Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

Thinking In Sound: Rummaging through the Sound Effects Library with Emily Vizard



Girl&Bear's audio operator and sound engineer on bringing directors ideas to life, the phenomenon of AI generated content and her fascination with voice actors and animation

Thinking In Sound: Rummaging through the Sound Effects Library with Emily Vizard

After finding her calling at York University, Emily began her career in sound which she has now worked in for eight years.  

She currently works as an audio operator for global content creation studio, Girl&Bear at VCCP where she has worked across a myriad of projects. 

Her personal favourite was her work on the recently launched 'Our Future is Botanic' campaign for Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. 

As an up-and-coming talent in the industry, Emily has a wealth of creative inspiration to discuss as well as an insight into the recent shifts and trends within the industry.

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?

Emily> I like to work closely with the director to really get into their vision. I would typically run through the edit and listen to the key moments that they particularly want to emphasise or ensure stands out. Then I like to go through with a fine tooth comb - stopping and starting at each moment that I think: “Oh! That would sound good here!”. I rummage through my sound effects library and start collecting sounds like ingredients for a new recipe, I will try out different sounds to see which ones I think really work. Sometimes I’ll create a combination of two seemingly ordinary sounds to make something completely different, but it works for the scene perfectly!

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?

Emily> Absolutely! I love it when I can make the director’s vision come to life with audio. But it really works when we can bounce off of one another. I personally like to focus on a task solo and then reconvene with fresh ears to get some great feedback. One of the most fun collaborations I’ve had was working with a great composer named Rupert Uzzell on a short film, ‘Hornbeam’ - which was recently nominated for the 2022 Iris Prize; Our audio sounded quite good alone, but the moment we played his score and my sound design together - it really made the piece come alive!

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

Emily> One of my favourite things to do is to create a soundscape from a silent piece of media. It’s like giving me a blank canvas to unleash my creativity! I love to compare that empty film with the finished piece and see how much has gone into it, being able to stand back and say “I made this!”

I got to do this on a project for Cadbury with their Wispa Gold campaign. We had to create the setting that the viewer was taking part in a bank heist - the heartbeat drums faster, the alarm trips and the guards come running! By layering up all these different elements I was able to create a really fun environment from just a single visual of a bank vault!

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

Emily> Something that has interested me lately is the phenomenon of AI generated content. We’ve seen it in those crazy computer generated images and videos. Just recently, I’ve noticed Spotify ads that use an AI VoiceOver. Whilst I think that this last one still has quite a way to go before it can replicate the human nuances in a voice read, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how much a computer program will be able to create for us.

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

Emily> I really admire the foley artist, Peter Burgis. He is so talented at his craft and I was very fortunate to watch him perform in action. What may seem like an easy task is actually so intricate and he captures movement so seamlessly. I’ve tried it myself and I can definitely appreciate how in-tune you have to be to capture foley just right!

Another artist I have to mention is Danai Kokogia, she is a composer whom I’ve been so lucky to get to know. I’m always in awe of how she can create such beautiful pieces of music, often starting out as a single stroke of the keyboard and finishing as a fully fledged orchestra. It’s fascinating!

LBB> And when it comes to your particular field, whether sound design or composing, are there any particular ideas or pioneers that you go back to frequently or who really influence your thinking about the work you do?

Emily> I love it when I’m watching a movie and see or hear a scene that really takes your breath away! I love to revisit those scenes for inspiration and perhaps pick out certain parts that I can try and create in my own way. One of my favourite moments in any media is the single take, ‘Dunkirk scene’ from the film Atonement. I don’t know how many times I’ve re-watched that and it still leaves me in awe at how well it was made and how powerful the sound design and score are.

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?

Emily> In my day-to-day tasks, I do like to listen to music, often I’ll try to listen to what’s currently popular as I know that a lot of clients like to request a modern, upbeat track for their project. So it’s good to stay somewhat on top of the charts! But when I’m focusing on ideas or thinking about sound briefs, I prefer to work in silence or with less distractions so that I can properly ‘get in the zone’ and picture what would suit the project best!

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?

Emily> In my experience, there are two typical types of sound design requests that I often receive; There are the longer forms, where I’m able to take my time to build up a soundscape and create an ambience to transport the listener. These always sound great when you can listen with good headphones or with fancy speakers!

Then there are the shorter forms, adverts that fly by so quickly because we’ve got to capture the audience’s attention fast! With these types, more often than not, the audio is quick and simple, yet effective! (No matter the quality of your speakers!)

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

Emily> I would usually start my day either by listening to the radio or a podcast.

Once I’m at work I will most likely be engrossed in music libraries or sound effect libraries - on the search for what I’m looking for that day!

I might then have to go through audio of VoiceOvers, whether that’s for audio clean up or for final mixing.

And then by the evening I like to almost ‘palette cleanse’ and listen to alternative soundtracks or albums!

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…)?

Emily> I have my trusty go-to sound effects library, where almost everything is categorised - it could be grouped by the sound location, such as ‘office’ or ‘airport’. Or it could be something a bit more abstract, such as ‘ethereal transitions’ or ‘favourite whooshes’!

My phone is also filled with what must be one hundred of my own reaction sounds because I needed something very specific for a project that didn’t seem to exist yet! 

LBB> Outside of the music and sound world, what sort of art or topics really excite you and do you ever relate that back to music (e.g. history buffs who love music that can help you travel through time, gamers who love interactive sound design… I mean it really could be anything!!)

Emily> I really love the use of sound design in video games, they really can be works of art! I’ve recently been revisiting some smaller indie games -  The way that they’ve created such intense and dynamic atmospheres really adds a whole new level to the immersion in a game.

I also love listening to video game soundtracks - one in particular I keep coming back to is the score for a game called Journey. There was no dialogue and no text throughout the entire game, and through visuals and audio alone it was able to tell an incredible story.

Another interesting avenue people are exploring is ASMR - a genre of videos currently sweeping the internet. They are primarily audio driven, which is a fantastic way to discover sounds you’ve never thought of using before! This is also a trend that I’ve seen requested within advertising, a way of making an ad much more immersive by bringing that intensity to the audio. I remember working on an ad for Shell Café in which the client wanted particular emphasis on the ingredients that went into a cup of coffee. Who would have thought that an ASMR video would inspire the sound of cinnamon sticks!

LBB> Let’s talk travel! It’s often cited as one of the most creatively inspiring things you can do - I’d love to know what are the most exciting or inspiring experiences you’ve had when it comes to sound and music on your travels?

Emily> I was working on some content whilst out in China for a period of time, promoting architecture and museums in the Shanxi Province, and one of the best experiences I had was recording ambient sound whilst on location. We were up in the mountains, in temples, sailing along rivers and walking amongst the busy high streets. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and the difference in sounds I could capture was incredible.

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?

Emily> From as early as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated with Voice actors and animation, and I believe that sparked my passion for the world of audio. I’ve found that in the past, I would simply consume media as it was, but now I can’t help but periodically take a step back and appreciate film and media for all of its components!

view more - Music & Sound
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
VCCP, Thu, 24 Nov 2022 12:49:18 GMT