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>> For Those Of Sound Mind >> "Jamaica Inn"-audible

Message started by Administrator on Apr 22nd, 2014, 1:58pm

Title: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Apr 22nd, 2014, 1:58pm

The BBC One TX of Daphne du Maurier’s classic was marred by 'poor sound quality'.

"a BBC spokeswoman acknowledged: “There were issues with the sound levels last night that we are currently reviewing ahead of tonight’s episode.”" (Source

"'Jamaica Inn sound problems under urgent investigation by BBC.'
Corporation engineers are seeking to fix issues with the sound quality of the BBC1 drama, following scores of complaints from viewers who could not properly hear dialogue.

Asked by whether the issue specifically concerned the level or quality of sound output, or problems with the original recording, a spokeswoman was unable to clarify but said that the problem was still being looked into and that BBC engineers hoped to fix it for the second episode of the drama which airs tonight"  (Source

Others commented that they could neither see or hear who was talking as the programme was so dark.

"The Guardian" has a report here.

"Viewers who tuned into the launch of Jamaica Inn were left frustrated after struggling to make out the dialogue in the BBC's new period drama."

As one of the comments on the BBC web-site said..

"... I had to increase the volume to my system to a ridiculous level to try to understand the dialogue, after about 20 minutes I gave up.....When the BBC News at ten started the sound levels returned to normal and nearly blew us away. Why are the sound levels not better controlled."

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by John on Apr 22nd, 2014, 3:28pm

That is exactly what we thought, just about spoilt the story line trying to make out what was being said.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Apr 22nd, 2014, 4:32pm

The "Radio Times" site has published an update:-

"The BBC has identified the cause of the problem affecting the sound quality in the first episode of Jamaica Inn, aired on Monday night, and has promised to remedy the issue for the second episode, which will screen tonight.

Following widespread complaints about mumbling on the drama starring Jessica Brown Findlay, the BBC has spent much of the day trying to identify what caused the problem which blighted the BBC1 transmission.

However, now it appears that the issue has been resolved with the Corporation issuing a statement which said: “There were issues with the sound levels last night and for technical reasons they could not be altered during transmission.

“We are adjusting the dialogue levels in episode 2 and 3 to address audience concerns so they can enjoy the rest of the drama and would like to apologies to those viewers who were affected.""

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Apr 23rd, 2014, 3:52pm

"Jamaica Inn:
BBC drama chief (Ben Stephenson, BBC controller, drama commissioning), says sorry and admits 'there's a problem'
Controller says corporation is looking into issue that prompted hundreds of viewers to complain they couldn't hear dialogue."

the whole article is here, in "The Guardian".

"People who worked on the show suggested on Twitter that it was a problem that arose between recording and transmission. "The location recording was fine," said sound engineer Matt Gill on Twitter."

Suggestions roaming the internet, involve the change from a possible original 5.1 sound track to a stereo track in transmission, through which most would have heard the programme.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Apr 26th, 2014, 3:05pm

This letter appeared in The Times:

Bad sound quality
Published at 12:01AM, April 26 2014
A former BBC studio manager thinks we put up with poor-quality sound in cinemas because we know no better

Sir, For some time I have been unhappy at the sound quality in my local cinema. As a former BBC studio manager I know what is decent sound, and what I often get is too loud but far from clear despite the numerous loudspeakers.

I had assumed the poor sound was due to the cinema’s equipment but then Kenneth Branagh’s Magic Flute came along. This had actors miming to opera singers and it was a revelation; in the same cinema where I had so often been unhappy the sound was excellent, so the fault clearly lies with the film-makers.

In my BBC days a senior colleague once spent a day at a film studio and came back appalled. In the dubbing theatre there was obvious wow and flutter with a significant loss of top frequencies but nobody seemed to care. He was assured the public was quite happy to accept this.

Rodney Bennett

Richmond, Surrey

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Dickie Mint on Apr 27th, 2014, 3:31pm

There's several threads on newsgroups. has some relevant comments from expert sound people.
Digital Spy has nearly 40 pages!
And both the writer and director have been on twitter either trying to justify it or simply retweeting only positive comments.  One retweeted by Emma Frost, the screenwriter, says it all for me:
"Bbc Mumbling... joss meryln is a violent angry haunted drunk. The fog of his words reflect his mind. Jamaica Inn was fabulous"

Funny his words are quite clear to read in the book!
Hope the actor only get paid an appearance fee, he surely can't expect to get a fee for talking?

