Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Remote Control: Working From Home Is Just Another Challenge

Music & Sound
London, UK
String and Tins share their thoughts on making voice overs accessible and keeping storytelling on track

“As the world is turned on its head, we all face multiple new challenges around how to create engaging work remotely, be it work that spreads important messages or simply lifts spirits,” say Mike Bamford and Will Cohen, founders at String and Tins.

Like all companies in the post production industry and beyond, String and Tins have now had to depart their London studios, as advised by the UK government, to a full work from home setup. It would appear no easy feat for those who rely on bespoke soundproofed suites, large scale high-spec equipment and a creative passion which usually takes them all around the world.

“String and Tins was originally born from a desire to get out of the studio and into the wider world to record sound. Performers on set, race-cars on track, camels in the desert. We’ve always found that capturing authentic sounds at the start of the process creates more food for the mix,” says Will.

Working from home can have benefits for the creative process

From early on, the team have had bespoke remote setups installed at home. “We originally installed these home studios to give our staff a better work-life balance,” explains Mike. “We started to win more international work which meant we could be working any hours of the day, so it was important to us to have a base from home.”

But it's not just work-life balance that fuels these decisions, the team believe work from home setups help support the creative process. “As composers or sound designers we often find that to get to the creative crux you sometimes have to change your environment to keep ideas fresh and on track. Sometimes that can be locking yourself in the studio, sometimes bouncing around ideas with clients or even getting some innovative headspace at home.”

Voiceovers are the biggest logistical challenge

Sound effects and music compositions can, within reason, be worked on from anywhere. The team explains that many of their projects past and present have been done remotely, in the same way they would have been in the studio, but it is remote voice overs that can present the biggest challenge.“

Essentially VOs work best when the voice actor is in a space with no background noise, low reflections and is hooked up to the best quality mics. It’s also crucial that they can have close communication with the sound engineer and client. When you action this process remotely, you not only need a high speed connection to whomever you are working with but a good environment and good equipment - at the moment people are having to work with whatever they have.”

One solution to this in the work from home world is that String and Tins are able to deploy remote VO setups to voice actors wherever they are. Sound designer and composer Lawrence Kendrick had been testing this ahead of the London lockdown for a well-known retailer. He says, “this retailer has a high profile voice actor they use across a large proportion of their advertising. They needed to continue on a project but due to the recent government advice this actor was working remotely. We were able to actually deliver a kit of equipment to their house, install some temporary acoustic material, and instruct them on how to set it up via a video link. We have had three sessions this week already, with creatives monitoring / feeding back from their homes, and signing off recordings / final mixes remotely.  We’re thrilled with the results for our clients as their ongoing experiences this week have felt as if they are right there in the studio.”

The team tells us that they now have several remote setups on hand to deploy to actors where needed. “We recognise certain clients need to keep making work as they are key businesses that still need communications - we aren’t talking watch and car makers here... so we are doing everything we can to aid our clients in keeping the wheels turning where possible” adds Will.

Adapting as a client

Whilst sound and music companies are adapting to working from home, so must their clients. Whilst many producers, directors and filmmakers may have experience working with sound designers and composers remotely, for those who don’t, the team at String and Tins explain that the best thing to do is to involve your sound designer at the early stages of the project.“

Offering up our voice at pre-production stage definitely benefits our clients’ production - we’re regularly consulted on logistical and creative audio possibilities at the ideas stage. Working remotely or not, this is a good practice because there may be things we can suggest that could help make the budget stretch further, make the impossible possible or simply add to the narrative,” says Mike. 

Whilst no one yet knows how long we may be working remotely and what challenges may unearth themselves, Mike concludes, “We don’t know all the problems that may lie ahead but we’re adapting every day to the needs of our clients, while looking after our team’s health and safety as best we can.

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