AudioMedia - Audio Media International

Providing audio post for Sky's new big-budget hit Fortitude

Providing audio post for Sky's new big-budget hit Fortitude
Adam Savage

Broadcast

05 February 2015: By Adam Savage

Encore London team explain how they overcame a number of challenges when working on the popular primetime TV series.

London-based Encore has offered an insight into its audio post work on Fortitude, Sky Atlantic’s acclaimed new £25m drama series.

The show, which is set in a town in the Arctic Circle is centred around a small community stunned by a violent crime, with an award-winning cast that includes Sir Michael Gambon (pictured, right) as terminally ill wildlife photographer Henry Tyson and Christopher Eccleston (left) as the British scientist who heads up the Arctic Biology department at the Fortitude Arctic Research Centre.

The pilot episode pulled in pulled in more than 700,000 UK viewers.

Encore carried out both picture and sound post-production services at its Wardour Street facility – all supervised by Alice Greenland, one of Encore’s senior post producers.

Scrub, a division of HHB Communications, supplied Encore with a 16-fader Avid S6 M10 control surface and Pro Tools HD upgrades that were used to mix the soundtrack for the series.

According to the firm, which has described the series as Sky Atlantic's most ambitious drama to date, one of the first jobs was to capture the unique sounds of the Icelandic locations where much of the show was shot. Sound designer Blair Jollands took his recording kit and flew out to join the production crew in Reyðarfjörður, in the glacial east of the country.

"I was able to record the bitter cold winds, the ice and the space that was to become part of our sound pallet," said Jollands. "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."

Sound editor Chris Roberts initially had concerns about shooting dialogue scenes in such extreme locations, but the results surpassed his expectations. "The production sound mixer, Rudi Buckle, and his team, did an amazing job of capturing great dialogue, an exceptional achievement when you see just where they were shooting," he noted. "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 provided."

"We had one of the lowest ADR counts I have ever worked with," added dialogue editor Phil Barnes. "It helps keep everything real. The many different accents in this show are part of what makes Fortitude such a fascinating and unusual place. It was very important that none of the dialogue in these scenes would be an issue in the sound mix and would just ‘be there’."

The creative challenge for the Encore Sound team was to ensure a rich sound to match the show's impressive visuals. "We were tasked with creating the Fortitude environment as a de-stabilised and isolated world," stated associate re-recording mixer Howard Bargroff. "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."

Jollands and Encore's Joe Fletcher were tasked with delivering carefully constructed sound effects tracks. "Our brief was to keep the sound raw and organic and avoid predictability," recalled Jollands. "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. Our ice recordings of glacial carving were mixed together with sub frequency tones to give voice to one of the key narrative sounds."

The final element to add to the Fortitude soundtrack, provided by music editors Laurence Love Greed and Joe Rubel, was composer Ben Frost's unusual mix of choral music and electronic ambience.

"This show was always going to be great fun to work on," commented Encore’s associate re-recording mixer Howard Bargroff. "With such a wonderfully weird world in which Fortitude 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."