The Hidden People returns!

Season 2 of The Hidden People will launch on May 14th. I’ve been working hard since Christmas on this second season of the show, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Both the sound and the music go even further than before.

If you haven’t done so yet, do check out my in-depth discussion of artistic choices and techniques in a key action sequence in season 1. I’ve been getting some unexpected – but very welcome! – feedback from several places that it was absorbing and fun to listen to.

It can be found here:

Intense geekery!

In this in-depth analysis of the artistic approach and technical choices of my work on The Hidden People, I spend over 50 minutes discussing 4 minutes of content!

There is much interaction here between sound design and musical semiotics and lively, well-constructed writing. I hope you find these things as fascinating as I do.

A link to The Hidden People by Dayton Writers Movement:

“Blood on my Hands”

I had meant to post here more now, as the new Inscape film, Roots, takes shape. I wanted to talk about my thoughts as we work on it.

Well, we are working on it now, and I’ve just seen Rosie’s first rough test clips from her garden studio, which are lovely.

My job at this stage is far more boring, as I have to figure out how to remote record a small group of children with varied accents while we’re all locked down for Covid-19. Right now, I think it will be tricky, but I am lucky with my connections, so who knows!

It’s hard for me to do more than keep up with existing creative/professional commitments right now, though, as I home-school and care for my two children. Please bear with me.

In the meanwhile, I extracted the whole soundtrack to episode 20 of The Hidden People, ‘Blood on my Hands’. In the end, I was proud of my work on this and what it added to the work as a whole. You can listen to the music in this episode and more of the show here:

On its own, much of it is quite ambient; parts are emotional, parts contemplative, but all of it has the same character’s music going through it like a heartbeat. I found it rather meditative to listen to in these strange times. Maybe it is a good companion for you too. I hope so!

‘Dreams are Fragile Things’

The penultimate episode of the season!

This draws on lots of familiar music, but there’s some new stuff towards the end, too. Interesting to score disorientation… but I will not say more about that in fear of spoilers.

Sounds include me jumping off my own kitchen table – I’ll leave you to imagine the graceful athleticism – and, once again, the former trained singer was brought out of retirement to do something spooky.

Even more on The Hidden People… episode 15

The new Hidden People is released and is perhaps the most fun I’ve had with sound design yet! I also really enjoyed writing musical comments to weave with the sound throughout.

Some geeky facts:

– At the time of writing, this was the largest ever digital audio project I had built, with 244 tracks (though reduced to a mere 237 after directors’ notes!). This has just been exceeded by episode 18, however…

– Fenrir’s tooth extraction was a 20 pence piece scraped on a brick. The tooth fairy had just visited one of my sons so I did think about using a real tooth, but it seemed a bit gross.

– I got to combine 6 different themes from the series in one continual piece of musical underscore in the last few scenes, keeping one beat going throughout, to give the sense of an inevitable pull towards an outcome.

– The seagull you hear as Mackenna and Shaylee abseil down the cliff was from a crazy, prolonged, determined quest for one while on holiday on the Dorset coast in April. It took a lot of time to get one close-up, but it was a beauty. I had no idea when I added it to my sound bank that our seagull friend would be immortalised so quickly!

Moving on: The Hidden People, Episode 14

The latest Hidden People begins a new phase of moving further into fantasy adventure and it’s all a good skills workout for the sound elf behind the scenes. 

Black Annis’ music contains many recorded sounds, some appropriated from my soundscaping, some specially recorded for the music. My favourites are the swallows. Which are me swallowing. With a microphone taped to my throat.

And the narrator finally has some music of his own, heard for the first time in this episode (in the opening teaser).

Hunted, Hunter and the Haunted House

After my discussions the other day of how I might present a haunting-inside-your-head story, it seemed a good time to post this article by Richard Brooks that I really enjoyed. He devotes a whole section to immersive sound and how it can work well for haunted house stories in this age of headphone use.

Here it is!

Discussing Wireless Theatre Company’s 2017 production of Blood and Stone, he says:

“What makes this recording unique for listeners used to a standard mono or stereo configurations, is the degree the individual feels the world is shaped around them. Stimulus doesn’t just come from left or right, but from in front or behind, an experience that can feel immersive but also disorientating. In the climax of the production the the protagonist finds herself in a deadly game of cat and mouse, and for the listener attending to their everyday tasks the dislocation between the world that is seen and heard can be quite jarring — much as computer game enthusiasts often find VR experiences.”

Going beyond this, I wonder if it could add to the creepiness if we were to intersperse a baddie’s point of view from time to time in such stories, which are often about being hunted. Occasionally in film, the view of the victim through the eyes of the unseen hunter is presented, and it can be pretty chilling; psychopath films are the obvious example.

In nature, predators’ eyes are usually close together and forward-facing, in order to focus in on the prey, while the eyes of prey tend to be placed further apart, better to see the whole environment and detect danger. Could this be mirrored in audio by intermittently removing that disorienting immersive perspective and making our gaze instead mimic that controlled, directional focus of the predator’s eyes, omitting all other sound but that of the hunted?

This is another use for switching between immersive and more traditional audio presentations that I think may be effective.

Stories using on/off binaural again – the haunting inside the head!

Stories using on/off binaural again – the haunting inside the head!

Okay, how’s this for a use for intermittent binaural?

When I did my English A-level (er, a few years ago…!), there was the option, instead of an extended essay on the text, to write a story responding to it. Then I had to produce a commentary on how my story was a response. I was the only one in the year mad enough to take this option, and this is the story I wrote.

A boy (narrating the story) is in his late teens, and has a severe form of cerebral palsy. He feels terribly frustrated about the challenges he faces in communicating and in making full use of his keen mind. He speaks lovingly of his mother, who is his carer, but like all teens is driven spare by her; she understands more about him than most people, but not as much as would address the loneliness and frustration.

One day, this boy is visited inside his head by the ghost of a working class Victorian man, equally frustrated that his intelligence is not recognised or his potential fulfilled. Almost the entire story consists of their conversation – and their eventual row, after which the connection between them ends forever.

Luckily the story is long since lost, as I’m totally certain I would find it excruciating to read now! But I think that something like this could work well in audio.

If I made it, I would make the audio depicting the real – but rather distant – world binaural, super-immersive and overwhelmingly busy, to depict the difficulties the boy has making himself heard. And the conversation in his mind I would produce in a studio, immaculately, with a mic for each actor, maybe with some sounds from the past added, but carefully placed in post-production to contrast the modern world over which our protagonist has no control.

Music…. I think I would add it in the ‘ghost’ sections (where the boy can be fully himself and the music express that) and leave it out in the ‘outside world’ sections.

But! It might be interesting to experiment with the music seeping into the modern sections, as though the other place where the narrator is living creeps into the edges of his consciousness from time to time. Now that could be fun to mix, especially moving from one type of scene to the other and finding where the boundaries are between them… if indeed there are any clear boundaries at all…