KEN WESTON was an expert film sound engineer, who died at the height of his professional career. Just last month he won the Academy Award for the year's best sound work on the film Gladiator. His colleagues and co- winners Bob Beemer and Scott Millan were in Los Angeles to receive the award, and began their acceptance speech with the words, "First of all, we'd like to dedicate this award to Ken Weston, the other member of our crew, who couldn't be here tonight. He's at home, and we miss him."
A few years ago, the skill involved in producing an expertly recorded and mixed soundtrack would have been of interest primarily to other technicians within the industry, but with the increasing sophistication of cinema sound systems, the development of digital recording and the popularity of home cinema set-ups, such expertise now wins its due approbation. In DVD reviews, for instance, sound is given as much importance as any of the other features. Gladiator is one of the biggest-selling DVDs to date, and Weston earlier worked on the popular musical Evita, starring Madonna, which also earned him an Oscar nomination.
Born Kenneth William Weston in Finsbury Park, London, in 1947, he entered the film industry as a boom operator on Clint Eastwood's spy thriller The Eiger Sanction (1975), and he served the same function on more than 30 films, including two directed by Alan Parker, Bugsy Malone (1976) and Midnight Express (1978), plus Mike Hodges's Flash Gordon (1980), Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) and Milos Forman's film version of Peter Shaffer's play about Mozart and Salieri, Amadeus (1984), which won an Oscar for its sound crew.
After completing his work on Amadeus, Weston was promoted to production sound mixer, heading sound departments in both film and television. One of Gladiator's chief rivals for Oscar honours this year was Traffic, and coincidentally …