As a sound designer with over 30 years of experience, I believe that projects are conceived through a highly-trustworthy process between the sound designer and the content creators. In my career, I’ve been lucky to work on projects where sound truly transforms visuals and serves as a pivotal part in the agency and brand’s ultimate storytelling.
This past year I’ve been working on Ford’s F-150 spots, which are far from your typical truck commercials. When the creatives at GTB brought me on, I understood their overarching vision and could bring the spots to life through sound — something that's especially crucial when there is no music.
The spots combine quick cuts with a humorous voiceover by Dennis Leary, and it was my job to reinforce the quick editing and supply a soundtrack that pushes the humor, while also showing the power of the F-150.
I found moments where I would use real sounds, like a cash register or a rooster call, but what made these sounds work is how they were juxtaposed against visuals that were neither a cash register nor a chicken. Like all aspects of filmmaking, sound design is a very subjective art form. There is a fine line between being an overly indulgent ‘sound guy,’ who puts in ‘cool’ sound effects that really don’t work, and finding a balance where the sounds push the visuals and add to the humorous aspects without being too ‘cartoony.’
Through years of experience, designers gain taste and perspective on what will be most effective at each moment. But there's also a lot of experimenting. Sometimes you put a sound in and it doesn't work, but that's the process. Based on my taste and creativity, what I'm left with is sometimes the fifteenth or hundredth sound I've tried for each moment. This is where the trust really comes into play.
Throughout this sound journey for Ford, it became very clear that the soundscape I created became its own brand. Thus, the viewer is able to experience the many emotions that happen when sound is juxtaposed against a visual; powerful in some moments, and in the next, whimsical. Every cut had a sound, and every sound had its purpose in moving the story to its emblematic conclusion.
It isn’t often that sounds play the role of storyteller, and I was thrilled to do my part in this journey.
Marshall Grupp is a Partner, COO and Sound Designer at Sound Lounge in New York City. Visit the studio’s Website at: http://soundlounge.com.