Over the last 20 years Production Sound Mixer Simon Hayes has worked on more than 45 feature films, including the acclaimed 2012 version of Les Misérables, which won him an Oscar, a BAFTA and a CAS Award in the sound and sound mixing categories.
After starting work as a runner for a Commercial production company when he was just 16, Simon moved into the sound department as an assistant and then boom operator, before mixing his first feature film at the age of 27. Since then he has collaborated with many directors including Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick Ass and X-Men:First Class), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Revolver, King Arthur: Knights of the Round Table) David Yates (Tarzan), Ridley Scott (Prometheus, The Counselor) Danny Boyle (Trance), Daniel Barber (Harry Brown), Paul Greengrass (Green Zone), Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead).
One of the key innovations in production sound that Simon has pioneered is the use of DPA bodyworn lavalier microphones to record both dialogue and live singing, particularly in multi camera shooting environments. He first introduced this technique in 2008 on Mamma Mia!, primarily because he had recently discovered DPA lavalier microphones and was convinced they were sonically good enough for the task.
"At the planning stage, Benny Andersson from Abba and his longtime engineer Bernard Lohr told me that they had tried every lavalier on the market to try and achieve studio quality vocals on the stage show of Mamma Mia," Simon explains. "Eventually, they had arrived at DPA, which they considered to be the only lavalier microphone that could provide them with music studio quality.
"When judging different lavaliers up until that point I had always considered the differences in sound to be a matter of taste rather than a clear cut situation of one brand being superior. That was until I listened to a DPA up against the competition. In my opinion the DPA is better, more open sounding, less chesty and sounds more like a boom mic than any other lavaliers I have heard.”
This good experience with DPA bodyworn microphones
meant that Simon had no concerns about using them four years later on the set of Les Misérables. Director Tom Hooper wanted 'truth and energy' from the casts’ performances and because of Simon’s confidence in DPA he was able to support Tom’s vision of no pre-recording or miming. Both Tom and Simon felt the best way to achieve a truly emotional performance was by recording live. However, this did present some challenges with the miking.
"Normally when I am recording a film I tend to use boom mics as a priority, especially if the scene is being shot with a single camera," Simon explains. "But with Les Misérables, Tom wanted all the angles covered from all sides to capture the perfect performance. This meant we couldn’t rely so heavily on the boom because the wider angle coverage would stop it getting close enough. Our solution was to come at the recording from a different angle and make DPA lavalier microphones our priority.”
In total Simon has over 60 DPA d:screet™ 4071 and 4061 lavalier microphones
at his disposal, all of which were supplied by Richmond Films in conjunction with DPA’s UK distributor Sound Network. The results speak for themselves – the film was a huge hit and the sound was considered such an important element of this success that it won the sound team numerous awards.