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50% of Film Impact: The Story Behind the Sound Design in DISCO’s Lady Justice Campaign


LBB’s Tará McKerr speaks to Ben Leeves, senior sound designer at Jungle studios, about his experience working on the acclaimed campaign from DISCO featuring Lady Justice

50% of Film Impact: The Story Behind the Sound Design in DISCO’s Lady Justice Campaign

This month we watched the launch of DISCO’s new campaign which urged legals to simply, “Law Better.” The personification of Lady Justice is unlike anything we have ever seen before. She’s the opposite of the dainty and delicate portrayal we’ve grown accustomed to. Instead, ‘Lady J’, is busty, wears big old boots and tips the legal scales completely — for the first time, doing what Lady Justice has never been allowed to do before — express an opinion. 

It was David Lynch who once said that film is 50% video and 50% sound. Yet, sometimes in advertising, visual credit takes centre stage in a way that robs sound of its rightful place on a level pedestal. But not here. It begins with the rhythmic quivers of her pleading internal monologue, followed with thunderous stomps of solid gold fury landing on tile flooring, swooshes and splats of indignantly spilled coffee, and the jingles of her weaponsised scales. It’s held together by a symphonic melody that falls and rises to give way to the unfolding story. And that’s just the surface. 

Enter Ben

The guy responsible for this treat to the eardrums is Ben Leeves: a prolific senior sound designer with over 20 years in the industry. When he first read the text for the project, he felt the idea literally jumped out from the script — “Lady J walking through an office, wrecking old tech and trashing it; it sounded like a dream sound design project.” Seeing the script and treatment early was something he found incredibly beneficial to the creative process. It’s an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing and gives a clever idea of the desired overall feel, explains Ben. 

The campaign was created by London’s own, BigSmall, which meant Ben was able to work with some familiar faces, in a way that felt truly collaborative, “we get to experiment and try different approaches to sound to see what works.”

Creative Engineering 

“Our lead character is a huge bronze statue, holding the balance scales of justice. So we needed to create real weight and metallic quality to her movements” says Ben. But how was this effect achieved? — the answer exemplifies the undeniable levels of creative engineering and innovation that go into sound design — “Using a balance of Foley and other ‘off-the-shelf sounds. For instance, her feet are a mixture of many things including punch bag hits and real footsteps recorded on metal plates. The scales sounds were chains from our foley dungeon being shaken in the both in time with her movements.”

In terms of technical hurdles, Ben told us about the mix: “It was a real challenge” he explains. “Lady J’s dialogue was very well recorded on set, but still, there’s a lot of balancing and matching that needs to happen. Including ADR (automated dialogue replacement). This then is balanced against a full music track and big sound design. So the aim is to get a real flow and punch in the mix. Giving each element its space.” 

Final Takeaways 

When we asked Ben about his final takeaways from the project, his answer echoed the sentiment of the aforementioned David Lynch: “As I always try to emphasise — and I’m very biased — the difference between an offline guide and a final mix is night and day. It's why sound and time in the studio is so important. As George Lucas said (as the internet tells me) sound and music are 50% of the overall film.” He continues, “Usually when assessing a finished mix, you’ll point to specific parts that you are proud of: explosion here, foley there. But with DISCO I’m proud of the final mix as a whole. It was lovely to be given the time to craft a mix like this. Hopefully that comes across when people see it.” Speaking personally, it’s easy to confirm that Ben’s hope has become a reality.

On a final note, we asked if there’s anything he’d go back and do differently. “No,” he says with certainty. 

Now that, is the sign of a job well done. 

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Jungle Studios, Mon, 03 Apr 2023 14:13:19 GMT