuff like the Moog Filatron but I’ve yet to really have a play with them and find a use.

I’ll probably update this list periodically too if/when I find something new.



Hello everyone,

It’s been a really odd few months for me. Before Christmas I got a new job which was then rescinded so I had to ask for my old job back. This meant being in work was rather uncomfortable as my boss new I wanted to leave. I then had a call from an old producer friend with an offer of work. It’s taken a few months to sort out but I signed up for the series a couple of weeks ago.

I’ll now be working freelance on the series until March 2012. After much searching my wife and I have settled on moving to somewhere in between Cardiff and Bristol. Part of our reason for moving back to the UK is to be nearer friends and family and as I’m from near Marlborough in Wiltshire it made sense to move to the south but somewhere near possible future work, neither of us fancied London. This also explains my odd behaviour and relative quiet recently.

Sadly it also explains my temporary abandonment of my Bell sound library that I recorded back in November. Once I’m settled in and got my new ProTools system all set up I’ll have to crack on and get it edited and mastered.

Can’t wait to meet up with all the people I’ve met on Twitter in the last year now. Bring it on!


2010 in review

I got this report from WordPress about my blog, quite pleased at how much traffic I’m getting. Thanks to you all!


Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 18 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 39 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 379kb.

The busiest day of the year was October 12th with 51 views. The most popular post that day was Zoom H1 Dialogue Recording.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for zoom h1, ian palmer sound, zoom h1 dialogue, zoom h1 film sound, and post-production blog.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Zoom H1 Dialogue Recording October 2010


Using Noise Reduction for Sound Design August 2010


Zoom H1 – initial thoughts September 2010


About August 2010


De-Verb September 2010
1 comment

Zoom H1 – initial thoughts

I’ve just bought a Zoom H1 audio recorder (well my wife got it for me for my birthday). I’ve been wanting a little device like this but haven’t been able to afford one until now.

My car went for it’s NCT today and I needed to get it washed properly so I took it to a manual car wash. I placed the H1 on the dashboard and sat quiet. This is an excerpt of the recording. I EQd out the worst of the water jet’s motor drone but that’s all.

I’m going to have a play with my new bit of kit and do a proper review somewhen in the coming weeks.