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A Sound Investment: Girl&Bear Partners with Jungle Studios on Bespoke In-House Audio Facility

Music & Sound 215 Add to collection

LBB speaks to the teams on how this power partnership came into play to offer specialist support and a more streamlined service

A Sound Investment: Girl&Bear Partners with Jungle Studios on Bespoke In-House Audio Facility

VCCP’s global content creation studio, Girl&Bear has partnered with Jungle Studios on a state of the art, in-house audio suite, offering clients a more streamlined service with increased touch points across projects.

To find out how this partnership has bolstered both business and creative craft, LBB speaks with Girl&Bear head of post production, Louise Gray-Murray; head of film and content, Olly Calverley; and Jungle Studios managing director, Graham Ebbs.

LBB> Tell us about how the idea for having an in-house high quality sound studio first came to you and what led to the decision. And why were Jungle Studios the right fit?

Olly> We’d been talking for a while about the benefit of having a sound capability on site, as we produce a vast array of work for different brands, from commercials, long form and social content of all shapes and sizes, to internal corporate videos and mood films. 

Having just launched Girl&Bear, our work demands and speed of turnaround are, happily, higher than ever, both in terms of the production itself and feedback within that. We knew that having a high quality studio and talent linked into our creatives, producers and editors/post team would be hugely beneficial.

Jungle has a brilliantly diverse roster of engineering talent that can handle any kind of brief; large or small. They were keen to get involved and built a state of the art recording and mixing studio within the agency that’s linked with their Soho studios, which we can run work to and from in real time. It’s been great.

LBB> And Graham, what were your initial thoughts when VCCP came to you?

Graham> I was contacted by someone at VCCP whom I’d previously worked with at Jungle.  His experience meant he knew how complex building and running sound studios could be, so he was interested in looking into partnering with an established audio facility rather than building and running their audio suites themselves. It seemed to be a sound proposition in theory, so after a few initial meetings we worked up a business plan together.  

LBB> Louise, why was bringing sound in-house an important move for the business? 

Louise> Girl&Bear launched with a promise to deliver craft without compromise for all of its clients. So we want to ensure we deliver on that promise in all areas, including sound. We always say, we will partner with the right talent for the job, but there is no denying that having world-class sound facilities to sit within the studio and having the best talent at our fingertips has bolstered our offering to our clients. 

Having a dedicated sound studio in-house not only makes business sense from an efficiency perspective, but it also means we can access expert advice and talent as we progress with any client brief. 

LBB> Jungle has a lot of experience with the physical build of sound studios, how were you able to bring your expertise to advise in the build of the in-house studio at Girl&Bear?

Graham> We designed and built the studio ourselves – as we have all our studios over the years. We were allocated a section of floor area, completed an E&M and natural light survey and then designed around that. Girl&Bear wanted a studio which was built to the same size and standards as our Soho rooms, but since we didn't have the same control over the building we elected to build the studio in modular sections off-site and then simply assemble them in G&B over a long weekend once complete. The interiors were then finished inside the sealed envelope – which allowed G&B to continue to operate as normal.

LBB> What are your beliefs on the intrinsic relationship between visuals and sound?

Louise> Sound is such a key component of post; post for production, but particularly production in post - such as animation or motion graphics projects. Having this level of capability within Girl&Bear enables truly aligned creative development and production throughout the entire process; from conception to delivery. 

The pace and ‘life’ of an edit, animation or motion graphics piece is governed - especially at the outset - by the audio, to which the timings are mapped. Having Jungle within our offices means an edit can come alive in a totally different way, just by changing the track, developing a piece of sound design, even casting the V/O. 

Of course, it’s often an already assigned aspect of the creative, though there are times when the track or sound design is still in question, or even yet to be discussed, so to have such a collaborative relationship with Jungle naturally brings these conversations into the creative development arena, allowing us, at an early stage, to investigate alternative routes or present options that have already been through the due diligence of the pace and feel of the work. And while these close relationships are not unusual in film or long form - driven by a director’s relationship - they are less so within the agency/post facility/sound facility trinity.

Graham> Sound is a powerful tool in itself – it can evoke emotions in a way that visuals on their own simply can’t. Listening to your favourite piece of music will underline this point. So visuals absolutely need sound to reach their maximum potential. The art comes in making the two work together so perfectly that the sound effectively becomes invisible – which is something of a paradox! 

LBB> Working in close partnership must allow you both to communicate across a client’s project better and share knowledge outside of your own bubbles. How has this played out and what have you learned from each other so far?

Louise> VCCP was founded on a number of principles but one of the most important driving forces is our ethos that ‘it only works, if it all works’. This ethos and our collaboration has led us to be a recognised and awarded integrated agency, and it lives and breathes through every area of our partnership. 

Our collaboration with Jungle is just at the start of its journey, and it’s already so exciting. The reality of our partnership means we have the right people working together at the right times, making our communication with one another and our clients stronger than ever. It means we brainstorm together, tackle challenges together, and deliver our best work together. And best of all, we’re beginning to learn from one another and upskill some of our more junior G&B and Jungle-ers into new worlds. 

