Scottie Richardson is a Sound Designer/Audio Engineer with Lucky Post in Dallas (www.lucky-post.com). Here, he discusses the challenges of creating artful and effective sound design.
Today, the world of the mixer and sound designer is one that encompasses everything, from immersive experiences to the tiniest phone speakers. While digital was once an afterthought, today it often leads the conversation. What does that mean to someone who lives and breathes sound?
The starting point is always the artistry of sound and mix. Tailoring the audio suite to specific projects keeps the work across these platforms polished. I have reconfigured my room to replicate the soundscape of a custom helmet designed for an NFL VR project and often test playbacks offsite to put myself in the viewer’s day-to-day mobile experience. In the case of a spot hinging on an effect that cannot be heard well on a mobile phone — like a low, booming noise — I make modifications so the creative retains impact. Part of my job is to be inventive so that the sound design is approached not only artfully, but effectively.
There is no technology that substitutes for time and these intuitions developed over time are key. Mentorship is an often overlooked part of our industry, but we need to reignite interest in passing along knowledge to people who have less experience. Typically, people new to the ad industry have exciting big ideas but lack the understanding of implementation the way more seasoned artists and creatives do. Mentorship unites the two, building greater success up front.
Which leads me to trust. Trust to make the best decisions since it is difficult to replicate every situation (not all mobile phones are the same, etc.). I honestly enjoy watching ads, but a lot of people try their best to avoid them. That challenges agency creatives to develop interesting ways to reach audiences, either through really amazing spots or through experiences — VR or site specific, and yes, digital.
A campaign I thought harnessed this reality to the forefront was Geico’s Unskippable series. The spots grab you within the first :03 with an original, comedic approach. So much so that you want to hang on for the remaining :57. At Lucky Post, the immersive project I worked on was Verizon’s NFL VR experience. New England Patriot game attendees stepped inside a giant helmet that placed them as virtual players on the field, with stadium sounds, a voiceover play-by-play announcer and sideline coaches commenting on the participant’s performance.
These are just two of a growing number of innovative ways agencies are looking to connect. And when someone quips that an idea “sounds great,” we want it to be literal so that eyes and ears stay tuned in.