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Notes on a Sound Mix: Andy Humphreys on Being Better Together


Bark Soho's head of sound design on why the best part about his job is the clients

Notes on a Sound Mix: Andy Humphreys on Being Better Together

Andy Humphreys is head of sound design at Bark Soho, an award winning boutique audio post house in the heart of Soho, working alongside sister music company Eclectic Music.

Andy has worked in audio post for over 25 years, with a long list of credits and a loyal following in the advertising world.

The best thing about my job are the clients. 

We’ve all had a pretty strange existence in the last couple of years. As a largely collaborative industry, we rely on human interaction, exchange of ideas, and rounds of feedback as our stories take shape.

And on the whole, through this pandemic we’ve coped and adapted admirably, displaying the resilience and innovation we should expect from our world-leading creative industry.

There is no doubt that with the benefit of today’s technology, whole new ways of working and new collaborations have become possible, geographically and across time zones, often allowing for round-the-clock production.

And to be fair it’s enabled a far more flexible approach to the workplace, which suits many of us and has allowed us to reassess our work/life balance. 

However, what has become ever clearer to me is that there is also an unintended consequence in all this, which is ultimately how dehumanising this has been.

We are social animals that thrive in an ‘in real-life’ setting, in person, face to face, in direct partnership with each other, using all our communication faculties, including lots of very nuanced body language.

So much of this has been missing and I think have been the poorer for it.

When the football was being played in empty stadia, it was striking how much the role of the now absent crowd normally plays. I’d reckon it’s 50% of the spectacle, providing a continuous emotional soundtrack to all the drama on the pitch. And to any football fan it was a very weird and unsettling viewing experience, as I'm sure it was for the players too.

In the same, but obviously much smaller way, the now ubiquitous zoom call doesn’t stop the work getting done, but it puts up a barrier to communication. This is all the more tricky when calls involve clients you’ve never met before. This arm's-length way of working also adds an extra barrier to probably the most exacting elements of the sound track, recording your voice-over talent. Full communication, both verbal and visual, is often critical in directing the performance you need. Plus I know for a fact the majority of actors far prefer just to be just concentrating on performing and not be troubled by any of the technical aspects of capturing their voice. Virtually all of these issues melt away when sessions are attended.

And then there's this.....

“To be honest I find finessing the sound mix the hardest part of working remotely”

This from an ECD as we wrestled the final mix tweaks needed on his latest ad. The language of sound has always been a challenge to define even before the pandemic, and with remote working this is seriously amplified (sound gag!).

So like the missing football crowds, the creative collaboration is likely missing it’s 50% just by having the creatives in a remote location. This inevitably leads to more mixed revisions and a more long-winded, sometimes frustrating process.

But, whisper it quietly, it seems we are now returning to a more normal way of working.

Having just had a first few lunches in Soho these last couple of weeks, there's an instant and palpable sense of all that's been missing in the last two years. Very simply face to face interaction, chat gossip, jabbering laughing, hugging exchange of ideas and, not to be too corny, love. Well at least love of being social, out and about and "in real life".

I hope that in the coming months we can all start fully gathering in studios, edit suits and restaurants and work on getting our social mojo back.

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Bark Soho, Wed, 09 Mar 2022 12:08:06 GMT