Creating the Sound Landscape for Season 5 of ITV’s Hit Series ‘Unforgotten’

April 23, 2023 Apr. 23, 2023

The latest installment of ‘Unforgotten’ has ended on ITV1, with much praise from critics and fans alike. This time, the series features color grade by Company 3 Colorist Paul Staples and sound by re-recording mixer Mathew Knights.

The series, directed by Andy Wilson and created by Chris Lang, follows a team of London detectives led by DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) and DCI Jess James (Sinéad Keenan) as they solve cold cases of disappearance and murder.

Creating the sound identity

Speaking on the work involved in giving the series its sound identity, Mathew comments, “As this was series 5 of Unforgotten, it was straightforward to continue using the same sound language as the previous episodes, and I even adapted and tweaked it to put my stamp on it even if it was subtly.” He continues. “I made sure that we used Sound editors that had previously had experience with the show, Sam Baker on dialogues and Nick Allan, who stepped up to cover all the sound FX work from previously covering the Atmospheres.” Utilizing the same editors allowed Mathew to ensure the sound identity was consistent with other seasons.

When starting work on the series, Mathew and the team removed any unwanted noise to ensure every word that the actors said was clear and intelligible. This was followed by adding foley and Sync FX so that they could build up the sounds off what you see on screen. The final piece was the addition of FX and Atmos, which are all added sounds to give the show depth and make it feel like it is in the “real world” and not on a film set.

Creating the sound landscape for a series as well-known as this requires extensive research and knowledge. When asked, ‘are there any specific movies or TV series you screened that helped influence the soundscape of the series?’ Mathew says, “No other specific shows influenced my choices in creating the soundscape, except the previous four series. I have a slight OCD issue, and I like to keep established continuity for soundscapes when I take over shows and then try to add my touches where I can, influenced by my 35 years of experience working in sound.”

Bringing scenes to life through sound

The series itself doesn’t carry many large set pieces, such as car chases or gun fights; however, there was one particularly challenging scene that Mathew was delighted with how it turned out. Mathew adds, “I am pleased with the result of the sequence in episode 3 where Sunny is on the Eurostar on his way to Paris. Most of the original sound was unusable due to the train’s noise level, so we recreated the whole sequence. Although it is not a spectacular scene sound-wise, from a sound design point of view, it plays well, and you would never know it was all reconstructed.”

The Eurostar scene is an excellent example of why sound is such an essential element of film and TV; Mathew states, “The thing when it comes to sound on films and TV which makes it such an important element is that it brings the piece to life by adding depth to the soundscape. Subtle things like background cars and birds can help place and ground a scene, and if done correctly, you may not even directly register as you are court up in the storytelling.”

What’s next for the hit show?

The show continues to be a hit, with the fourth season averaging 7.5 million viewers per episode. “What makes Unforgotten so different and provocative for me is Chris Lang’s writing, which is about the characters rather than the story. Character development is the key. Also, his plot twists are great, and you always guess, ‘Who did it?’” Mathew notes.

With high viewership, there’ll likely be a sixth season, with the show’s creator Chris Lang commenting to Radio Times, “I’ve got a season 6 in my head. So yeah, it’s down to whether the broadcaster asked me to do it.” While we await more news, you can watch all episodes of Unforgotten now on ITVX.