March 04, 2015

Celebrating The Rich World Of Sound

Kate Hopkins, winner of the Technicolor Creative Technology Award, gives us an insider’s perspective into the rich world of sound.


In celebration of International Woman’s day, we caught up with Kate Hopkins, winner of the Technicolor Creative Technology Award for her impressive contributions to sound, awarded a the Woman in Film and TV (UK) Awards in December 2014. We took the opportunity to quiz her on how she began in the industry, her career highlights and what advice she’d give to those who are just starting out.

Based in Bristol, Kate is a Sound Editor/Designer with Wounded Buffalo Sound Studios. Her rich and varied career has culminated in a number of accolades in recent years, including Primetime Emmys, an RTS award, a BAFTA, a Golden Reel and Wildscreen Pandas.

At the start of her career, Kate flitted between being a receptionist and working in the cutting room on sound and picture. After going freelance she specialised in sound, working on anything from period drama and horror to natural history documentaries and animation. Kate explained that attention to detail was one of the key skills she learnt early on, and believes that this and enthusiasm are personality traits best suited to working in the technical world.

Receiving a BAFTA in 2011 for her sound work on Frozen Planet, was a career highlight and Kate gave us some insider insight into the challenges, and creative possibilities, of creating sound-scapes that you’ve never heard yourself. In one scene, an iceberg begins to break and fall into the sea; this was described by one of the crewmembers as something akin to the sound of world war one happening in the distance. Kate took this description away and played around with the idea of the sound of war, interpreting this to such realistic effect that the crewmember was astounded when he heard it.

Kate also spoke about the Blue Planet documentary series, where her high levels of creativity and experience with sound were vital. Having few real life underwater recordings means that the task in hand was a rather tricky one, after all, what would a jelly fish sound like when it moves? Watching the documentary and hearing the underwater sound scape, it’s incredible to think that she created sound which is so subtle and to our ears appears so instinctively natural. Another career highlight was recording sound for another animal documentary based in the Masai Mara, Kenya, the most memorable moment of which was recording the sound of a vulture’s wings as they took off.

On the role of women in the industry, she commented on how great it was to see an increase in women working on the craft side of post-production, although it's been a long time coming!

Her tips for getting on in the industry are, work in as many different places and with as many different people as you can, it's all about contacts! Work hard even if some of what you are given to do may be dull. Once you have grown in confidence and technical knowledge, you will find that you will be freer to be more creative. It is clear to see that Kate has followed her own advice and is a real inspiration to the 'work your way up' ethic.