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The Work That Made Me: Mark Hills

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Mark Hills, sound designer at Factory Studios takes a look back at the work that has shaped his career
The Work That Made Me: Mark Hills

Factory Studios sound designer, Mark Hills has a big passion for creating sound and mixing, with experience crossing advertising to broadcast, feature films to games. Here, Mark talks through the work that has stayed with him throughout his career and his own favourite works. 

 

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me… 

In 2001, I was around 12 or 13 years old and I remember vividly seeing the Nike Basketball freestyle advert for the first time. It just completely blew me away. Even now, I absolutely love it. I’ve always had an affinity for when sound design and music crossover, particularly when it’s percussive/rhythm based. It’s just such an incredibly crafted piece of work and was probably the first time I ever took real notice of the sound in an advert. They also made a football version, which is also excellent but not quite as impressive as their basketball edit. 

 

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry… 

Technically, it's a film, but I would say with confidence the opening three-four minutes of Saving Private Ryan as they are landing on Omaha beach. It’s an absolute masterclass in sound design. No music, two minutes of calm, nervous tension followed by devastating carnage. I can’t remember how old I would have been watching it for the first time, but I remember the sound being the most memorable element. I was probably too young to have thought 'this is what I want to do when I’m older' but without a doubt, it created an interest in sound design for the first time and I genuinely don’t think I would be doing what I do now had I not seen it. 

 

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting… 

Currently I’m obsessed with this cinematic trailer for the Battlefield computer game. I can’t remember the last time I heard anything like it. Every single bullet, explosion, impact, plane, gunshot, flamethrower etc – is all completely syncopated with the music. As I mentioned earlier with the Nike Basketball freestyle, I love this kind of sound design and this trailer takes it to a whole new level. They’ve worked closely with the composers to ensure that the sound design and music not only work together but blend practically into the same thing. I can’t stop watching/listening - I just find it so satisfying! 

  

My first professional project… 

The first time I saw my work on television was probably some bumpers for The Sims game before something showing on Channel 4. I remember the show starting at 7pm and I rushed home to see all five seconds of it (probably just to check I hadn’t completely screwed it up/it played out without a hitch). It feels like a lifetime ago now! 

I’d worked on other jobs/projects before this, but nothing had played on television. Worth noting that my first feature film credit was Postman Pat the Movie. As funny as it sounds, it was one of the best times I’ve had in a studio and met some amazing people, even if I was only basically assisting with keeping track of takes/script changes etc.  

  

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*… 

It's fair to say that there are some cardinal sins of sound that I try to avoid at all times if I can help it! 

As sound designers, we’re probably more sensitive to this kind of thing than most average audiences, but in my opinion good sound is normally invisible, you shouldn’t even notice it and certainly not question whether it’s been added. Good ADR should be indistinguishable from production sound etc. As soon as you notice a sound is fake or obviously dubbed, it can completely remove you from the immersion.   

I watched the M Night Shyamalan film 'Glass' not that long ago and when James McAvoy turns into 'The Beast', they’ve just used the sound of a black bear roaring. It hadn’t been changed or manipulated into something original at all, and I just remember hearing it and thinking “wait... that’s a bear. Why does he sound like a bear?”  And then in that moment, I’m not concentrating on the film anymore because I’ve been removed from the immersion. In fact, I've literally just found the exact sound in my own SFX library! 


The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes me jealous… 

Eurgh. This film for BMW. It’s just so good, it sounds so aggressive and huge. It’s pushed me into learning whole new methods of advanced sound design techniques, so although initially watching someone else's incredible work can be a bit disheartening, I think it can also be hugely valuable in pushing yourself to learn new techniques and challenge your own knowledge/methods.  

 

The creative project that changed my career… 

It’s hard to pinpoint a specific project as such that I could say 'changed my career.' I think the more accurate answer would be joining Factory Studios. As soon as I joined the team I was involved with projects on a scale I simply hadn’t worked to before. Even though I was the new guy, they immediately gave me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in the industry. Within a year of joining I had an amazing showreel that just helped to push me to the next level of my career. It goes without saying that I’m hugely grateful to Factory for this!  

 

The work that I’m proudest of…  

In Summer/Autumn 2018, I worked with The Mill on creating an audio-visual interactive experience for Fanta’s 'Twisted Carnival' which delivered specifically for Halloween. It was without question the most fun I’ve ever had working on a project. I spent weeks making my own scary sound design before mixing it all in 7.1 surround sound. We had no real visuals, so most of the sound design was done in a completely blacked out sound suite. We had to figure out a timeline and narrative, and then mechanical scares would react to my sound design. For example, as participants neared the finale of the experience, the room would shake and the sound of a massive swarm of flies would envelop them. As the sound intensified, confetti would be sprayed from the ceiling to emulate the feeling of flies buzzing past you. Heavy ropes would move in close on the audience to brush against them and to top it all off, tiny speakers were also installed inside the ropes that played the sound of buzzing flies to add another dimension of proximity sound to the experience. It was just, insane!   

There were so many huge challenges to overcome and required a lot of back and forth whilst everything was being built to ensure it worked perfectly, but the team effort was immense and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work with such an incredible group. 

Fanta Twisted Carnival 

 

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…  

Many, many years ago, I mixed a documentary on Porn. I can’t remember the exact details, but it had started out as a legitimate exploration into the world of pornography/porn stars and the rewards/challenges it presented – good and bad. At some stage, the media company that owned the porn studio being featured, bought the rights to the documentary and turned it into what can only be described as a propaganda film about how wonderful the porn industry was and how happy everyone was to be involved. Any questions of mistreatment or scandal was scrubbed from the edit. I don’t remember any names of who attended the sessions but some of the conversations I overheard most definitely crossed some ethical/moral lines.  

Not one for the IMDB.  

 

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…  

Last year I worked with Matilda Finn on her Medicins du Monde 'On S’en Fout' (We Don’t Care) campaign. Matilda is an incredible new director and I knew from the moment I read the treatment it was going to be a special film. She had some fantastic ideas for what she wanted to achieve with sound and she put her full trust in me to bring them to life. What made this project extra special was being able to work so closely with Matilda to ensure the finished piece was exactly what she’d envisioned. 

Medicins We Don't Care 


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Factory Studios, Tue, 23 Jun 2020 11:49:17 GMT