BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Sounds like screen spirit
As senior librarian at the Cine-Sound archive at Elstree, Angela Marshall worked on soundtracks ranging from Thunderbirds to The World at War. Now, she's helping put the four million effects online.

The library was started by four sound engineers who had trouble getting the effects they needed, so they decided to club together all their bits and pieces.

Fireworks provided the rocket effects
I was worked for a scriptwriter at the time, and was asked to fill in for a week soon after it opened. Thirty-four years later, I was still there.

We supplied sound effects for James Bond films, The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, Saving Private Ryan...

When people asked for something, I'd try to work out the plot from the list of sound effects they gave me. It was like playing treasure hunt.

If we didn't have the right sound, we'd go out with a mic and create all these great effects. And it's such fun doing it, because you get filthy.

Angela stabbing a potato
"And this is a stabbing..."
We went round a whole building once and smashed all the windows. We'd scavenge for lumps of brick, sand or dustbin lids - you can get a great train crash if you bang a metal skip with dustbin lids and bits of iron.

To simulate the sound of chopping heads off, we'd get a cabbage and a very sharp knife and smash it! We smashed cars up, drove them into brick walls...

We recorded the original James Bond car haring up and down a runway. We used to hire airfields and drivers late at night, and the sound crew would shoot all night and in the morning edit it down.

Sounds historical

A lot of what's in the archive is historic - trams, steam traction engines, and loads of old aircraft which you can't get today. These effects can be cleaned up and used today.

Saving Private Ryan
Movie make believe, but real battle cries
When Spielberg did Saving Private Ryan, they came to us for the battle noises at the beginning. That's because we had a recording of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes - you can actually hear the shrapnel dropping beside the recordist.

But no matter how many effects we filed, the library never had enough. You name it, we had a go at trying to make it.

One of the more unusual requests was for the sound of 20-foot strawberry falling into a vat of yoghurt for an ad.

Bismarck going down
Included is the Bismarck's last Morse message
We used [the sound of] a body falling into water and played it backwards, and for the yoghurt, we used a blanket being dropped, with a liquid-y splash laid over the top.

There are about four million effects in the archive, all on tape. Now that the Tape Gallery's bought it, it's going to go on CD and onto the net.

My role will be to guide Tape Gallery staff through the archive. It's been like meeting up with all my old friends, working with all these sound effects again.

And the Oscar goes to...

Some of the old sound effects are still used today.

Angela Marshall: Long-time film buff
There's a dog bark, which was recorded in 1958, and that dog has barked in more films than Lassie and Rin Tin Tin put together. He's even been in space movies. He got so famous, we called him Oscar.

I've been in a lot of movies myself - I've screamed, died, panted, coughed, sniffed...

The first crowd scene I did was for Quadrophenia. About 28 of us took part, and that's where I learned to swear because the dubbing editor wanted a lot of swearing in that one.

If you've got a story you would like to tell to Real Time, click here.

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |