News Archive
Archived news from MWS Media



Business Tip 2

Doubtless those of you who watched our first Business Tips video are already seeing the benefits in your business. Here, as promised, is number 2 of the 5 Top Business Tip Videos we’re releasing in August. Happy Businessing!


Categories: Tips, News, Film, General


Business Tip 5

Our final tip for the month, hopefully by now your business is booming thanks to our invaluable advice. This last tip for the month should be enough to see profits soar, and we'll be back later this year with more amazing tips and business advice for you, see you soon!


Categories: Tips, News, Film, General


Improvised Film; Sound Mixing


In my blog post last week I talked about recording the audio for our latest feature film, which is a completely improvised film with no script, just characters who meet at a tree in a field and essentially have a completely unscripted conversation. Even we didn’t know what they were going to say and our job was to record it, which as you can imagine was a bit of a mission!

We placed multiple mics around the location itself and the two actors also wore lapel mics that were discreetly hidden under the tops they were wearing. The lapel mics were initially considered more of a backup solution, just in case the other mics didn’t pick up clearly enough the dialogue. However when importing and syncing the eight different mic sources it became clear that while the six mics placed around the location had captured the dialogue cleanly, none of them had captured the level of detail the lapel mics were giving us.

Before importing and syncing the audio sources I’d imagined we’d be using a blend of mic sources to create the final mix itself, but there were phasing issues, and the sources themselves sounded too different from each other to easily swap back and forth between different mics. It would’ve been a bit of a nightmare trying to select the best source for each line, then also have to try and EQ each mic so that they all sounded cohesive and natural to listen to.

The other option was to simply pick the best source, which was clearly the lapel mics, and to work harder on getting those to sound as good as they can. For the most part this method makes it a lot easier to achieve more, faster. I applied simple compression, EQ and basic gates to each lapel mic source and then proceeded to listen though to the tracks individually, adjusting the setting for the inserts as and when each required it. After approximately fifteen to twenty minutes I’d heard as much as I was going to in terms of range of dynamics and volume, so I was confident the setting of the compressors, EQ’s and gates would be good enough to do the job of keeping the sound mix of the film under control.

The next step was to painstakingly go through the two tracks individually again, picking out all of the pops, clicks, interference and general rustle and noise on each lapel mic track. For some reason one mic was particularly prone to interference noise, while the other was more prone to clicks and pops? Either way, I used good old-fashioned cut and paste techniques to cover up any noises I didn’t want to hear. There were lots of moments of silence between the actor’s dialogue where I was able to steal snippets of “silence” to paste over random clicks and pops.

The actors were also sat close enough to be able to dip the volume of one mic and bring up the other mic momentarily, where I needed to cover a click or pop that occurred when an actor was speaking.

Probably the biggest challenge is wind and plane noise. It’s random, can sometimes completely cover a line of dialogue if its loud enough, and worst of all happens just when you don’t want it to! I used EQ as best as possible to reduce the level of wind and plane noise during dialogue, but ultimately in the end we decided that the rustic, gorilla feel that we took to the film meant that leaving some wind and plane noise in actually brought quite a nice texture to the sound mix, especially considering there is nothing else to listen to in the whole feature other than two actors speaking. The film is actually sometimes more about the silence between the lines than the lines themselves as well. Because the actors were improvising every line, there are a lot of beautiful silent sections where you can see the characters thinking about how to respond to what’s just been said. And so all those little things that make up the audio soundscape of the field they were in at the time, the birds, the trees, planes flying overheard, wind, rustle of clothing during movement, these are all the things that make it actually quite an interesting listen as a sound track, rather than simply tidying the whole thing up, whacking some music and audio sfx here and there and just giving audiences exactly what they expected to hear.

We hope it’s a nice refreshing change if and when you ever view the film, to know that every moment you see, and in particular hear, was a natural, organic moment created by the two actors as their characters, and everything you hear is exactly how it happened on the day of filming itself as well.



Categories: Film, Audio


Business Tip 3

MWS Media's third insightful business tip this month! Have you been integrating our tips in to your business? If so, let us know the results by commenting below.


Categories: Tips, News, Film, General


Ears Are Idiots

This may be a little bit of a technical blog but fingers crossed it will highlight some things you already knew, but didn’t know you knew about how things work in the audio industry.

Sound is a wonderful thing and our ears allow us to hear such aural delights as birdsong, a child's laughter, Iggy Azaleas new single or the noises our MD Ben makes in the 2 days preceding a half hour gym session (maybe not the last two).

