‘Sherlock’ Team Unlock the Secrets of Sound Editing at BVE 2015

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing, Video Editing

The thrilling contemporary reworking of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic crime stories comes to life in the multi-award winning series, Sherlock. Set in 21st Century London, and starring the captivating Benedict Cumberbatch as the notorious inspector Holmes, and Martin Freeman as his loyal friend Doctor Watson, the heart-stopping drama keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

Acclaimed Supervising Sound Editor Doug Sinclair and series Re-Recording Mixer Howard Bargroff took to the stage at this year’s BVE. They presented a comprehensive look at the creation of an intense soundscape for award-winning finale of Sherlock series three, His Last Vow; a reworking of Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

Thanks to Avid Pro Tools | HD systems, Bang Post Production’s all-encompassing sound production helped bring the riveting series finale to life, pushing the boundaries on all levels of mixing. Culminating in a sequence of shocking plot twists in which Sherlock is shot. During the 90 minute thriller, viewers are taken through his emotional journey. They explore his intense mental hibernation which finishes with him fighting back to life from the brink of death.

“Creating a soundscape for such an emotionally charged episode like His Last Vow was challenging, both artistically and technically,” said Doug Sinclair, owner and co-founder of Bang Post Production. Throughout the series, Sherlock took viewers to his ‘mind palace’ many times, but none quite as traumatic as this, which brings the detective face to face with his arch nemesis, Moriarty, who tries to convince Sherlock to let go and die.

“With any project, the best sound comes with biggest plot points.” —Doug Sinclair

Sinclair continues: “With any project, the best sound comes with biggest plot points. This visually stunning sequence was psychologically fraught, and at times, even disturbing, and it was vital we reflected this in the accompanying sound; assaulting every aspect of the viewer’s senses, so to speak. It was essential that we honed in on plot points that were the driving force of the story. We worked hard to weave a cohesive narrative of sound, compromising clear and concise dialogue, music and effects, to add to the emotional drive of Sherlock’s distraught fight for life.”

Howard Bargroff explains the processes behind assembling such an ambitious soundscape: “We work by keeping everything live in Pro Tools, which allows us to use sync dialogue, ADR with effects and music and build a solid wall of sound. In this intense scene, clarity of the dialogue is essential, as it is vital that every syllable is clear and concise to help tell the story.”

“Parts of Sherlock’s ‘mind palace’ scene are shot within a padded cell where the sound should be very still and quiet,” continued Bargroff. “Usually used for exteriors, we applied a lot of slap reverb to create a destabilising effect. This made for an extreme and unsettling mix, which the client loved. There were also some lovely elements of foley, ADR and effects used for the chains and straightjacket that the feverish archenemy, Moriarty is constrained in.”

“Adding [sound] components works as much as taking them away, and it felt like there was one too many elements all trying to tell the same story.” — Howard Bargroff

“As much as this scene focuses on Sherlock’s death, the latter half depicts his survival and his fight for life, and the emotional peak of the scene of him climbing the stair case is the leading visual metaphor for this. At one point, we had created a soundscape with a lot of sound effects, music and dialogue. Adding components works as much as taking them away, and it felt like there was one too many elements all trying to tell the same story. We re-adjusted some elements during the final mix, stripping out some of the effects and intense sounds, clearing some space to allow the music to breath which gave back to the emotional drive of the scene,” concluded Bargroff.

His Last Vow was a challenging mix, as it was complex in both scope and the story that we were trying to tell. Particular moments like when Sherlock’s hands smash onto the banister as he clings on for his life, tied in with the heart monitor sound effect, create an emotional peak, culminating with bigger and bigger sounds. There’s also a great use of depth charge as he staggers up the stairs during the big emotional peak in the scene,” concludes Sinclair.

His Last Vow won seven Primetime Emmys, the most for any TV programme. The riveting finale also took top honours for Television Movie or Mini-Series at this year’s Cinema Audio Society Awards.

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