BBC’s new drama faces backlash over sound quality

Boiling Point
The show's debut episode drew in an audience of 2.4 million - James Stack

The BBC’s new restaurant drama, Boiling Point, has been hit by complaints from viewers who say they cannot hear the dialogue over the clanging of pans and sizzling of steaks.

The series, a sequel to the 2021 film of the same name, stars Vinette Robinson as the head chef in a busy kitchen. In each episode, she leads the team through one frenetic night of service.

But it is the latest BBC show to be beset by sound problems, causing the audience to switch off.

Sunday night’s launch episode drew an audience of 2.4 million. However, on social media, many viewers said they would not be sticking with the series.

One said: “Yet another BBC drama I can’t make head nor tail of because the sound is awful and it’s impossible to make out the dialogue. Half an hour was more than enough for me.”

“Absolutely awful sound mix. What a disappointment,” said another.

George Mann, a BBC News journalist, wrote: “I am sure Boiling Point is very good but sound quality is killing it, can’t hear the dialogue.”

James Drake, the drama’s supervising sound editor, demonstrated on social media how some of the sound effects were done.

The clattering of stainless steel utensils and the noise of a hot frying pan being lowered into a sink of cold water were recorded separately and added in post-production.

Boiling Point
The cast have said they were given rudimentary culinary training in preparation for the series - James Stack

Jules Woods, one of the engineers responsible for the sound mixing, recommended before the show went out that viewers listen to it in 5.1 surround sound.

“If you have the power – I would recommend. There’s a lot of movement and space that we put into the sound of the episodes which really pops in surround,” Woods said on Twitter.

However, viewers without surround sound system, including a soundbar and other speakers, would not have any benefit.

‘Cocktail party effect’

Simon Clark, head of production sound recording at the National Film and TV School and director of the Institute of Professional Sound, said that viewers without surround sound systems could struggle to understand what was being said.

He referred to the “cocktail party effect”, in which the brain is able to filter out other sounds in a loud room and zone in on a particular conversation.

“It is partly a mental process, partly to do with your ears, and it gets more difficult as you get older,” Clark said.

“If you listen in 5.1, the words come out of the sound bar in front of you, while the music and other sound effects come from the corners. The cocktail party effect is increased.

“But if you have a conventional TV, all the sound coming out of this thin bit of plastic gets folded into a single point. Plus, a lot of the sounds in a kitchen – the crashing and banging – are very tinny and on the same frequency as speech, making it more difficult to separate them all when you’re watching.”

Phil Barantini, the show’s director and executive producer, previously worked as a chef and tried to make the environment as realistic as possible.

The cast were given rudimentary kitchen training, but Robinson said: “As for technical skills, it’s all smoke and mirrors, I’m afraid. We have hand doubles who make us look great as there wasn’t enough time for us to learn how to chop quickly, for example.

“We did have some knife skills in the first week, and I chopped a lot of mushrooms at home, but it was decided it was too dangerous to let us near very sharp knives.”

The BBC admitted there was a problem and said it was working to improve the quality of the remaining three episodes. A spokesman said: “There is a limited sound issue which has affected some viewers. BBC iPlayer viewing is unaffected.

“The series is currently being reviewed and any necessary technical adjustments needed will be made ahead of next week’s episode.”