SOUND RECORDIST - ALEX HUDD
Alex is a musician and self-confessed sound geek, since making his first sound recordings at the age of 6.
He has a degree in Electronic Engineering and has worked in the film industry for 20 years in the UK, Europe and Asia as a sound consultant, sound recordist and in post production sound.
He now provides a variety of sound production services from his company, Dreambase Studios. Alex is a full member of the Association of Motion Picture Sound (AMPS) and the Performing Rights Society (PRS).
HOW DID YOU GET IN TO THE INDUSTRY, AND DID YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL?
I got into the film industry by a slightly convoluted route, which didn’t involve the traditional film
school. I studied electronic engineering and initially worked on testing and repairing professional
audio products for Dolby Laboratories. I eventually moved into the film department within the same
company that was providing both products and services for the film industry. This job involved me
travelling to cinemas and sound studios all over the world. I guess I trained on the job and through
experience working on different films and locations. I’d been into music and sounds since I was
very young and always recorded my own stuff. My parents had an old valve reel-to-reel recorder
which was the spark I guess. Combining that long time hobby and as a result of working in such a
variety of studios and on many different types of films, I eventually decided to start my own
company, providing sound services. My job had been quite technical but I wanted to push it into a
more creative role too.
WHAT ONE SKILL OR PERSONAL ATTRIBUTE WOULD YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE BIGGEST FACTOR AS TO WHY YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I think to be honest, it’s my calm, down-to-earth nature that has enabled me to work with a variety
of people and projects. In my previous job I was required to be very diplomatic at times, often
within different cultures. This skill has been invaluable in dealing with all kinds of projects and
people. Most people can learn the technical aspects of a job but lets remember that personal attributes such as communication skills are equally as important in any job you do, especially in the film industry I think.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A CV/EMAIL FROM STUDENTS TRYING TO BREAK IN TO THE BUSINESS?
I’m looking for a broad range of interests, not just people who are film buffs. This could include
anything; interest in the wider world and indications they want to learn new things. Good
communication skills are also very important.
WHAT MISTAKES DO YOU SEE STUDENTS MAKING THAT ARE COMING UP IN YOUR FIELD? EITHER IN COMMUNICATIONS OR IN THEIR WORK.
It’s not necessarily a mistake, but I’d say lack of communication or making assumptions - I know
because I’ve been there myself! Whatever concerns you may have need to be addressed early.
Technically, in student work I see a lot of distortion in recordings, or the wrong recording levels.
Perhaps the recordist hasn’t allowed for the dynamic output from the actor. That’s one of the most
common I see.
WHAT IS YOUR ATTITUDE AND OUTLOOK ON THE CURRENT STATE OF THE INDUSTRY? ALSO, HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED FROM WHEN YOU BEGAN AND HOW HAS THIS IMPACTED ON YOUR WORK?
I suppose I’ve seen budgets fall a little bit over the years, but I’m not totally sure why. It might be
because of digital equipment as shoots sometimes don’t require such scales of equipment, and ‘good’ kit is generally cheaper to hire or buy now. What’s changed recently are the time scales to get things finished. However the highest quality is still expected within those timescales, that’s a good
challenge to have.
ON SET/IN YOUR WORKING ENVIRONMENT:
CAN YOU OFFER ANY ON SET/PRACTICAL HINTS AND TIPS?
From a sound point of view, always make sure you have a good quantity of batteries that are
charged for the mixer/recorder and radio mics and other portable equipment. You often need to be
ready at a moments notice. In terms of levels, try to make sure you can do a test before. Scene
rehearsals are a good opportunity to set and perform those levels. It’s a good time to check channels
and the levels so you’re not intruding on the actors. If you try to set levels beforehand, the actor will
never deliver the line as they will in the take. Keep an eye on levels throughout the whole scene to
as the actor is inclined to get slightly louder as the take progresses and they warm up in the role.
As a sound recordist it’s not my job to tell the actor how to perform. That’s the director’s job. If I
believe that there is a technical or creative issue, I will approach the director or assistant director.
It’s really important not to talk about delivery or any technical issues in front of the actors because
that could destroy the way the actor feels about their performance. Keep it positive around the
actors; if they believe there is a technical issue with their radio mic for example, that can make them feel like what they’re delivering isn’t being recorded properly. So always go through the right channels, so to speak!
WHEN YOU ARE FIRST BROUGHT ON TO A PROJECT, WHAT ARE YOUR IMMEDIATE THOUGHTS AND PROCESSES?
I like to have a chat with the director or producer to see where they’re coming from. I also like to
get a hold of the script as soon as possible even in a temporary state. It will give me a really good
idea how the filming will flow in terms of numbers of characters, locations and extra sounds that
need to be recorded. It can also flag up any potential sound problems. Maybe there’s a big
warehouse location with lots of reverb so do I need to treat the set? Do I need to bring in carpets or
sole protectors for loud footsteps? That sort of thing.
ADVICE AND MISTAKES:
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Avoid getting yourself in a situation where you have to say ‘sorry’…
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE?
Be prepared. It’s vague, but true. Spare cables, batteries, parts, back-up recorder. You never know.
Your kit might have worked the last 20 times, but today is the day it breaks down. You can’t turn to
the director and say you can’t record sound today. It’s not gonna happen.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BLUNDER?
I got distracted and hit an actor on the head with the boom mic once! Luckily we laughed about it
and it was a soft landing. So keep your eye on the job and don’t get distracted!