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Spotlight on sound mixer: Chris Sinclair

30 years in the business and not tired at all - Christchurch based sound mixer Chris Sinclair has an impressive portfolio, the latest item to add to it is the TVNZ and BBC co-production "The Luminaries".

Chris Sinclair always loved the creative side of sound mixing better than the technical. No wonder that he started his career at the record label "Deepgrooves" in Auckland, the move into post-production and feature films followed soon after. But long working days took their toll and Chris decided to move to Scotland with his wife for a change of scene. In Scotland, he kept working mostly in post-production and feature films and was heavily involved in building the first Dolby Premier room in Great Britain. In 2010 he decided to return to New Zealand and to live in Christchurch.


Chris Sinclair. Credit: Sharon Brophy

Thanks to his years spent in Auckland and abroad, Chris still has good connections with the different industries worldwide: "That's how I got involved in "The Luminaries" in the first place", explains Chris. James Hayday, a Kiwi sound designer based in London was working on it and Chris and he had worked together previously. "I didn't think I could have a crack as I am a one-man band and you need a whole team, but James put my name forward as he wanted me to be a part of it."

The Luminaries - 2019 The Luminaries Production Ltd. Photographer: Kirsty Griffin.

The teamwork at "The Luminaries" was also the biggest highlight in Chris' opinion and the work with James Hayday (sound designer), Mike Baylis (in-house dialogue editor at Images and Sound), Foley done by Bespoke Post and Matt Stutter (sound editor) was great. "The producer Lisa Chatfield was our main point of contact and she was really lovely to work with as well. The show looks amazing: beautifully shot, a wonderful cast and an intriguing story. It just didn't feel like you would be working a single minute."

Chris also appreciated that he had some flexibility on where to work: "I would assemble and pre mix each show in my studio in Christchurch and then travel up for final mixes at Images and Sound in their brand new Theatre. Images and Sound head of sound Steve Finnigan and post-production supervisor Roger Grant juggled the schedules constantly, making sure mix schedules worked."


Behind the scenes. The Luminaries - 2019 The Luminaries Production Ltd. Photographer: Kirsty Griffin. 

Lisa Chatfield couldn't agree more: "We had a great time and the teamwork was fantastic." Another highlight for her is that "The Luminaries" is the biggest production of a New Zealand story that's ever been made here: "Everybody worked so hard, we had great support and the outcome really makes me proud. The scale of the series is spectacular – it couldn’t have happened without the significant investment from BBC, Fremantle and the NZ Screen Production Grant."


Producer Lisa Chatfield, Ngati WaeWae representative Teena Henderson, author and script writer Eleanor Catton - Credit: Kirsty Griffin

Of course, the production had its challenges. "It wasn't easy to find architecture of the 1860s in New Zealand, there isn't much left anymore", explains Lisa. "In the end, we had to make the decision to create most of the world we needed ourselves. 90% of the series was shot in a built set in Auckland where we could get the scale, construction crew, material and space that we needed. We did have several core scenes that were shot on the West Coast. It was important to capture particular aspects of the landscape unique to that region."

Behind the scenes. The Luminaries - 2019 The Luminaries Production Ltd. Photographer: Kirsty Griffin. 

Apart from some logistical challenges, a very practical one that Chris had to deal with was the sound of the cicadas: "the sounds may sound consistent to you on location, but when you cut together multiple takes and set-ups, you realise it's not. Cutting together dialogue is incredibly difficult" - and that wasn't the only problem: shooting a costume drama like "The Luminaries" means that microphones are hidden under layers of cloth. "When you then try to brighten the sound, you hear the sound of the cicadas even more. We had also a lot of ADR in each episode which meant that we had to remediate the location sound and the recorded studio sound, which is very difficult. That's when you start to sweat to make it work and how I earned my keep."

The first episode of "The Luminaries" was released on Sunday, 17 May at 8.30 pm on TVNZ One. If you have missed it, it is available to watch on TVNZ on Demand. The production was made possible by the New Zealand Screen Production Grant.

The Luminaries is based on the best-selling and Man-Booker prize winning novel by Eleanor Catton and starring Eve Hewson, Eva Green, Himesh Patel, Marton Csokas and Ewen Leslie. The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travelled across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th-century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860s gold rush.

Written for the screen by Eleanor Catton, Directed by Claire McCarthy and Produced by Lisa Chatfield the series is produced by Working Title Television (a joint venture between NBCUniversal International Studios, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner), and Southern Light Films for the BBC, in association with TVNZ, Fremantle and Silver Reel. The production was made possible by the New Zealand Screen Production Grant.

For More Information Contact

Bree Loverich
Screen CanterburyNZ Manager