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Thinking In Sound: Sabina Pająk-Maciaś on Hearing the Written Word

Music & Sound 496 Add to collection

Platige Image's sound producer on being a people person, having a hyper organised Spotify and hearing a million sounds around

Thinking In Sound: Sabina Pająk-Maciaś on Hearing the Written Word

A graduate of the Pedagogical University of Krakow with a degree in political science, Sabina has been involved with the advertising industry for the past ten years. She joined Platige in 2016 as a sound producer to support the company in managing sound production for commercials, public awareness campaigns, and animated content for domestic and foreign clients and overseeing sound production for video game trailers.


LBB> When you’re working on a new brief or project, what’s your typical starting point? How do you break it down and how do you like to generate your ideas or response?

Sabina> When working on a brief for a given project, when we don't yet have a completed edit, I try to get as much detailed information as possible about the essential components of the final sound, i.e., usually 

a) the music we'll be looking for, its character, style, instrumentation,

b) the voice artist we'll need - tone of voice or age

c) the type of sound design that will complement it all

I always try to start the conversation by defining the emotions that the client wants to evoke in the film through sound. We talk about the functions sound fulfils in the spot or film, about the moods it's supposed to produce. These discussions allow me to choose voiceover artists with the right timbre, and music consultants with whom I cooperate can find the music proposal that will fulfil the role expected by the client.  

We often rely on existing references, which allow us to understand and ‘visualise’ the final sound. Then in the post-production process, we try to work out the expected effect using sound, music, and voiceover recording.


LBB> Music and sound are in some ways the most collaborative and interactive forms of creativity - what are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer to work solo or with a gang - and what are some of your most memorable professional collaborations?

Sabina> As the saying goes: two heads are better than one. I love people, relations with them, everyday conversations, and actions. If the project allows and there is space for it, I cooperate with several people who have experience, who can add something from themselves and look at the task with a fresh eye.

One of the projects that will always remain in my memory is the trailer for the game Metro Exodus. The sound design was created over several months and was a well-coordinated collaboration between director Tomasz Suwalski, composer Alexey Omelchuk and sound designer Wojtek Cholaściński. Additionally, the participation of numerous actors lending their voices was significant, including a boy from a Moscow acting agency singing a lullaby on an online recording. As a result of this close cooperation, we got the final soundtrack which makes me shiver every time I listen. And I am probably not alone in this feeling as this project received the Silver Sword KTR in 2019 for sound design.


LBB> What’s the most satisfying part of your job and why?

Sabina> I love the stage of actual action after accepting the budget and discussing the brief / concept/idea with the agency, client, director. This is when I start organising the work on the project. I talk a lot, choose the right people to work with, plan its various stages, coordinate cooperation. It's what I like the most. 

We already have a complete team, so it works. We can implement the sound assumptions from the brief together, meet, choose the right sounds, try things out. Then, as the hours, days, or even weeks pass, the individual elements of the whole sound puzzle slowly begin to appear, i.e., the actual music, sound FX, and voiceover recording. We begin to 'hear' the written word. And when the coordinated work of many people, i.e., music consultants, voiceover artists, sound engineers, or composers, finally evokes positive emotions and meets the client's expectations, I know that I have done a good job.


LBB> As the advertising industry changes, how do you think the role of music and sound is changing with it?

Sabina> I think music, along with sound design, is becoming more recognised. Very slowly, but it is catching on. More and more space in treatments or production plans is devoted to sound design and music. More and more companies, apart from designing their visual side in a logotype, also decide to create their brand image through sound identification. More and more often, projects devote much more time to discussing sound aspects, choosing the right music, or selecting the right voice. And this is good news because we know that sound and music have a huge impact on our mood and emotions, and they influence associations, perception, and memory. And for those who do not believe or do not have enough time to think about the sound in the project, I always say that they should try to watch their movie with the sound turned off…


LBB> Who are your musical or audio heroes and why?

Sabina> There is not one main character in this story. There are many. I seem to have a special appreciation for film music composers - Hans Zimmer and his work above all. It all started in 1996 after seeing ‘The Rock’... That was my first encounter with film music, which made a massive impression on me. I listened to it everywhere on my portable CD player. His music allows me to take a personal journey, full of emotions and feelings, deep within myself every single time I listen to it.


LBB> When you’re working on something that isn’t directly sound design or music (lets say going through client briefs or answering emails) - are you the sort of person who needs music and noise in the background or is that completely distracting to you? What are your thoughts on ‘background’ sound and music as you work?

Sabina> Music accompanies me during most of the day. Sometimes it's quieter, sometimes louder, but always present. Depending on the time of day or tasks ahead of me, I choose suitable playlists and the appropriate volume. One's for work; another, for cleaning, yet another for activities like snowboarding or biking. Music doesn't disturb me at all; it helps me to focus, motivates me to act, and helps me to relax when necessary. And when there is no music, I hear a million sounds around; every murmur, rustle, or rasp, there is no silence, so I definitely prefer music.


LBB> I guess the quality of the listening experience and the context that audiences listen to music/sound in has changed over the years. There’s the switch from analogue to digital and now we seem to be divided between bad-ass surround-sound immersive experiences and on-the-go, low quality sound (often the audio is competing with a million other distractions) - how does that factor into how you approach your work?

Sabina> It's hard to expect our customers to be audiophiles and collect the highest quality equipment. That's why as a producer, I always recommend that if the clients don't have the proper equipment for listening, they should listen to the presented sound at least on headphones. Using headphones, we have the impression that the sound is more sterile; we will be able to catch the details that may escape when listening on laptops' built-in speakers. Because clients usually listen to the material in our work on laptops.

However, if there is a problem with listening and something is questionable, I always invite you to our studio, where listening is not only of high quality, but it becomes a great pleasure. ;)


LBB> On a typical day, what does your ‘listening diet’ look like?

Sabina> I always start a typical day with the sound of music. Usually, I turn on the radio, and music flies in the background, allowing me to wake up, drowning out the sounds of the environment. It accompanies me with small breaks until the evening. Music allows me to focus, stimulates my mind to work, acting similarly as a cup of coffee or a short walk, and if necessary, it will enable me to relax or rest. Depending on the purpose, I put on an appropriate playlist.

I mostly listen to broadly defined rock and pop; I like electronic music or nu-jazz. I often listen to The Muse, Sigur Ros, Roycksoop, Imagine Dragons. I like British sounds for the evening - The Cinematic Orchestra or London Grammar.


LBB> Do you have a collection of music/sounds and what shape does it take (are you a vinyl nerd, do you have hard drives full of random bird sounds, are you a hyper-organised spotify-er…)?

Sabina> Yes, I have a music collection that is hyper-organised on Spotify. Each song has its place in the right music playlists for the right situation, time of day, or activity I'm doing.


LBB> As we age, our ears change physically and our tastes evolve too, and life changes mean we don’t get to engage in our passions in the same intensity as in our youth - how has your relationship with sound and music changed over the years?

Sabina> In my case, as I grow older, I become a more aware and open listener of music and the sounds around me. My role as a producer has taught me to not only appreciate the works in my favourite music styles but also to be open to other genres, where I sometimes manage to find something that interests me, intrigues me, and perhaps becomes an inspiration in the sound projects I produce.

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Platige Image, Tue, 29 Mar 2022 09:58:53 GMT