January 28, 2011
Vintage Royal Microphones Unearthed to Record The Kings Speech.
LONDON, Friday 28th January 2011: Genuine vintage microphones used by the British Royal Family and dating back to 1923 were retrieved from Abbey Road Studios’ vaults to ensure a totally authentic sound for the speeches in the OSCAR nominated film The Kings Speech.
The score to The King’s Speech was composed by Alexandre Desplat, and recorded, mixed and mastered at Abbey Road Studios.
Senior recording engineer Peter Cobbin recorded the sessions, assisted by Sam Okell and John Barrett. But this was no ordinary recording project. Instead of using contemporary equipment to record the score, Peter was able to employ vintage royal microphones that were actually used by the British Royal Family, including King George VI himself.
Peter Cobbin reveals the story behind the recording:
“I was thrilled when Alexandre Desplat called to ask if I could record his score for an upcoming film, The King’s Speech. What I knew, but couldn’t let on then, was that many years ago on a mission to seek out vintage Abbey Road recording equipment, I had noticed some microphones held at the EMI archives which had been used by the British Royal Family. These microphones were made by EMI dating back to 1923, and were used by the Royal Family for speeches on significant occasions.
It was exciting to know we had the very microphone used by King George VI, the central character of this film, and I thought how appropriate and inspiring it would be to have the microphones present at our recording sessions. The royal microphones are works of highly skilled craftsmanship. They are aesthetically pleasing and iconic, built with unsurpassed gilt, silver and chrome details, bearing royal coats of arms and other individual insignia.
The EMI Archive Trust kindly granted permission for five microphones to be taken to Abbey Road where one of our senior technicians, Lester Smith, was able to restore three of these to good working condition. I adapted a classic recording technique (Decca tree) and took pleasure in making our own ‘royal family tree’ by using microphones built for HM King George V, HM King George V1 and HM Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).
As an experiment which proved to be a bonus, I managed to re-record the speeches that are heard in the film through these microphones, adding a wonderful authenticity to the natural filtering and tone to the actors’ voices. In addition, my colleague and fellow engineer at Abbey Road, Andrew Dudman, recorded the classical source music with these microphones in the same manner.
It was a rare opportunity for us to deliver the music and sound with such a unified audio concept, and of course this wonderful project enabled us to draw on the unique historic resources of Abbey Road Studios and the EMI Archive trust.”
The King’s Speech has been awarded the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, and is nominated for Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Score at the 2011 OSCARS. The film is now showing in UK cinemas nationwide.
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