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Rhodes considers new mix of life

Sound designer Adrian Rhodes worked at De Lane Lea for 15 years but last June made the big move to join Goldcrest Post Production. He talks to Kevin Hilton about life and work one year on, BAFTA nominations and his approach to TV drama and feature films.

Soho’s post-production scene is lively enough at the best of times but in the past two years it has witnessed a fire and a flood at two of its leading residents, De Lane Lea and Goldcrest respectively. Both events have had an impact on the career of Adrian Rhodes, whose credit as, variously, audio editor, sound designer, dubbing mixer and composer has appeared on television dramas (Alan Bleasdale’s GBH, The Deal and several Stephen Poliakoff productions), feature films (The Full Monty, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Queen) and animation (The Wallace and Gromit series, The Gruffalo). The blaze at De Lane Lea in July 2009 put the facility’s dubbing suites and cutting rooms out of action but its staff worked on the projects in hand at other post houses. Rhodes says this gave him the opportunity to see “more of the outside world”, including Goldcrest. When De Lane Lea reopened last year Rhodes felt that the company he had worked at for 15 years – and briefly co-owned – had changed, moving towards being more a dry hire facility. Rhodes says that during his time away from De Lane Lea he got to know the team at Goldcrest, including chief executive Keith Williams and dubbing mixer Mark Paterson, and came to see it as a creative centre similar to what he had known in the past. “So it was an easy transition to make,” he comments. Just as he was “getting my legs under the table”, Goldcrest suffered its own not quite natural disaster. Drains at the restaurant above the basement of the company’s Lexington Street premises overflowed in February 2010, flooding the Studio 2 ADR suite and Studio 3 mix room. Rhodes laughs that he’s still expecting a plague of frogs but adds the flood did not have a direct impact on his work. “Most of what I was doing was feature level,” he explains,” and we were using Studio 1, which wasn’t affected.” More film work followed, mixed with a larger proportion of TV drama. Rhodes says he has never drawn a line between TV and features: “I see it all as drama and story telling.” Among his first TV productions for Goldcrest was the Sky 1 series Mad Dogs, which won him and sound recordist Reg Mills a nomination in the Best Sound (Fiction) category at the 2010 BAFTA TV Craft Awards. The filmic style of Mad Dogs director Adrian Shergold gave Rhodes more scope with the sound design, although he acknowledges that time and budgets are always much tighter in TV than films. “On a good budget feature you’ll get three months preparation but with TV you’ll only get something like three weeks,” Rhodes says. “The difference these days, though, is that you can achieve more in the edit room.” Rhodes describes the audio post world as being completely Pro Tools based these days, which has created a bridge between the cutting suite and the dubbing theatre. And although he is usually regarded as a sound editor, Rhodes says he does a lot of mixing, both within Pro Tools and in re-recording rooms. “We’re pre-mixing a lot more before getting to the dubbing stages,” he explains, “and the whole process is shorter because technology is allowing us to more than we used to. You can add more ingredients early on to create the 5.1 environment and acoustics, as well as clean up the dialogue. So to an extent sound editors are mixing and mixers are editing because the technology has allowed a big crossover. One of the biggest changes in mixing in the last ten years is keeping everything live because the pre-mixes are in Pro Tools.” Despite most TV shows today – including non-audience comedies – taking a 5.1, cinema-style approach to sound, Rhodes is aware that he cannot forget about stereo. “When I’m mixing I set up the desk so I can quickly and easily switch between monitoring in the different formats,” he says. “I’m always checking the stereo and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s impractical for most manufacturers to product 5.1 televisions. 5.1 in the domestic situation is wonderful but most people I know don’t know what to do with the subs and the surrounds, they’re usually disconnected and put in the loft after a while. I can see a clever manufacturer coming up with a LCR set but surround in most living rooms is tricky.” TV continues to be a focus for Rhodes, with upcoming productions including Eternal Law from Kudos, the production company behind Life on Mars, and new versions of Shakespeare, including Richard II. And there’s animation as well, with Pirates!, directed by Aardman co-founder Peter Lord. Rhodes says about 50 percent of what he does is for animated productions. As well as calling on his experience as a sound editor this work has also seen him put his own voice on a sound-track, albeit as noises to represent the voices of Gromit the dog and the original Shaun the sheep in A Close Shave and the 2012 Olympic mascots Mandeville and Wenlock. “The voice is something that can be very versatile,” he says.