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Ed de Lacy’s Sound Design Is Firmly Rooted in Musical Sounds

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Clearcut Sound Studios’ sound designer tells LBB how he approaches briefs, his creative process, and commitment to musical sounds over synthetic ones

Ed de Lacy’s Sound Design Is Firmly Rooted in Musical Sounds

Is there a universal idea of what sound design is? To me, it’s all about the craft of telling a story through sound and bringing your own personality and interpretation of a brief. It’s about so much more than just putting sound to images - audio can tell a story all on its own. A misconception persists that sound design is simply placing sound effects from a library and arranging them to picture in a linear sequence. This is an easy misunderstanding of the craft and the many possibilities within sound design. 


Sound is all around us. It bombards most of us in our busy, daily lives. It’s something we all innately relate to. As a sound designer my role is to reinforce a story or narrative using music and sound, complementing it along the way. Bad sound design can be picked up on immediately, but when done well, it should be immersive and help the piece as a whole to be properly taken in by an audience without distraction. 


With each sound design brief, I try to think about my interests and inspirations, and how I can bring elements of the things I’m passionate about to help spark a creative idea. I’m most interested in blurring the lines between music and sound design. When composing music to picture, I have a lot of freedom to create the musical sounds I believe will work with a particular moment, which in turn helps to envision how I’ll be able to enhance it further with sound design elements. The aim is for the final sound - the music and sound design - to communicate emotion cohesively as one, not as two separate entities.


Twinings


Twinings came to Clearcut Sound Studios with a very clear brief and a strong sense of what they wanted for their new product launch. The brand knew they needed to move beyond their current image if they were to reach a different, younger audience with this new product. Colourful, fresh and energetic were the words they used to counter any prior conceptions about their previous traditional tea advertising. 


This spot was primarily a composition job to which I then added sound design, thinking about the relationship of both of those elements as I created the main track. The spot’s impact moment is when the tea bag hits the water and starts to explode with flavour. Following the brief, I knew that I wanted to make the sound very contemporary. It didn’t have to be happy, it could have a moody edge to it. Using exaggerated sidechain compression between the kick drum and a lot of the other instrumentation I created the feeling of water moving, swirling all around on screen, communicating a sense of depth and breadth. 


Commonwealth 


When working with a highly emotive subject like domestic and sexual violence, as in the case of The Commonwealth campaign, it was important to take a light touch, letting the main message - delivered by FKA Twigs - take the lead. I kept the musical component really light, with simple pads and strings, and a subtle key change to transform the melancholy of the track into something more hopeful. The aim was to communicate the possibility of optimism and hope to anyone watching. A less is more approach was needed here to maintain the focus on the central message, with moments of silence and stillness working to reinforce its gravity. 


Fizik


This spot is a fusion of my professional and personal interests - one of my passions is riding bikes fast, so with this brief, the brand and I were on the same page immediately. Fizik wanted to get away from tropes all too typically seen in advertising for the cycling industry. I feel on occasion it can be overly dramatic and also fairly exclusive in who it’s trying to appeal to. 


Fizik wanted to showcase their new product in a naturalistic, relatable environment, emphasising the marriage of tech innovation and the human element in one. Music from a production library was used as a base and my challenge was to add dynamism while maintaining a sense of the serene and the ethereal. It’s all too easy to create something loud and attention grabbing with up front and obvious sound design - it’ll definitely be noticed, but in this case would it effectively communicate the brand message? 


The final spot has subtle natural sounds with textural elements to highlight the technology, but it’s not overwhelming. When the camera shifts to highlight an element of the saddle, I used strange plucked, broken string sounds that fizz in the higher frequency range to add intrigue that was intentionally almost imperceptible. I like to experiment with low-end frequencies a lot in my work (and as a drum and bass DJ/producer in my spare time too) and there’s a moment in the spot when the shot zooms in on the tech; there, I went for a textural warping bass layer (that might not be out of place in a jungle track) to get a futuristic sense of dimension and presence that could translate the material properties of the product through sound. 


By considering the nuances and different approaches to these pieces of work I have shown that by thinking about how sound lives in a space, its dynamic range, and how it interacts with other sounds, a sound designer can complement, influence, or alter the feel of visuals - and indeed create visuals where there were none. By reaching for natural sounds, like percussion, strings, or the human voice - over synthetic ones - I’m crafting something that’s more recognisable as familiar to the human ear and therefore potentially, hopefully, more impactful. 


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Clearcut Sound Studios, Fri, 20 May 2022 10:04:36 GMT