Spotlight In Sound: Drawing Inspiration From The Ordinary
.When you walk into Jared Paul’s sound studio, located in the heart of the Soho fashion district in New York City, you instantly feel at home. To your left, a cozy couch and an electric piano, one of the many instruments Paul has in his collection. To your right, a towering bookcase filled to the brim, accented with eclectic knick-knacks — the type of items that beg for a backstory on how they were found, and the inspiration behind them.
As a sound designer, finding inspiration in the ordinary is what Paul does best. Creating the perfect soundscape — whether it be for live-action, or animation — requires him to discover new ways to shape a visual or spoken narrative through complementary sound effects.
IdeaRocket sat down with Paul to chat about his process, and how sound can be a powerful tool when telling the perfect story:
IdeaRocket: How did you get into working with sound?
JP: I’ve been into sound from a young age, since I was a kid. I would record myself singing along with my favorite songs and stuff like that. And then I took audio classes in high school, when I started learning about real microphones and recording techniques. In college, I got more serious about it. I went to Wesleyan College in Connecticut — there was a big film program there, so I worked with a lot of film students on their projects. And then after I graduated college, I moved to New York and kept working with the same people who really pursued film — they all just came to me whenever they needed sound.
I started working with IdeaRocket in 2015, and that was really exciting because it was the first time I really got to work with animation.
IdeaRocket: You’ve produced sound for all different types of mediums — what makes animation different?
JP: In some ways, there’s more freedom with animation because you’re starting with a totally clean slate, and anything can sort of sound like, anything. I mean, obviously, there’s some conventions. But when you’re working with live-action stuff, you’re locked into a starting point of whatever was recorded on set or on location. You always have that starting point of dialogue on set, and you work with that.
IdeaRocket: Anything can sound like anything…that leaves room for so many possibilities. Where do you start to find the right sound?
JP: The director has to have a sense of what’s appropriate, so you don’t go crazy and have things sound not like they should. If you have a clear vision of what the tone [of the video] is going to be, the sound will come from that. So if it looks organic, it should sound organic. And if it looks high tech, it should sound high tech.
IdeaRocket: What are some of the wackiest things you’ve used to create effects?
JP: I like to use anything that’s around me. A lot of the time, I’ll be like “hmm, what’s in sight?” I’ll pick up a thing and start playing with it, throw things at other things. I’ll do things like — if there’s a debris sound, I’ll get a bunch of popcorn kernels and drop them onto a plate, or wave metal things around to get that wobbly sound….probably anything in this studio I’ve played with at one point.
One time, I found this old poker chip holder — it was this spinning, mechanical thing that I could get all these sounds out of. I took different sounds and layered them together to create a whole soundscape of what a toy would sound like. So, you can take a similar object to make it sound one way, or you can build it out of something completely different.
You have to detach what something looks like from what something sounds like. Listen to objects with your eyes closed and ask yourself: “what does this sound like other than what it actually looks like?” With animation, detachment is a big part of that because anything can look one way, and sound completely another.
IdeaRocket: So, anything can be inspirational, if you’re looking for it.
JP: Yeah, absolutely. I carry a little field recorder around with me…and anytime I hear an interesting sound out in the world, I just record it. A lot of times I use stuff I get just from walking down the street.
IdeaRocket: What about times when there’s a narration, or a voiceover in a video?
JP: The main thing to keep in mind is that the voiceover, or the message of the video, comes first. That’s why it [the voiceover] is there. So I have to mix and design sound in a way that’s fun, and playful, and adds to the whole vibe of the thing, but never distract too much from the main point of it — because whatever’s being said is the main point of the video.
IdeaRocket: What’s the best piece of sound mixing you’ve seen — something that made you say, “wow, this is just incredible?”
JP: I would have to go with Star Wars. Ben Burtt really just revolutionized sound with what he did with those. He really was the first one to kind of go out into the world and start collecting crazy sounds and twisting them into new things. He worked with them very early on in the process, before they even shot anything, and said “okay, this is what the lightsabers need to sound like.”
Burtt made all these legendary sounds by putting in more work, and sort of developed this whole new language that no one had ever thought of. And then that changed everything from there.
IdeaRocket: You’ve been working with IdeaRocket for some time now. What’s your favorite video you’ve done so far?
JP: I think I’ll have to go with DeerPro. I always really enjoy all the character ones. That’s when I get to have the most fun with creating character voices.
I also really like the Distil Networks video. It was one of the first ones I did. I got to create these little “bot” voices — and I actually used my own voice. I made these noises, and I pitched them up higher and blended them with these electronic elements to make these somewhat human-ish, but also electronic voices.