But what you might not be so aware of is that in relative contrast to your eyes your ears can be deceived relatively easily. Currently here at MWS we are mixing and designing the sound for our upcoming feature film collaboration with Primley Road Productions 'The Catch' (Plug, plug). Now although 'The Catch' is a relatively straight forwards film in terms of sound design (we have no huge car chases to foley or new alien dialects to create), it comes with it’s fair share of challenges. But let me first draw your attention to some more obvious examples that you can relate to.

Star Wars

What would an actual star war sound like? Would they sound anything like master sound designer Ben Burts epic soundscapes of explosions, laser cannons and screaming ion engines? No they wouldn’t because space is a vacuum and no sound travels in a vacuum. Therefore what we would hear would in fact be silence, Burt and co cheated our ears into thinking that there was (awesome) sounds when in fact there would be none.

Ok maybe that's a bit harsh on our ears as few of us have first hand experience of space audio. How about…

Car Tyres

Ever scene a car pull away in a movie and heard the tyres screeching on tarmac? Loads I bet. Ever heard the same thing in real life. Perhaps, but lets face it when a young buck pulls away from traffic lights on the A4 having whipped the clutch out like their movie heroes, the wheels make a stuttering gripping noise as they struggle to find tarmac. Rarely the uniform constant rotation on a smooth surface which would cause such a screech. Do we care? No because it sounds great and adds gravitas and power to the moment. Let’s stick with vehicles...

Gear Changes

During the famous canal chase scene in James Cameron's masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Arnold’s bike changes up a gear 14 times (sources vary). Fast and Furious movies see our drivers shift through around 200 gears with a simple stick shifter. It certainly helps to build tension though.


Ever punched/been punched/seen someone being punched? (Don’t answer out loud) I myself being a rugby player have no idea what one of those is but I have it on good authority that is sounds absolutely nothing like it does in the action films. If it did such films would be very short as one of those impacts would be paramount to a blow with a sledge hammer.


Again, no idea what these are except from seeing them in films, but have you ever wondered how people can talk to each other at such a graceful level whereas inside the real thing you’ll be lucky not to blow your voice out ordering a drink (orange juice)?

I could go on and I’m sure you have plenty of examples yourself and will annoy your family next time you sit down to watch TV (mine don’t let me anymore). So why do we so readily deceive our poor ears? Two main reasons. For dramatic effect and to help the narrative. We touched on examples of dramatic effect above with screeching tyres, epic battles and crunching blows. Try to imagine those horrible scenes in horror movies. Bone crunches, flesh ripping, blood and guts, all of those distressing noises are amplified in volume considerably higher than is realistic in order to pull you in to the happenings and further immerse you into the terror.

As for the narrative part take the 'Nightclub'. If we can’t hear what our characters are saying to each other then we are going to struggle to follow the story. Think of all the times you’ve watched a scene with someone far from the camera with perhaps a busy road in between them and you. Hows the dialogue? Clear as a bell? Of course it is as audio designers and engineers we sometimes have to compromise realism for clarity and story telling and thankfully most of the time our ears let us do that.

So maybe it's harsh to say that our ears are idiots. In fact the ease at which they can be deceived leads to a much wider breadth of creativity and greater margin of error for some technical aspects. Most of your summer blockbusters will be overdubbed using ADR a technique whereby the original dialogue is replaced with studio recorded sound and synced to the footage. Look closely and you can sometimes pick out minor mis syncs on even the grandest of productions (again, I recommend doing this on your own away from friends and family). But it leads to lovely clear crisp dialogue and often the ability for a director to recapture elements of a performance after the shoot.

Ears, you may be a little stupid. But we love you.


Categories: Film, Audio


Location Film Sound Recording

So a week or so ago we filmed our improvised feature film in a field close to our offices. We were desperately hoping the weather would hold out, and luckily for us it just about did. Pure sunshine and barely any wind bookended the filming day itself, so it was typical that rain and wind was forecast and we’d already booked crew, cast and equipment in for that day…

This simply added to the list of challenges for recording the sound for the film. Some of which I’ll go through for you in this blog post in the hope that it may help someone out in future in similar situations.
The concept for the film was an improvised feature length film, guided subtly by the director, Ben Myers, who at times was texting and calling the actors throughout the improvisation. The film features two cast members who have never met (in real life as well as the film) and who have independently developed their characters alongside the director. The premise was simply that the characters meet by finding themselves in the same field, by a tree. The idea was they would naturally speak to each other and let the conversation flow, based on how their characters would really behave towards each other in that particular situation. So for example they could have not got on well and had an argument, or they could have fallen head over heels in love, we simply wouldn’t know until the filming itself.


