On set with sound recordist Adrian Bell

On set with sound recordist Adrian Bell

Sound recordist Adrian Bell recently worked on Richard Curtis’ time travel rom-com About Time (hitting cinemas 6 September), a project he rates as one of his best jobs. Looking back on his career Adrian tells us about some of the challenges he faces as a sound recordist and highlights some of the skills you need.

How and why did you become a sound recordist?

I started my training as an assistant sound recordist in 1984. I was fortunate enough to be trained by the BBC, who had an excellent theoretical course and very good practical experience whilst working in studios and on location.

What are the main challenges of your role?

My main challenges are to record dialogue, singing, effects and atmospheres as cleanly as possible with as few extraneous noises as possible. My team and I have to work closely with other departments, and producers and directors, to create a professional, happy working environment, which helps to ease the stresses of the filming day.

What’s the most challenging job you’ve ever worked on?

My most challenging project so far was the Stephen Poliakoff TV series Dancing on the Edge. We had a huge amount of material to film every day for 18 weeks, with a lot of music and singing to record on location and playback. There was also a huge cast and the main actors all needed their own mics attached to their 1930s period costumes each day.

What’s the best job you’ve worked on?

Last year I was lucky enough to work on Richard Curtis’ latest romantic comedy feature, About Time. It was a really feel-good script, the cast were lovely and we filmed in some beautiful locations in Cornwall and London. The weather was great, our equipment worked perfectly and the location film crew all got on really well. (BELOW: Back to the future… Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy in About Time)


How has your job changed over the years?

I have been asked to provide more and more sound than ever before. Generally, we are putting mics on all the actors and recording all their dialogue to separate tracks. This calls for more expensive and higher specification equipment, multi-track recorders and more backup.

It has also changed in regards to the amount of material we need to record each day. As the years go by, there is always more budgetary pressure on what can realistically be achieved, whilst trying to maintain a level of quality.

What key skills do you need to become a sound recordist?

– A basic understanding of electronics and signal flow.
– Be capable of soldering and fixing cables.
– Knowledge of the latest recording equipment.
– Ability to use a large range of microphones. 
– Be generally easy going and have a good sense of humour.
– You need to be able to get on with both small and large teams under sometimes stressful circumstances.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a sound recordist?

Try and get as much experience as possible by spending a lot of time on set with as many crew as you can, because every project is different and every sound recordist works in a different way and uses a variety of equipment.</p

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