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In Video

By Alison Hutcheson

What went wrong with the audio in the BBC’s Jamica Inn?

On 24, Apr 2014 | 2 Comments | In Video | By Alison Hutcheson

Audio quality counts for everything in video and for TV programmes, something that the BBC seems to have let slip in its recent adaptation of Jamaica Inn.

I have written about this subject in a previous post, so you’ll know how important I think that it is.

The problem was initially reported after the first episode and it wasn’t clear if it was a technical fault on transmission or a problem with this actual audio as it was recorded and mixed. The 2 quotes in the BBC report give rather conflicting stories. The director had said on Twitter:

“No surprises here – I’m told there was a major sound problem for tonight’s broadcast of Jamaica Inn – not surprised you couldn’t hear it,”

but the BBC quote was:

“We are adjusting the dialogue levels in episode two and three to address audience concerns so they can enjoy the rest of the drama and would like to apologise to those viewers who were affected”

When I was working in radio for the BBC, we mixed programmes in studios with large monitor speakers, good acoustics and a quiet listening environment. But most people don’t listen to the radio, or watch TV like that, so we would often switch and listen on a ‘check loudspeaker’. This was a small speaker mounted in the desk, which mimicked the sound of a small transistor radio and helped us make sure that the programmes that we were making were audible.

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Whether you are producing website video or a major BBC drama, audibility and quality are paramount. Earlier this week, I was watching a video made to promote a business and the opening presenter was distorted. I didn’t watch the whole video, and another telling comment from one viewer of Jamaica Inn is very telling:

“Watched the first half of this and gave up.”

If you’re involved in corporate video production you really don’t want the potential customer to switch off. People will have sought out Jamaica Inn to watch. Someone looking for a product or service is much more fickle comsumer. If the video annoys or is difficult to watch/listen, they will switch off and that is the very last thing you want.


  1. I’m so sick of watching TV and the sound quality being so bad that it can’t be heard. I’m often working in the evenings while watching TV so not fully concentrating on it, with sound being bad it means I miss a lot of the action unless I stop and really concentrate…or turn the TV to an unacceptable volume!

    I’m with the complaints, I watched one episode and didn’t bother with the rest.

    Try watching Shetland and see what you make of the sound in that!

    • It does seem to be something that is getting worse. I’m not sure why so little attention is paid to intelligibility now.

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