Graham> It’s working on both a creative and practical level. Generally speaking, one of the frustrations for most sound designers across the board is that they never feel they were involved at an early enough stage in the client’s project. The advantage to both sides in having a presence within the agency is that these conversations can happen much more easily – and therefore they happen. It’s given us the opportunity to work in partnership with the G&B teams. We’ve also been able to bring some of their staff over to Jungle in Soho so that they can get a better feel of how we’re set up on a technical level so that project files can be moved around far more efficiently between us.  

LBB> What are the benefits for a production facility to have a bespoke sound studio service? 

Graham> A partnership can really help in a number of ways:  

- Clients can have access to different engineers with different creative approaches rather than be tied to the “in-house” engineer. On a more mundane note, sick days also become less of an issue.
- The studio runs as part of our main studio infrastructure and is backed up and updated on the same servers – meaning the engineers can access any job at any time along with the full database of sfx and music that we hold.  
- If the client has previously worked on the job in Soho it can be restored from the server and continued in the on-site studio – and vice versa.
- Any changes which need to be carried out can be done far more rapidly because they can be completed in Soho if needs be.  
- The client gets access to all the support provided by our bookings team – things like arranging remote VO recordings with studios worldwide or casting for instance. 
- Specialist support – audio studios generally need a higher level of maintenance than video suites due to the physical number of connections involved. The on-site studio also gets all the software and hardware updates which our main studios get.

We set out to form a true partnership – and I think that is what we have created.  

LBB> How have clients reacted to this offering so far? 

Graham> So far, so good! The pandemic meant we couldn’t launch in March 2020 as expected, but we created a remote “virtual” studio which allowed us to get up and running – and finally opened the on-site studio in August 2021. The feedback we’ve had so far has been extremely positive, so the theory does seem to work in practice – although I should really allow Louise at G&B to be the judge of that…

LBB> Traditionally, agencies have their trusted sound engineer that they use for most projects - why is it important to break this cycle?

Louise> I don’t think it's a cycle that’s necessarily in need of breaking. All relationships within the creative process are important, and yes it's vital to keep an open mind, try new collaborations, share the LBB (pun intended!). 

Of course there are the trusted go-to folk we all have directors, colourists, sound engineers… to name a few. However, I think joining forces with other respected organisations allows all involved to develop truly valuable partnerships - beyond simply fulfilling the creative brief, enabling a way of working where we learn to embrace each other's craft. 

Olly> I’d say there are huge benefits to trusted working relationships in terms of creative shortcuts - understanding instinctively what each other wants, needs and means. There are endless examples of that. We already have trusted relationships with many of the Jungle engineers, so we’re still using them and developing new ones through them with other engineers over there all the time. So it’s more about evolving that cycle.

Graham> I don’t think we’ve ever set out to break this cycle – creatives and directors will always have their favourite editors/ sound designers/ composers for all sorts of different reasons and in the instances where this really matters there’s nothing wrong with it. The intention that we had was to allow very high quality audio projects to be carried out within the agency making it easier for producers and creatives to access the quality of staff and services they’d normally have to come to Soho for. 

That said, we’ve always placed a very high value on the importance of training (reflected in the number of ex-Jungle sound designers who have forged very successful careers for themselves). This in turn means that if the preferred engineer is not available, we have some very, very good alternatives on offer – and quite often the alternative can become the preferred...    

LBB> As a company, how much importance do you place on modernising the sometimes outdated traditional processes in post production to offer future-facing solutions?

Louise> The majority of tools we use these days have altered beyond recognition; we no longer physically cut negative and splice it with another shot but the process you need to follow is, by necessity, very much the same as it has been for decades. 

This is the same with footage shot on a high-end Industry camera as it is for a piece of run-and-gun, shot on an iPhone. Irrespective of how something was shot or originated, the advantage of an essentially digital world enables an agility to the workflow that the physical process didn’t. It means we can cut to different tracks, lay back numerous VOs and essentially get all aspects of the project up and moving much earlier. This is an invaluable aspect of 21st Century production. 

Olly> I think for us it’s important to look at each project and think about how good it could be. And if that means doing things differently to get there, then we go for it. In terms of audio and the traditional process, pulling the sound into the creative process earlier on many projects is hugely beneficial. Animation has always done that but with live action having editors and sound designers working together can often lead to a much stronger piece. 

Graham> The post industry is probably more competitive than it has ever been – and we have to constantly evaluate our position in the market, clients changing requirements, working practices and the services we offer. When we opened in 1994 we banned smoking, 13 years before it became law – which immediately made us the most pleasant studio to work in in the whole of Soho! 

There’s always other ways of doing things – but they don’t always work. We attempted remote working with a big agency way back in 2003, but the ability to shift large amounts of data in real-time back then eluded us!

If nothing else, the status quo is boring – change is more challenging and therefore more fun. And I also think Jungle is fairly unique in that we have a brilliant in-house team of technicians and some extremely tech savvy sound designers. We all love a good problem to solve. Without the ability to pull a team like that together for a project like this I think it would have failed at the first hurdle.

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Jungle Studios, Wed, 18 May 2022 09:22:00 GMT