100 Years since the Irish Easter Rising, and the first ever BBC VR Documentary

I’ve been tucked away in the studio since getting back from GDC (on a side note, wow…) working hard on one of the most exciting projects of my career to date.  A BBC commissioned documentary to commemorate 100 years since the Irish Easter Rising…to be presented in virtual reality!  The piece was to be based around a factual audio recording from the 1970’s – a gentleman named Willy McNeive’s personal account of the GPO siege, and the pivotal moments surrounding it.

Oscar Raby and Katy Morrison of VRTOV sat me down for a meeting in December last year to discuss a rather exciting proposition.  I would be working sound design, and additional composition/arranging for the piece.  We had been given creative control over a piece custom-written by London group ‘The High Llamas’ (including Willy McNeive’s grandson!).  Utilising their recording stems and some of my own compositional ‘superglue’, it was my task to turn a progressive, linear piece written purely to match the 1970s dialogue recording in an ‘audio book’ style, into an immersive VR soundtrack to compliment the impressionistic visuals, match the emotional narrative, and dynamically shift when environment events were triggered by the user. This was a very interesting challenge, as the original piece’s sections, instrumentation, and general emotional vibe were incredibly contrasting!  The High Llamas had recorded everything from rich string ensembles to soothing guitars, synth warbles and highly dissonant piano progressions. Safe to say, there was never a dull moment in fragmenting, reversing, layering, re-harmonising and jigsawing it all together!

In addition to musical and highly atmospheric sound design duties, it fell to me to work with sculpting the new dialogue track…none other than Game of Thrones’ Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham).  As a MASSIVE Game of Thrones nerd (books and all), I’ve never enjoyed editing dialogue more than I did Liam’s wonderful voice acting abilities.

‘Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel’ is having it’s world premiere this weekend at Sheffield Documentary Festival, and I’m very sad to be on the other side of the world from it.  Nonetheless, the feedback so far has been fantastic.  Congrats to all involved, and an extra big thank you to my technical minions for this project: Brendan, Loki and Joe!

Check the original anouncement post and trailer here

Chris O'Neill

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