So obviously our first big problem becomes coverage. How do we capture the audio without knowing what the actors are going to say, when they are going to say anything, or how loudly or quietly they are going to say something, or in which direction? It became clear from the get-go that we would have to use as many mics as possible, very well placed, as discreetly as possible, in and around the tree location itself.
There were two available sound recordists; my colleague Nick and I, who were there specifically to set up the mic placement and then monitor the recordings. Budget-wise we didn’t have very much to play with, as part of the aim of the film was to try and create something without spending too much (when is that ever not the aim?), but with little to no impact on the quality of the production either. We ended up using eight separate mics, six shotguns and a lapel mic on each actor. Out of the six shotgun mics we placed five on the ground in the grass, one pointing directly between where the two actors were advised they sit themselves, two hidden behind logs by the actors feet pointing at the opposite actor, and then two further wide side on mics, pointing directly inwards in case the actors turned the heads either left or right to speak, which inevitably happens in conversations. The sixth mic was placed in the tree above the actor’s heads. All the mics were out of shot on the wide camera, the other four camera operators knew where the mics were and simply avoided capturing them, which was easy enough as they were mainly doing close-up shots of faces.

Hiding XLR leads in the grass was also very easy thankfully (he says hoping no one will spot any in the edit itself!) and the mic dangling from a branch above the actors was severely blu-tacked and tied to the tree trunk for safety. My guess was the actors would be talented and sharp enough to say something like “Ah, a conker!” should some blu-tack fall from above them during the filming. I’m kidding of course, we made sure there was no way anything would fall down and ruin anything. We are professionals after all…

So as far as location sound recording goes, we felt we’d covered our bases in terms of what we had available to us on the day, mixed in with good mic placement. The trick was to avoid telling the actors “you must stand here, and when you speak face this way” etc. Ben really wanted them to be free to act as their characters would and within the parameters he had set them, but not feel trapped by anything technical like mics or cameras, to allow them to focus solely on performance. 

Lavalier Mics

We knew shot gun mics would pose their own problems that only lapel mics might be able to get around, such as wind noise, so we decided to use two channels of our eight for attaching lavalier mics to each actor. The obvious main consideration with using lapel mics of course is visibility; how do we attach them without the cameras being able to see them? The other issue is of course noise, how do you hide a lapel mic in and around clothing but still manage to record clean sound? After some brief chats with other crew members, someone suggested we look at Rode’s “Invisilav” solution. Online videos showed that they did a very decent job of answering both our questions, so we decided to purchase a pack of three for use in the film. A mini review of the Invisilav would be as follows; they are perfect if your talent / actor is stood perfectly still, but do expect noise if they need to move around a fair bit – nothing will completely stop clothing making noise on the mics. They come with double-sided adhesive tape, which is cut to the shape of the silicone housing that holds the mic. This double-sided tape is a real pain to peel away from its backing and use, but eventually it works, just be patient when trying to peel off the backing as per the instructions. On the whole they did a very good job of making sure we had fairly clean close-miked dialogue, which for this film in particular was obviously crucial given that we had no idea what was going to be said or how close to a shotgun mic an actor would be when they spoke.

Technical Challenges

Alongside the weather and coverage, another big issue was the technical challenge of recording eight separate channels of audio, for a full hour and a half absolute minimum, in the middle of a field where there is no access to mains power. And on top of that, we have one shot, one attempt to record it and make sure it’s all captured the best it can be. The actors can obviously only meet for the first time just the once, so we had to make sure our setup was tested beforehand. One of the things the testing revealed was “What if the recorder fails as we hit stop, or the batteries die half way through and nothing is recorded?” Hhhhmmmm... It became clear that we would need to hedge our bets a bit and so we decided to split the eight mics across four different recorders, meaning that if one failed we’d still have six mic sources recorded.

