UK Screen's Conch Awards, celebrating the best in audio talent, took place last week. Michael Burns takes a closer look at the winners in the main broadcast categories.

Best audio on entertainment
Winner: Evolutions for Top Gear: Polar Special

Q&A with Stewart Harper, dubbing mixer at Evolutions

What was your audio set-up on this project?
“Protools HD3 system and ProControl.”

What were the most notable and challenging aspects to your audio work on this project?
“My concern with this job was that the Arctic plains are silent. I didn't want to just smother the whole thing in Arctic wind, but did want to fill out the soundtrack at times. So it lent itself to sound design at times just to keep the soundtrack interesting. Luckily the Toyota Hilux featured in the programme sounded great.”

What set this Top Gear episode apart from other jobs you've worked on?
“Although I've mixed many episodes of Top Gear before, this felt completely unrelated. It showed the presenters on a pretty rough journey and although at times I had to balance the screaming engine against equally loud music there were also many quieter more tense moments of drama.”

What was the biggest challenge overall?
“There is always a very tight schedule with Top Gear. Fortunately, for Polar Challenge, I had a couple of extra days. The really interesting part will come when they decide to mix it in 5.1.”

The jury's verdict:
According to Dennis Weinreich, the audio work on Top Gear always rates highly with Conch juries. “The way it's constructed and put together has some real challenges from a sound point of view,” he says. “It's always entertaining and does a good job.

“This particular show was incredibly challenging - not simply a case of shooting these guys on a track somewhere.”

In Polar Special, Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May attempted to become the first men ever to drive a car to the North Pole, using a heavily modified Toyota pick-up truck, while Richard Hammond went the more traditional route using a sled pulled by a team of dogs. “This trek through the Arctic Circle was difficult,” says Weinreich.

“It sounded great. It looked great. However the post-production team weren't in a position to take a lot of wild tracks. It sounded completely natural and yet was very, very exciting.”