Jamie Talbutt, Foley Mixer and Studio Manager at Bang Post Production took time out of his busy schedule to speak to Audiofile about his work. His credits include the highly successful and much loved series Dr Who and Sherlock, Netflix’s recent hit comedy Sex Education and Amazon’s highly anticipated adaptation of Good Omens. His work has been recognized with nominations for awards from the Emmy’s, Cinema Audio Society and MPSE.
Talbutt began his career in post production as a runner for Dog House in Bristol working on factual productions. “I began working in picture but I always wanted to work in sound” said Talbutt. “Whilst working at Dog House they installed a Pro Tools suite and I made it my mission to learn how to use it. I worked on short films in my spare time and eventually was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work as a sound editor.” He then spent some time back in the picture department at the BBC in Bristol, and it was during this period that an opportunity arose at BBC Wales for an assistant sound editor. “I applied and got it, and found myself overseeing the foley for Sarah Jane Adventures and Dr Who!”
Talbutt now runs the foley studio at Bang Post Production in Cardiff. “Whilst working on Dr Who I used to hire the studio at Bang to record the foley and after a few years was asked to freelance for them between series. As things began to steam roll, I joined the team for series four of Sherlock and I haven’t looked back. The studio runs full tilt. We’re constantly updating the studio to make things easier for the artists and have a good prop storage system so we can get to things shot quickly. It’s very easy to get buried under a sea of props! We have work scheduled until Jan 2020 and expect it to remain busy.”
“I’ve learnt everything on the job and have been fortunate enough to work with some very talented foley artists, you pick things up” added Talbutt. “Eventually I created my own mixing style.”
When recording foley, Talbutt covers as much as he can in order to provide a full M&E for international versions. “A lot of the work we do involves matching what we record to the original tracks so that it blends in with the sync sound. This allows you to have the two together; so it covers any ADR and blends in seamlessly.” Every sound we supply is performed and Talbutt has a talented pool of foley artists at his disposal. He also has a significant prop store that he has built up over the years. “If we haven’t got a specific prop then we find a way to create that sound. Sometimes there is a cross over from effects into foley so I talk to the effects department to make sure that we’re not covering the same things to help streamline the mix. The hardest sounds to recreate are the domestic sequences involving dining or making a cup of tea. It can often be quite hard to get it to sound natural so we break it down into stages.”
Talbutt started working on The Sarah Jane Adventures and from that moved to Dr Who. “Dr Who was a brilliant platform to learn foley as it covers so many genres of television as they travel everywhere,” added Talbutt. One of the most fun sounds he has made was for the Pting; a small monster that devoured everything in sight. “We created him using pots of hair gel poured over a rubber toy. It was good fun!” Those with a fear of spiders can now watch ‘Arachnids in the UK’ a little more easily knowing that the sound of the giant spiders webs were made using a wig!!
“Sometimes a sound is created by accident,” added Talbutt. “There are also times when you have to create a new sound, so the foley artist disappears and comes back with a bunch of props and usually we get it first time! The art is not to look at the props as you can ruin the illusion.” Props used include chamois leathers, popping candy, porridge and cat litter. “Custard powder is great for snow as it gives you that squeak, while some rock salt gives it the initial crunch. This can be a messy job!”
Once an episode has been received from the edit Talbutt charts the foley to streamline the record process. He marks up where each characters footsteps need to be performed and where any effects are needed. He records with Pro Tools, using a Sennheiser MKH50 to capture the performance. He works the room to match whats on screen, and has plug-ins such as Izotope RX to hand in case he needs to apply any quick fixes to the recordings.
There has been a big boom in TV drama with streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix. Talbutt has certainly noticed the increase in production in Wales, with new studios opening and crew location signs constantly dotted around Cardiff. For those thinking of a career in foley, Talbutt’s advice is to “just do it”. “We could do with a few more foley artists in the world right now! The best way to get into the industry is to get in touch with people and find an opportunity to learn alongside a pro.”