BBC One’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s book Normal People was a huge hit during lockdown. In a webinar at the end of June, RTS Republic of Ireland put the spotlight on the sound of the drama, which was made by Dublin indie Element Pictures.
Niall O’Sullivan recorded the location sound, which Steve Fanagan mixed in post-production – along with added dialogue, Foley sounds, music and sound effects – to create the final sound.
Fanagan described his task as one of “creating a world soundwise that feels truthful to the world portrayed on screen”.
Two clips illustrated the work of the sound specialists. The first – Marianne and Connell’s first romantic encounter in the former’s family home – was recorded by O'Sullivan with two boom microphones.
“There’s such life to this scene – it’s really beautiful,” he said. “My job is to capture the acoustic integrity of a performance. This is the perfect example of when it works.
“It was such a lovely location. There was no bad acoustics in the room – [it was] carpeted and warm.”
Fanagan’s job was to “follow the picture. The closeness and intimacy established by the performances, direction, shooting and editing all suggest that we’re in that room with them. It felt like the sound had to reflect that we feel we’re right up close with them.”
The second clip – of a Trinity College party – offered a contrasting challenge. “Part of my job was to build up the sound,” recalled Fanagan. This involved using the chatter of the extras recorded on set, crowd sounds recorded by actors at a later date and sound from an effects library.
“Normal People: Working with sound for drama’ was held on 23 June and chaired by Dr Helen Doherty.