Fifty Fifty on Their Ongoing Expansion

Opening two Dolby Atmos suites and what it’s like working in immersive audio. 


Fifty Fifty a full service, independently owned post-production house based in the heart of London’s Soho, have continued their growth with the addition of their second site on Livonia Street last year. One of the key drivers of this growth has been to increase high end finishing capacity. Working with HHB Communications they have added two Dolby Atmos suites, which now services high-end scripted programming, feature documentary and factual documentary productions. Fifty Fifty are a certified B- Corp and each build and update has been completed with Fifty Fifty’s strong sense of self and core values, including it’s close collaboration with the team at HHB Communications.  


Alex Meade, Operational Managing Director and Gavin Allingham, Head of Audio discuss the details of the suites, what it’s been like to work in Dolby Atmos, and how immersive formats have impacted the London post market.  


Gavin Allingham touched upon some of the inspiration about the build of the rooms ‘We wanted to create audio environments that not only sound great but deliver the Wow factor. The HHB team understands there is an important balance between creating a good working space for the mixer that can also provide a high-end viewing experience for clients. Additionally, the decision making around the new rooms was thoughtful and forward thinking. This includes implementing a Dante based infrastructure that offers more flexibility as well as making it futureproof.  


Alex Meade commented ‘‘The second room, while primarily a mixing suite, has all the equipment necessary to comfortably act as a Grade or Online. It was  purposely built on the ground floor to make it fully accessible using specialist access consultants to help in the design of the space to create a multi use suite.’’ 


Gavin added ‘’Amidst all these considerations we were still able to maintain our distinct Fifty Fifty style, with a touch of mid-century thrown in.’’   


When it comes to ensuring the sound of both suites Fifty Fifty consistently chooses PMC monitors, from the Ci range.  


“I had heard the PMC’s in use before and thought they sounded amazing. The Ci range really suit rooms of our size and sound great even if you’re a little off axis, which is ideal when clients are attending a session and might not sit in the sweet spot. They have superb low end and excellent frequency response, which is obviously important for critical listening. The fact that they are fitted flush with the walls and ceilings is also a bonus, as it helps keep the rooms feeling spacious,” said Gavin Allingham.  


HHB Communications, specifically Scrub the post-production division of the company was enlisted from the very start of the project. Gavin had this to say about working with them, “Scrub are recognised as the industry leading audio specialist for a reason, they were brilliant throughout the whole process right from design to calibration and testing. They offered up solutions to things we had not thought of and as a result, we ended up with two fantastic rooms. In terms of support, they have been superb. We haven’t needed them too much yet thankfully but on the odd occasion we have, they have got us up and running again in no time.” 


Dolby Atmos and its adoption by streaming services and broadcasters alike have had a large impact on the audio post-production industry in London, underpinning the successful expansions of post-production companies. Alex Meade explains how positive that impact has been, “I think it’s great for audio teams. For years every major advancement in TV has been picture related.  Dolby Atmos has put audio in the limelight a bit more and we are noticing a change in the way audio is viewed. Putting more focus on it only allows for more interesting and creative content.” 


“The growing demand from streamers and broadcasters for fully filled M&E as part of their delivery is great for us too, as it is bringing the importance of audio to the forefront. The number of projects where we are doing foley and ADR has increased dramatically over the last few years, including factual content. I think in film, sound often gets the credit for its impact but in TV sound can sometimes feel a little undervalued, but I believe that is changing and I am seeing a shift in client attention to audio and what it can bring to their programming.” 


Fifty Fifty has already completed several interesting Dolby Atmos projects, Gavin says, “We had a great time mixing Dreamland, a scripted comedy made by Merman, for Sky Atlantic. It sounds amazing in Dolby Atmos. It was shot in location in Margate and there were so many scenes at the seafront, which lends so well in creating immersive backgrounds – think seagulls, children playing in the distance, the crash of waves, and all the fun of the fair!”  


“It’s not all about using all the speakers all the time just because you have them – ultimately all creative decisions and approaches used in the dub have to work for the content, and be bringing something to the table, helping the narrative or leading the viewer in a particular direction.” Gavin explains how they did this for Dreamland, “There is an awards ceremony in one episode that was really interesting to do. We built an audience which involved us recording extra reactions and dotting them around the room as objects. Using multi-channel reverbs for the stage mics and making the music diegetic also contributed to giving the viewer a sense of the room.” 


Another cool Dolby Atmos project the team has worked on is Sandpaper Films, Capturing the Killer Nurse for Netflix. It is an accompanying Feature Doc to the Feature Film, The Good Nurse, and tells the true story of nurse and serial killer, Charles Cullen. “There were so many opportunities for creative sound to be used in this Feature Doc, especially as much of it is set in and around a hospital environment. The client wanted an organic feel to the sound design, so we used things like ultrasound recordings, stethoscopes, and anaesthetic machines to give us a grainy, eerie, medical feel. I think that is where working in Atmos really comes into its own, often it is the small subtleties that land the most impact, particularly when using object-based sound to plot effects or dialogue in the spaces between the speakers.” 


Many consider action or fantasy films to be where Dolby Atmos sounds best however, Fifty Fifty believe it can be great at working with nuance and subtlety too on a range of programming. Gavin uses live performance as an example  “We’ve worked on Live comedy shows where Atmos has played a huge part in bringing the viewer into the event. The additional height channels make such a difference to live performance and the results are truly immersive. Being able to pepper the mix with objects also helps create a real sense of the space. We have done full post on two comedy specials for Netflix in Dolby Atmos, Jack Whitehall I’m Only Joking and Mo Gilligan’s There’s Mo To Life, which has some fun audience participation that is so effective in Atmos. Even little whoops and whistles from around the arena sound so good you really feel like you are there.” 


“It comes as no surprise to our team that Fifty Fifty have had such success.  Dolby Atmos has had an incredibly positive impact in our industry. We were delighted to work with them on the first suite and again when they expanded. We can’t wait to hear what they work on next,” comments Greg Wheeler, Head of Scrub Sales. 

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