Tips from the experts: An afternoon with David Hamilton-Smith

This week I was extremely fortunate to be in the company of David Hamilton-Smith; renowned recording engineer, dubbing mixer, sound supervisor, producer and manager. If that wasn’t impressive enough; my colleges and I got a chance to hear him share his experiences from his time working at Olympic Studios with the likes of The Rolling stones, The Eagles, The Who, Eric Clapton, Sir Paul McCartney and many other greats. From Live music recording to television and film post production, David has done it all, and has many comical stories alongside his progression in the business.

In addition to these wonderful tales, David was kind enough to pass on some very simple, yet highly significant advice which I feel honoured to pass on to those studying or looking to study sound at a professional level:

  1. Get ready to be asked for the near impossible – An employer usually has three objectives from a sound tech: to be Cheap, Quick and Quality and one can usually be two of these attributes at a time. Don’t ever suggest you can do something you can’t; It will only end in disappointment on both ends. A producer will always want to reduce costs and time, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job properly. Work with your team, be realistic. Remember Sound tends to be at the end of a production so time will always be something you’re fighting for, if you have agreed a time schedule stick to it, never cut corners to get a quick fix.
  2. Work with your team – If you ever get the chance go to film locations or meet the editor, take advantage of it. Know what your location layout should be, this will help with atmospheric sounds, if the screen cant portray a moment, a sound may, so why don’t work together.
  3. Not all background music builds tension – Experiment, use your atmospheric sounds to build up a scene, this is a well known technique but not always an obvious one, The Godfather (1972) demonstrates this well. If you want to use music to build tension, don’t make it too complicated. A good example is Jaws, (1975); this is an established simple piece of music that will be associated with sharks forever.
  4. Always remember sound production is subjective – Yes, you need to be able to correctly execute your ADR, effects, foley and all objective metrics, but the rest is down to personal opinion. Be ‘thick skinned’ and open to views and criticism; you might even need it. Keep the relationship with your employer honest, but humble. Experience makes a good sound tech, and experience comes with plenty of employment.

These practical tips are honest and helpful approach to sound engineering from a hard working, professional.

I would like to personally Thank David Hamilton-Smith for his enlightening and sincere talk, as an aspiring sound designer I know they will make me think twice in the studio next week, and hopefully for the foreseeable future.

Take a look at David’s career at


2 thoughts on “Tips from the experts: An afternoon with David Hamilton-Smith

  1. David Hamilton-Smith says:

    Hi there Paula. I am very happy with almost all of this. However, I have one slight niggle: for accuracy I would rather you said “. . . working at Olympic Studios, where iconic artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Queen, and Barbra Streisand all recorded, many of whom David worked with.”
    I didn’t actually work with The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, but was there at that time. Later I worked with Paul McCartney after the Beatles broke up – They actually split up after a monumental row in Studio One at Olympic!
    I hope you don’t mind this alteration as I would not want to take credit for something I did not do!!
    Many thanks,

    I enjoyed speaking to everyone and, if you’ll have me, would certainly like to do it again some time. Please pass on my best wishes to everyone on their assignments. I’d be interested to see what approaches different people have to the same project.

    Liked by 1 person

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