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Making a killing

Daniel Gumble delves into Killing Eve’s technical challenges with its award-winning sound crew

In April of this year, Killing Eve was announced as the winner of the sixth annual AMPS (Association of Motion Picture Sound) awards for excellence in sound for a television drama, which recognise the importance of ‘clear dialogue and impressively crafted sound in any feature film or television drama.’

For location sound mixer Steven Phillips, Killing Eve’s key challenges involved battling with the bustling sound of the show’s busy city locations and clearly capturing dialogue.

“Sometimes it feels like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because we film in some especially noisy locations, like London, Rome, Paris and Bucharest,” Phillips explains. “When you see cities on screen you have to hear it too, but not too loudly, so we have to get rid of most of it and provide the post production team with as clean a dialogue track as possible, then they can cut the sound to the picture wherever they want.

“One of our tricks is to put up an atmos mic, so we can provide a clean track of traffic background or an aircraft going across. We capture all that out of the ordinary sound so that we have a clean effects track that can be put underneath. This way we can keep that atmospheric sound without making a big thing of it. This really helps the guys in post production.

“We also shoot a lot of two-camera stuff,” he continues, “but we have limited shooting time, so sometimes we are forced to shoot ‘tight and wide’ (the camera teams might film with 135 or 180 and 50 or 25mm lenses at the same time). This means we can’t get anywhere near the actors for the tight shots, so we radio mic everyone. Radio mics have their own challenges and on Killing Eve some of the costumes are really noisy or tight-fitting, so hiding the mic pack can prove difficult. Villanelle is famous for her costumes and in the first series I had second assistants working exclusively with the costume department and cast to figure out where to put mics, with some being sewn into the outfits or placed in the cast members’ hair.”

Read the full interview in the latest issue of TVBEurope.