Soundtree’s Henning Knoepfel on the opportunities and challenges that come with remote sound design
As lockdown continues across the globe, the industry faces its own challenges in adjusting to remote working. Businesses have had to very quickly learn new ways of working in order to keep the work flowing.
Here, LBB speaks to Henning Knoepfel, sound designer at Soundtree, who offers insight into remote studio work, the surprising upside to home recordings, and his growing collection for a lockdown sound library.
Q> How are you adjusting to remote working?
Henning Knoepfel> It is both a charm and a curse. On the one hand, it is a very collaborative industry and you are lacking the pleasures of colleagues and of feedback. On the other, it was a relatively smooth transition for Soundtree. Myself and all the composers have remote studios and we can share our work instantly with each other. It’s great to see everyone working really effectively together despite the situation. Productivity and efficiency have actually improved - perhaps because we spend less time chatting at the water cooler...!
Q> How did Soundtree respond to the approaching pandemic?
Henning> The people here are very forward thinking. Our managing director, Jay James is super clued up when it comes to work flows and foreseeing any pitfalls that may crop up. We followed the news closely and took cues from what was happening in other countries. In our minds, we knew the lockdown was imminent so we made sure we all had the appropriate software and mics set up at home in preparation.
Another benefit was that we are relatively small so it’s quicker and easier for us to adapt to any change to the environment. We’re always open with our discussions and quick to action things so that’s why we were able to hit the ground running so quickly and efficiently.
Q> Are you able to achieve everything you need to in your home studio?
Henning> Of course you can never really substitute a nice recording or mixing room with your home studio but you can do a lot more than you think, from edits and sketch outs to demos and ideas.
You can do voice recordings and ADR using software and live broadcast to clients for feedback. I can cue and record artists and have the producer online to give creative direction. The only thing is that the artist will need the minimum approved quality standard of microphone but most professional voiceover artists will have this set up in their home studios already.
Q> Are you able to record at the same level of quality?
Henning> The software includes filters that help ignore the acoustics of a bad room but there will be some very small imperfections that only an audio professional will really be able to notice, so the quality is still really high.
Saying that, I do feel that the quality of a home recording can give the sound more of an authentic feel - less clean/sterile and more real. You can work that into the style of the piece.
Q> What’s the workflow been like? Have there been any projects you’ve had to postpone?
Henning> Some did need to be put on hold as it’s not feasible to achieve the level of quality we need for certain projects. But most are still going ahead - we just had to be creative in our approach, whether that’s digging up old footage, using stills or adding new music tracks.
Q> Do you have any advice for how brands can freshen up old campaigns that may be running?
Henning> We’ve actually been doing a bit of that for Uncommon and ITV. By mixing things up you can reveal more elements to the work but be careful not to deviate too far from the original brief into something completely different. The original music and sound is a huge part of the identity of a campaign. A marginal restructure, such as using the same sounds through a different performance, is best to ensure it works.
Q> Have you been doing much foley around the house?
Henning> Absolutely - it’s been a lot of fun! Creativity is born out of limitation, after all. If you had all the toys and tools in the world you could create anything, but if you’re only given a finite amount you’ll have to make do and therein lies the creativity.
I have the whole house at my disposal so I’m adding to my library weekly. By the end of the lockdown I may have recorded my entire house... I’ll call it the lockdown library.