Expect the Unexpected

Turn on a TV drama like Doctor Who and turn off the sound. Does it change the viewing experience?

This afternoon I went to free talk at the Royal College of Music hosted by Matthew Sweet – focusing on the work of Doctor Who’s sound effects editor Paul Jeffries and dubbing mixer Tim Ricketts. And these aren’t people who merely add some sound effects and random music to the pictures. They provide an integral part of defining the pace of the narrative, the mood of a scene, and the intensity of the drama.

Being someone who works entirely in radio, the sound element of TV shows has always fascinated me. But working in radio promotions, it amazes me how often the sound mix is a mere afterthought. For dramas like Doctor Who, this is clearly not the case.

They revealed some pretty amazing facts. Like how the sound of Davros’s claws was 5 coins taped on someone’s hand whilst tapping a Le Crueset lid. Or how one alien sound was merely the sound of a squirrel barking. And if you counted the number of separate cyberman sounds in the most recent episode – it was in excess of 25,000 sound cues! (slightly dubious if this is exact number – failed to write it down – but was a lot – honest!).

Tonight, a few thousand people will enjoy some of the experience of the music that adds so much to a programme like this – live in the Albert Hall – as the National Orchestra of Wales play selections of Murray Gold’s musical scores.

But next time you watch, close your eyes and listen to the sounds that enhance the drama. You’ll be amazed what you hear!

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