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Chris Roberts reports on working on Sky Atlantic's Fortitude

By on Sunday, 1st February 2015

"Fortitude" is an exciting and ambitious show to be involved with," says Supervising Sound Editor Chris Roberts AMPS. "It was immediately apparent from my first reading of the scripts that the series represented some really bold storytelling and offered some great creative opportunities, so it was imperative to put the right team together. I think the final soundtracks show that we did!"

With such an ambitious narrative, and shooting taking place in various locations across Iceland and the UK, establishing clear lines of communication and workflows was essential. Before shooting began, key production and post-production personnel came together to discuss practical and creative approaches. "This was an essential part of the process," says Chris. "It meant that as well as everyone getting to know each other at such an early stage, we were able to identify and resolve any issues before they became problems." 

Once shooting was under way, one of the first things to do was capture the unique sounds of the Icelandic locations. Sound Designer Blair Jollands took his recording kit and flew out to join the production crew in Reyðarfjörður, in the glacial East of Iceland. "I was able to record the bitter cold winds, the ice and the space that was to become part of our sound pallet," says Blair. "I was also able to record full "sound kits" of all the vehicles from the Skidoos to the patrol boats, the huskie sleds and the helicopters and the very particular sound of the snow tyres." 

Supervising Sound Editor Chris Roberts AMPS initially had concerns about shooting dialogue scenes in such extreme locations, but his fears proved to be unfounded. "The Production Sound Mixer, Rudi Buckle AMPS, and his team, did an amazing job of capturing great dialogue, an exceptional achievement when you see just where they were shooting!" says Chris. "I was expecting the bleak, windy exteriors and rustling Arctic Parka coats to make a lot of the dialogue unusable, but we were more than happy with the wonderfully clear recordings Rudi provided us with."

"We had one of the lowest ADR counts I have ever worked with, " says Dialogue Editor Phil Barnes. "It helps keep everything real. The many different accents in this show are part of what makes <i>Fortitude</i> such a fascinating and unusual place. We could go from four nationalities chatting atop a windy glacier to the hush  of an interview room. It was very important to me that none of the dialogue in these scenes would be an issue in the sound mix and would just ‘be there’."

Phil stresses the importance of getting the workflow right. "Creating seamless and clear dialogue tracks in many accents that everyone can hear takes time," he says. "The best way to create that time is with a seamless workflow of data from location sound to the cutting room to me through all the soft locks, final locks and recuts. This is what Encore delivered in the most efficient way possible."

The creative challenge for the Encore Sound team was to realise a rich sound for the epic look of the film that also offered an equally odd air to writer Simon Donald’s labyrinth of cryptic characters. "We were tasked with creating the Fortitude environment as a destabilised and isolated world," says Re-recording Mixer Howard Bargroff AMPS. "With all this great source material we had a huge sonic palette with which to really hone a detailed and sympathetic mix; tightly coiled in with and supportive of the narrative."

Sound Designer Blair Jollands, with help from Encore's Assistant Sound Editor Joe Fletcher, provided carefully constructed sound effects tracks. "Our brief was to keep the sound raw and organic and avoid predictability," says Blair. "Attention to detail was important - for example, the sounds of the lighting units and the morgue refrigeration were mixed with out of tune versions of themselves to give an uncomfortable and edgy element to the location. The use of our ice recordings of glacial carving were mixed together with sub frequency tones to give voice to one of the key narrative sounds."

"The unsung heroes in creating great soundtracks are often the foley crew." says Supervising Sound Editor Chris Roberts AMPS. "We’ve collaborated with the team at Universal Sound for many years, and yet again they delivered some really beautiful, detailed work. If we couldn't record sound out in the field or find it in the library, we knew it would be there in the foley tracks, which meant we could create some really wonderful, subtly focused sound moments when the story needed it."

The final element to add to the <i>Fortitude</i> soundtrack, via Music Editors Laurence Love Greed and Joe Rubel, was composer Ben Frost's brilliantly bizzarre mix of choral music and electronic ambience. 

"This show was always going to be great fun to work on," says Re-recording Mixer Howard Bargroff AMPS. "With such a wonderfully weird world in which <i>Fortitude</i> exists, having such a depth and variety of sound to chose from made the mixing process an absolute pleasure. As the series progresses the soundtrack builds, changes and augments the constantly evolving characters and story. As you'll see and hear over the next few months, it's a rollercoaster of a show!"

Re-recording Mixer: Howard Bargroff, Supervising Sound Editor: Chris Roberts, Dialogue Editor: Phil Barnes, Sound Effects Editor/ Sound Designer: Blair Jollands, Assistant Sound Editor: Joe Fletcher

Music Editors: Laurence Love Greed / Joe Rubel

Foley by Universal Sound, Foley Mixer: Ben Cross, Foley Artist: Ian Waggott

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