Q&A: Deborah Whitfield & Patch Rowland, Final Cut Sound

Soho-based Final Cut Sound has been keeping busy since its inception two years ago. We quiz newly-recruited producer Deborah Whitfield (main picture) and head of audio Patch Rowland about their collaborative approach to post-production, recent achievements and what’s next for the facility.

What kind of developments have occurred since you came on board as producer, Deborah?

Whitfield: Since joining Final Cut, my role has been split two ways. In my primary role as a producer, I am managing the studio and running the production of projects on a daily basis.

The other side of my role is to promote and develop the studio. Final Cut Sound was born from the work coming out of the edit suites, but it’s my responsibility to develop the studio in its own right, all the while ensuring that the growth and expansion of Final Cut Sound retains the company ethos of being bespoke and boutique.

Could you both describe the way in which you work alongside Final Cut Edit and the process by which you tend to work?

Whitfield: Traditionally, sound is the last point in the post-production process, but we can work alongside directors and editors from the early stages of the offline edit making sound design an integral part of the creative process from those early stages.

Rowland: Production-wise, we don’t operate in the same way as other studios. Directors/producers have the freedom to jump from the edit suite into the sound suite and back again – they can play around with ideas and by the time we are ready to do a final mix, the sound designer is far more prepared and knows the project inside and out, rather than coming into it cold at the end of the post process.

What are the advantages of doing everything in-house at Final Cut, and how has this impacted on those using the facilities?

Rowland: It becomes more than just a facility – just somewhere to get a voice recorded and a mix done within a restricted amount of time – and instead changes and becomes an integral part of the film-making process.

It allows editors, directors and agencies the chance to build sound design into their narrative ideas as well as to package and present both edited and developed sound as one to clients in early presentations.

Patch Rowland

Do you collaborate with the other branches in the United States, and if so, to what extent?

Rowland: Having offices in LA and New York opens up a wealth of opportunities on both sides of the pond. Specifically with audio, both sound studios in the UK and New York can connect remotely via ISDN or IP, which works great for recording voice overs.

Whitfield: From a production point of view, when our clients are working on projects on either side of the pond we can now offer them the editor they want in the location they want and of course get the sound design developed and the soundtrack delivered – it’s a no brainer for some of our US clients.

Competition is hot in Soho, so what else is it that makes you different?

Whitfield: Creative collaboration. Being involved from the start of the production – working in-sync with the editorial, production and agency teams from the off – has proven to really work in delivering pieces of work that all parties are happy with creatively and technically. It frees up time to test those creative boundaries!

Could you talk about the setup and overall design of the studio? Any new equipment or updates?

Whitfield: The studio is a 7.1 Dolby Licensed Suite – equipped for all aspects of audio post-production. We were an early adopter of the Avid S6 modular control surface, which has redefined audio mixing workflows and allows us to create world-class audio soundtracks a lot faster. With Pro Tools HD, Avid Media Composer and our Avid ISIS server the workflow is super fast, seamlessly and fully integrated, meaning the timeline in the edit suite can be loaded immediately in the sound studio with no down time or creative steps back.

Rowland: We’ve always got an eye on the future of sound design and what it will mean for us. Dolby Atmos, Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D immersive audio are all being explored and embraced.

What notable projects have you undertaken lately?

Whitfield: It’s been a real mix! Primarily, Final Cut is a post facility geared towards the commercials industry. Recently we’ve worked on some great campaigns for Philips, Virgin Trains and Google. We are not always restricted by budgets, and consequently we can also select more creative content to work on such as Over, a short film recently nominated for a BAFTA, and we’ve just finished work on an excellent, independent feature film Set the Thames on Fire – due for a cinema and digital release this September.

Are there any future changes in the pipeline and could you explain the reasoning behind these plans?

Rowland: We’ve achieved a huge amount in the two years since Final Cut Sound started. Ultimately, the long-term plan is to expand and build more studios globally – we want to create an environment that attracts great talent and builds upon our already impressive creative output.