“This Pandemic is One Hell of a Reset Button”

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Screen Scene sound designer Will Farrell on lessons he’ll be taking forward and the solutions they’ve implemented to overcome current recording hurdles
“This Pandemic is One Hell of a Reset Button”
Joining Screen Scene Dublin in 2016, Will Farrell is responsible for sound design, music and mix. With over 10 years of experience in the commercial world, Will has composed music for the likes of Three, Heineken, Diageo, Eir, Vodafone, Rabo and McDonald’s. His award-winning work includes multiple D&ADs, Clios, Kinsale Sharks, ICADs, The One Shows, Radio Awards and Cannes Lions including a 2018 Grand Prix. 

Will was also part of the award-winning team that worked on ‘JFK Unsilenced’ for The Times where they recreated the speech the president was due to deliver on the day of his assassination. The project won several Cannes Lions awards including Gold, Silver and Bronze in the Radio & Audio category.

Screen Scene Sound has worked on some of the biggest globally renowned projects from Game of Thrones and Lost in Space, to Room and The Little Stranger. 

In this interview, Will discusses the unexpected benefits of remote working and shares some of his favourite at-home foley moments.

Q> How are you adjusting to remote working?

Will Farrell> It’s been somewhat of a smooth transition from my Screen Scene studio to home studio. Like most of the audio team, I’d always had a home studio, so the infrastructure was in place and it was just a matter of moving licenses and some software to clone my machine in Screen Scene.

Q> How did the sound design and audio post team at Screen Scene respond to the approaching pandemic? 

Will> As we saw the pandemic approaching the week or two before we went into lockdown, we’d readied ourselves for all eventualities. Firstly, we made sure we had enough equipment for our teams to seamlessly work remotely. Thankfully, we had this tested and ready to go, as just before the lockdown, I had to begin isolating for two weeks, which was fine, as I had already brought the clone of my machine home. I was able to work remotely for those two weeks, so didn’t miss a beat. 

Secondly, we made sure our clients with regular sessions were looked after, so a few mics and recorders were distributed to various VO artists on regular gigs, should they need to record remotely. Finally we tested some software to find the best solution for recording VO artists and connecting to clients for live sessions linking our home studios, to the VO’s home and looping in clients on apps like Zoom or Teams. We now have a system where everyone is connected in the session and can direct safely from their homes. 

Q> Are you able to achieve everything you need to in your home studio?

Will> All of our sound team are rigged with home studios, so there’s been no issues. There have been a few days where I’d come in to Screen Scene for sessions without attendees, just a VO, but that’s more down to the VO’s home set up not cutting the mustard, which would be our call too, as we couldn’t let quality slip, even under the pandemic. 

In terms of sound design, we’re actually more connected now, as we’ve been having more meetings over Zoom and Teams, which has been a bit of a revelation, really. It had always been there, but this was the nudge we needed to utilise it. We’re also approving mixes and ideas quickly just through file sharing, so it’s been some of what we always did, but keeping in touch over video chats has been a real positive. 

Q> Are you able to record at the same level of quality?

Will> For recording from home, we all have high quality gear. Personally, I’m working from a treated room with great pres and a selection of mics including an 87 and great monitoring - the only issue can be if we’re recording a VO remotely from their home and their set up isn’t workable. Luckily, we’ve been able to make everything work so far. I heard a lot of stuff on air and I’m pretty pleased with how it sounds. 

Q> What’s the workflow been like? Have there been any projects you’ve had to postpone and what have you been most busy with?

Will> The workflow has been interesting. For the most part, it’s been business as usual, just remotely. With the possibility of shoots looming, we’re all looking at ways around shooting with social distancing as a priority. It’s a bit of a head scratcher on how to get the best outcome, but it’s also a challenge that everyone is enjoying and learning from. It’s really stretching the possibilities and will only make us all better and more resourceful going forward. If ever there was a sense of complacency in any sector, then this pandemic is one hell of a reset button. 

Q> Radio ads seem to have had a huge spike in the last few weeks. Have you experienced increased demand for this work? 

Will> Radio has been a sizable chunk of our work in the last couple of months, but surprisingly, there’s also been a decent amount of picture work too. A lot of the work I’m hearing on radio would be through online stores, apps, supermarkets, PSAs and banking. I think there’s just a little bit of time before we see things move up out of first gear, as we move through the easing of restrictions. 

Q> Do you have any advice for how brands can freshen up old campaigns that may be running?

Will> We’ve definitely seen current campaigns adapt to the pandemic. The ‘reeling in the years’ approach can give a good tug at the heartstrings, especially when you see retrospective footage of people embracing or in groups and in good spirits. In that way, we can look back at the good times and let people know, they’ll come again. It’s something so relatable that people want but can’t have. 

Q> Have you been doing much foley around the house?

Will> Foley around the house is a constant thing for all of us, ha! This has definitely helped to have every household object and appliance in their natural environment. The bath and contact microphones have been a bit of fun in downtime. A lot of projects have had my wife asking questions too. She came home from work to find me wearing her high heels when foleying footsteps for a commercial a couple years back. It didn’t explain the frock, though. 

Q> How do you keep inspired in the lockdown?

Will> Piano and guitar relax me, some meditation, and a run around the park are all good for clearing the head. I find when my mind is emptied, then something usually comes in and fills it. When not in lockdown, I usually do similar things. I usually cycle to work and make a point of getting down to the local park near Screen Scene for a quick walk to decompress and get out of the studio environment. I find it really helps to keep you fresh. There’s also our National Gallery, The Dead Zoo and National History Museum down the street from Screen Scene, which are also great ways to get inspired on your lunch break out of lockdown.
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Screen Scene, 3 months ago