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Mike Carter on Apr 28th, 2014, 7:53am

Thanks for the laugh Dickie!
Think Emma Frost would be a good character for W1A.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on May 1st, 2014, 2:46pm

Speaking at the Voice of the Listener & Viewer annual conference in London, Purnell said that was why "I think everybody found this particularly upsetting for the BBC to have got it wrong so we want to apologise for that and we want to make sure we learn the lessons from it."

"Wrong Sort Of TV"

According to this "Guardian" article by Tara Conlan,

"The BBC's strategy director has apologised over complaints about inaudible dialogue in BBC1 drama Jamaica Inn but said that sound on productions has become "more complicated" with so many TV set-makers in the market."

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on May 2nd, 2014, 2:41pm

This is courtesy of

Jamaica Inn team defend sound.

Concerns about the audibility issues that affected Jamaica Inn were raised by crew during the production, it has emerged.

The three-part series drew 2,200 complaints over inaudibility, prompting the BBC to adjust the programme’s dialogue levels for the second and third episodes.

Jamaica Inn sound recordist and Bafta Craft Award nominee Martin Beresford broke his silence to speak to Broadcast and defend the sound team that worked on the BBC drama.

Beresford said that although it was a “difficult” shoot, the director and producer of the three-part BBC drama were happy with what was captured on location.

“[Lead actor] Sean Harris did mumble, and we knew that was a problem, but we did all we could on set,” Beresford said.

He added that some of Harris’ dialogue was subject to ADR.

Hopefully, [Jamaica Inn] will help to highlight some of the problems that can occur with sound, and if there is a mumbled or lost line, directors will opt for another take,” he said.

Post facility LipSync graded, mixed and onlined the drama, and managing director Peter Hampden said all three episodes passed BBC QC checks.

He added that no problems were reported at any screenings prior to transmission.

It is thought that production firm Origin Pictures believes a technical hitch was the reason for the discrepancy between viewers’ experience and those who saw previews of the drama.

Hampden confirmed that preview copies contained the final audio mix and that only a stereo mix was completed and delivered for playout.

“It’s difficult to know exactly what the problem was,” he said. “There are some obvious potential issues, but until the BBC has looked into it, we can’t comment further.”

LipSync Post re-recording mixer Robert Farr, who picked up a Bafta Craft Award for his audio work on Dancing On The Edge this week, was part of the Jamaica Inn sound team.

Speaking at the awards ceremony on Sunday, he said the issues that affected the latter demonstrated the importance of audio.

“We applied the same skills and disciplines to Dancing On The Edge and Jamaica Inn.

“We would always prefer more time but understand the realities of TV budgets.”

The BBC, Origin Pictures and Red Bee Media all declined to comment.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Amigo on May 2nd, 2014, 2:54pm

"all three episodes passed BBC QC checks."

That is not good news.

The fact that I (in common with many others) could not understand the dialogue, is 'satisfactory'?

Who signed it as 'Ready For Transmission"?
Who signed the cheque?

Did anyone listen to these programmes as they were being transmitted?

This programme was dreadful, expensive, and embarassing.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on May 2nd, 2014, 4:13pm

A Professional Sound Magazine "Pro Sound News" has a page, here, which includes comments and an interview with
Ian Sands,
a freelance production sound mixer with a long list of credits in drama (although not this production of Jamaica Inn),
vice-chairman of the sound branch of the London Production Division of technicians’ union, BECTU, and
an active member of AMPS (the Association of Motion Picture Sound

regarding the transmission of "Jamaica Inn".

"Since 1986 Pro Sound News Europe has continued to head the field as Europe’s most respected news-based publication for the professional audio industry. The title rebranded as PSNEurope in March 2012."

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by chris west on May 6th, 2014, 10:41am

Many parts of it were a very difficult listen. I suspect it's down to what might be called modern production values. While not wishing to go back to the days of thesps projecting their lines to the back of the stalls, directors and actors do not seem to understand that they are producing a television drama, not another fly on the wall slice of life documentary. This hurts especially when I try to defend the BBC and all her warts with my usual reply of "there's nothing to beat BBC drama".

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on May 30th, 2014, 3:43pm

This is taken from the letters column of Private Eye:

Sound advice


Simon Gilman (Letters, Eye 1366) may be knowledgeable about training actors to speak in the theatre, but he clearly knows very little about TVproduction and transmission. No sound recordist worth his salt would agree to an actor performing a “take” without first checking his sound levels, thus reducing the possibility of a spike in the recording.

