Clear sound: Recording in the studio

Executive producer Graham Stuart shares his best practice tips for how to make sure the viewers get to hear, and enjoy, every word. These simple tips are part of the BBC’s best practice guidance for TV audibility.

Sound problems are the single most consistent topic of viewer complaints. Graham shares his tips on how to deal with guests with unfamiliar accents, getting the best from your sound team and how presenters can help with audio clarity. This forms part of the BBC’s best practice guide for audibility.

"The sound of a studio is a complex thing to get right." – Graham Stuart

Clear sound is critical
It is as important as the pictures. In chat shows you don’t always know what your guests and host are going to say. Graham Norton’s show is about spontaneous conversation and comedy, and guests will usually only say something once, so it’s important to record it cleanly first time.

Brief talent to cover clarity issues
Get your presenters and guests to listen and not talk over each other. If a guest has a strong accent or makes a point that’s not clear to the audience, ask your presenter to paraphrase or reiterate what’s been said. Graham reflects on an example where Graham Norton had to do instant translation to make what Gerard Depardieu was saying more understandable.

Balance audience levels
Any studio recording is a delicate balance of the host’s voice, the guests’ voices and the audience reaction. Audience mics should be placed to give as great a degree of control as possible over the volume of their reaction.

Build the best sound team
A good sound supervisor knows how to mix conversation and anticipates who’s going to speak next. Make sure you value and trust your sound team.

Focus on sound in the edit
Keep working on enhancing your audio right through to transmission. Careful audio work will make cuts seamless and enhance the experience for viewers at home.