Hinterland – Sŵn Aberystwyth

The sound of Hinterland – by dubbing mixer Simon H. Jones

Authour and Hinterland dubbing mixer Simon H. Jones
Simon H. Jones, dubbing mixer & director, Soundworks

In December 2012 I was presented with an interesting challenge – how best to approach audio post production for a drama detective series shot ‘back to back’ in both Welsh and English.

Hinterland / Y Gwyll was shot between November 2012 and April 2013 in and around Aberystwyth, West Wales. Drama sound recordist Ray T Parker was at the faders on location, with boom op Mark Walters in sometimes gruelling weather conditions plunging to -10 degrees in March. The unexpected weather of spring 2013 challenged the whole location team, making it impossible to reach locations on some days due to snow.

Meanwhile from my cosy post production suite in Cardiff I devised a workflow for sound post production. This entailed first tackling the English version, mixing in 5.1 as this was the version that would also have a full music and effects only track for International sales.  Having mixed the English, we would then re-edit the whole mix and tracklay to fit the Welsh version (stereo only as S4C don’t transmit 5.1), whilst doing a new dialogue premix for the Welsh.

Hinterland was part funded by Tinopolis in Llanelli, consequently the audio post production was split between Cardiff and Llanelli. Tinopolis staff Chris Josey, Huw Jones and Gareth David Evans handled dialogue editing and foley recording. They recorded foley at Tinopolis’ studio complex and on location, including inside cars, using a mobile Pro Tools rig.

Nic Allan, sound effects editor
Nic Allan, sound effects editor
Gareth performing Foley moves
Gareth performing Foley moves
Chris Josey recording foley.
Chris Josey recording foley in a car






“Mathias should be dwarfed by nature”

During early meetings about the audio post, the producers had drummed into us that “the landscape should be one of the characters”. Sound effects were going to be a very important element of the soundtrack, so we were pleased to be working with freelance sound editor Nic Allan who has a keen ear for nature and knows his birds. You will only hear authentic localised wildlife in Hinterland as Nic went the extra mile to visit certain locations to capture additional sound effects.

I mixed the four (eight! – twelve!) films between April and December 2013 on Avid D Controls at Tinopolis and Soundworks. ADR was also recorded at Soundworks Cardiff.

Hinterland, BBC April 28th 9pm
Hinterland, BBC4 April 2014 28th 9pm

I’m happy to say that the post production sound workflow went as planned, although it was a significant amount of work. With the Welsh version successfully completed, that was the end of it.

….or was it?

BBC Wales were also due to screen Hinterland in January 2014, but suggested that a bilingual version might be interesting. They only required stereo, no 5.1, so that was a relatively simple mix to put together.

The English version of Hinterland was also to be screened on BBC4 sometime in 2014 and released on DVD. A couple of weeks before transmission in mid April however, the producers and distributors realised that they preferred the bilingual version, and that it was  this that should air on BBC4 and be released on DVD. However, there was no 5.1 mix.

With the power of Pro Tools, we were able to produce the 5.1 mixes across five days (and nights) for delivery late April.

Music score

Music for Hinterland / Y Gwyll was composed by John Hardy, Benjamin Talbott and Victoria Ashfield. Music was delivered in stems, enabling me to create an enveloping 5.1 soundscape.

EBU R128

Nugen's VisLM LUFS loudness meter
Nugen’s VisLM LUFS loudness meter

We were also able to mix this version to the new EBU R128 standard, affording us more dynamic on the mix, using Nugen’s VisLM for metering.It was nearly a year since we’d started on the audio post production and this new standard was by now being accepted. Hinterland has long sections of spooky silence and only the occasional high level peak. Being able to exceed PPM6 on the loud sections was liberating and adds drama to the soundtrack, making it more cinematic.

I used Pro Tools HDX 10 and 11 to mix Hinterland in 5.1 with stereo down mixing. I was able to mix over two hundred source tracks down to 5.1 whilst recording 36 tracks of stems, all on the same system.

We all learned something on this project and are looking forward to the next series.

SHJ April 2014

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