Whilst it is true that the average TVset has rather poor quality speakers, even those viewers such as myself who have expensive surround-sound systems had trouble with hearing the dialogue in Jamaica Inn. I too had to resort to subtitles to cope with the mumbling of the cast of the drama.

I do not blame the actors or those who trained them; the culprit is more likely to be the director


(46 years in the TV industry),

Via email.


Pace your correspondent Simon Gilman I think the debacle with the sound on Jamaica inn was largely the actors fault, although they depend on directors and sound engineers to help them make sure that what they are doing is working.

This is more problematic with recorded sound than in the theatre where you can either hear what is being said in real time or you can't.

Most TV dialogue is recorded live but most movie dialogue is lip-synced in a sound studio later American actors have developed a form of clear semi-whispering (not mumbling) which when tracked separately after the fact can then be treated and cranked up in the mix — “loud whispering” which results in the specious intensity demanded by Hollywood producers and their audiences. I suspect that what happened on Jamaica Inn is that our actors (bless) tried to recreate this wholly artificial sound with their voices alone.


Via email.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Jun 16th, 2014, 3:39pm

Another view:-

This is courtesy of "TVB Europe".

The web-site did a "Q&A" with MC Patel, CEO of audio software specialist Emotion Systems. MC Patel will be a speaker at TVBEurope’s IT Broadcast Workflow conference on 8 July and will be taking part in a special panel discussion on the issues around audio Loudness. IT Broadcast Workflow is the UK’s top day-long conference on topics related to file-based workflow for the TV industry.

One of the questions they asked him was about the BBC "Jamaica Inn" transmission that recently caused a furore as some of the dialogue was inaudible.

His opinion was that:-
The actors 'didn't articulate themselves "comprehensively"',
Flat TV Screens have poor speakers,
Audio mixing practices are " increasingly driven not on technical merit of content but on creative merit."

M.C. Patel also refers to the many disparate formats that have to be included within the broadcast world. SD, HD, 4K.. tape, file.... multiple masters...

His point is:-

"we’re in a Wild West of files."

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Dickie Mint on Jun 16th, 2014, 6:53pm

There's that word mis-used again!  Technical.

Although reading carefully he's referring to "technical" production competence. Or more accurately allowing the artistic element to override common sense.  Common sense in that what's the point in spending all that money on scriptwriters, sound crew, recording equipment, etc. And then getting all creative and raise the background music beyond a reasonable level, and filter the dialogue or get the actors to mumble. So that the majority of the audience can't hear it?

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Administrator on Apr 19th, 2016, 11:51am

"The BBC’s TV chief has pledged to tackle problems with sound on hit dramas such as Happy Valley but admitted it is often “incredibly hard” to identify what went wrong.

Charlotte Moore made the promise following complaints that viewers could not hear the dialogue in the Sarah Lancashire drama which was watched by more than 8 million people.

It came two years after another BBC1 drama, Jamaica Inn, generated more than 2,000 complaints about muffled conversations with its writer admitting there was a “major sound problem”."

"Moore said she was currently pulling together all the available advice to help programme makers to do “all those final checks” to make sure there were no problems with sound."

The above is from "The Guardian", here.

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Dickie Mint on Apr 21st, 2016, 7:26pm

There are several solutions.
- Easiest is not to hire arty farty directors who think muffled sound and too loud background music is artistic.
- Then as Moore says the BBC has already got a lot of advice on it's website. Lots.
- And don't blame newfangled flat screen TVs.  I don't recall any complaints about sound on the older shows!  Ah, but they were made by BBC staff striving for quality rather than awards.
- And why not amend slightly the advice to watch the programme on domestic equipment in a domestic environment, by someone not involved in the recording or edit.  With a viewer? There's plenty of retired BBC Sound folk.....

Title: Re: "Jamaica Inn"-audible
Post by Amigo on Feb 18th, 2019, 5:16pm

In the February 2019 issue of "Prospero", available on-line, here:-

(page 5)

John Hale, retired BBC dubbing-mixer, has been having a "heated discussion" regarding the ""unnecessary and distracting" music at every opportunity"  with the Executive Complaints Unit ......

Their reply was to dismiss his comments and complaints and they "have decided not to engage any further with your comment".

Personally, I think John is 100% correct, and the reply he received is disgraceful, and patronising.

Thank you to "Prospero" for publishing this correspondence under the heading-

"Music levels in documentaries- a follow up"

My personal point to all programme-makers... if you want viewers, you need listeners as well, and we turn off of we can't hear the words.

Just because you can fill the sound with music and sound FX, it doesn't mean you have to.

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