We own two Tascam DR100 audio recorders. They are great for certain things but as with all portable recording equipment the main issue seems to be battery power. Ours have always been fine and never (touch wood) caused us any problems for any of our client based corporate work. But an hour and a half minimum, at the highest recording quality, powering two shotgun mics is a bit of an ask. The solution to this was to purchase external battery packs that house six AA batteries and use a USB to DC connection to power the unit, which then automatically switches itself while recording to its internal lithium battery, giving us (in theory) many hours of recording time. Testing proved this to be the case. So that’s four of the eight mics covered. The cameras used were Canon 5D’s which have no XLR mic input, however at the last minute we switched to using a Canon C100 for one camera angle, which does have XLR inputs. So it made perfect sense to use this as the recorder for the two main shotgun mics (the tree mic and the central ground mic). We then had a brainwave, whilst trying to avoid hiring kit we didn’t necessarily need; we have a Canon XF105 that also has XLR inputs and is very reliable in terms of battery use even when powering two shot gun mics for that kind of duration. So we ran the camera on the shoot, filming the crew as they filmed the actors so it could be used for “Making Of” footage, whilst also capturing the sound from the two mics placed near the actor’s feet on to the camera. Two birds, one stone I think the phrase is.


So, the Great British weather, well, it held out as I mentioned earlier which was great. Just towards the end of filming it fractionally started to spit with rain. Our plan to avoid soaking all our mics was to wrap a thin layer of cling film round each shot gun mic, then place its foam windshield over it, so that any big drops of rain soaking through the foam windshields wouldn’t actually penetrate the mic capsule and do any damage. The limitation of this was that the mic was very slightly muffled from its true recording capabilities, but it’s a compromise we had to make. If it had rained on and off throughout but not enough to make the director call cut we would have risked too much rain getting on the mics over an hour and a half and possibly doing long-term damage to the equipment.
The biggest problem was the wind, as usual. We couldn’t use big Rycote style windshields because there is no way they would’ve hidden well enough in the grass. However the grass and logs we placed the mics nearby helped out a fair bit when the wind did pick up. There was the occasional aircraft, circling overhead, which believe it or not was not within our budget to gain control over…

The Mix

It’s become clear from reviewing the audio since we filmed a few days ago that the mix itself is looking, like I thought it might, like it will be a balance between the two lapel mics and the tree and central mic mainly, occasionally dipping down the shotguns in the mix when the wind picks up or planes fly overhead. There were also some moments we hadn’t planned for that just got overlooked due to the unavailability of the location largely until the day itself, such as birds deciding to sing louder than they ever have before, and the tree mic being high up enough to act as an antenna, picking up local radio playing 80’s classics very faintly on one channel of our recording. All learning curves for the future and things we know we can get around in terms of the mix anyway. I still find that I learn something new almost every time we record something. Yes, there was inevitably noise on the lapel mics from clothing as we suspected, but some clever gating and balancing with the shotguns should be able to eradicate most of that in the mix. I’m certainly looking forward to sitting down at the computer and cracking on with it.


I would best describe this particular audio task as an enjoyable, challenging, scary nightmare of a recording experience. Knowing that the moment we started rolling all our options to make any changes disappeared due to the fact that we only had one chance to get it right and the work was all in the setup. In fact Nick and I were only really able to control the levels of each mic acutely throughout the filming. We had set them to medium levels in the hope that if the actors suddenly raised their voices or laughed loudly to the point where it may peak it would at least not be peaking on a mic placed elsewhere and some clever mixing would be needed at those points. Overall a big challenge that we feel we passed successfully. Bring on the edit…



Categories: Film, Audio


Business Tip 4

Here at our studio in Newbury, Berkshire, we’re fortunate to be in the “tech corridor” alongside the M4. This means we are able to stay abreast of the constantly changing technology landscape, not just in terms of video production, but general advances in business communications. So strap yourself in and prepare to have your mind blown by the 4th of our 5 business tips in August. #thingssurehavechangedrecently


Categories: Tips, News, Film, General


FollowOn - FSP & TVP

We worked on two fantastic noteworthy projects in November, Team144's Foundation SP video, and Thames Valley Police's Drink Drive campaign video for this Christmas.


Categories: Film


MWS Media Ghostbusters Advert Parody

We love to think our video production can be topical and fun. With the new Ghostbusters film coming soon to a multiplex near you, we decided to create an in-house video marketing homage to the TV advert from the original Ghostbusters film. Shot on location at our studio in Berkshire, the attention to detail is truly nerd-worthy, from the 4:3 aspect ratio to the grainy 1980's SD quality image and every prop and movement. Please feel free to watch, share and laugh at our goofiness. If you want to see just how precise we have been, check out the original advert from the film. It's possible we love Ghostbusters too much.

Also, as you might know we love to show the reality of what we do, especially if its funny. Check out the short "Outtakes" reel below. Video production is not quite as easy as it looks...

And here, because we are so helpful and kind, is the original, if you feel like checking out the comparison and seeing just how nerdy we have been...


Categories: News, Film, General

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