Cypheraudio: Interview (2010)
Posted on June 6, 2010 by contact
Please tell us about Cypheraudio.
Cypheraudio is the company I formed in 2000 to create custom sound design and music for picture, and since then it has become a full service studio dedicated to creative audio for practically any medium that utilizes sound. I have been lucky enough to work with some incredibly talented designers, studios and brands over the years on hugely varying projects, from curated experimental pieces to longer term direct to client commissions. For me it’s all about staying inspired and striving to constantly progress. I actively seek out like minded designers and studios who I know will be challenging and exciting to collaborate with, and luckily many have approached me as well. When I get to work with such inspiring visuals, it really makes my job much easier.
Has it been convenient to work remotely from Toronto for studios around the world?
It certainly is convenient to be able to collaborate with accomplished artists from around the world from my studio here in Toronto. It is easy to take for granted now, but it is pretty amazing to be so connected, and the Internet has evolved so much that file size isn’t an issue anymore. It can get interesting with several projects occurring at once in different time zones, but I don’t see that as a problem at all, just another challenge. It is nice to meet in person though, put faces to names, it’s always interesting meeting someone after working remotely for sometimes years, they never look like you had imagined them.
What makes for successful collaboration between sound designers and motion studios?
Initially I think their should be similar aesthetic tastes and sensibilities. Some studios really value and understand the importance of sound design and approach the creative process with that in mind. If I get to be involved from the early stages of a project and we work in tandem, bouncing ideas back and forth, it’s most likely going to produce better work than if the audio is simply added at the end. That is most true for commercial projects, because sometimes it can also be incredible when I am given a finished piece, and I am able to sound design it as I please, when I am trusted to do what I feel works best for that particular project. Essentially there needs to be a creative exchange of ideas happening, and effective communication of those ideas. When you are both on the same page and everything flows, that’s when the magic happens. I have been fortunate to have a couple of long standing relationships with studios because we are friends and we ‘get‘ each other’s tastes and styles. Helios and Buck are two that are always exciting and creative to work with partially because of this.
What has become your tool of choice?
It really depends on what I am working on at the time, but my main tools are a Mac Pro and Cubase as my DAW. It is not the norm for an Apple user to use Cubase as a main DAW, but I have been using Cubase since 1996 or so and I am so comfortable with it, I love it, it does what I want it to do and I know my way around it so well. Having said that, I recently purchased Logic Studio to peruse and see if I might use each DAW for different purposes. Other than that, I basically have a ton of plug ins that I routinely use, all of Native Instruments products are a mainstay, Waves, and some more obscure things as well, like MetaSynth, which is an amazing sound design tool. I have really started getting into recording my own sound effects again, and processing the sounds into entirely unique results. I also have a Revox 1/4” tape machine which is really nice for some analogue warmth and tape saturation. So, in addition to my computer and plugs, I try and get ‘out of the box’ as much as I can.
Please describe the creative process executed for:
This was so great to work on. The guys at BTRY had boards ready and we discussed some basic ideas to start. I think they had a reference track that inspired them initially, which can be scary, but they were completely open to me creating something original to complement the surreality of the title sequence. After experimenting for a while I began to develop the melody and chordal drone that became the basis for the musical element. After that I started adding discrete sound design elements to punctuate the motion design, and I mixed a very subtle sound of a ship underneath, the creaking wood becoming a part of the rhythm. I had the luxury of spending a good deal of time experimenting and focussing on details. In the end, it really came together, one of my favourite pieces in the last little while. It’s a great example of working with people who appreciate what I do, and them allowing me to design the audio with very little interference.
This one was interesting and creative too, as Buck pieces tend to be. Buck had everything very thought out to begin with, storyboards, style frames and a previs for me to begin experimenting with a musical tone. The main thing from the beginning was to not have the story start out too ominously, and we wanted to avoid a cheesy horror feel as well. I started to try out different things and decided on the taiko drums to give a moody rhythmic base. Then I worked on a string arrangement to build into the last scene where the dragons/smoke reach the crib. I also created sound design elements for the smoke motion that fit in with the arrangement overall. There were many tweaks along the way, many changes and refinements. It’s always challenging when there is a solid voice over all the way through a piece, I couldn’t make the music too distracting, so I relied on the percussion to keep it flowing. I am happy with the results, although there were versions along the way that I would have preferred. Working with Buck was as smooth as always, a very creative collaboration from start to finish.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date?
I think that the most challenging aspect overall is maintaining a balance between art and commerce. It is critically important to keep working on non commercial projects and exploring new techniques, these are the things that will ultimately get you the work that you are best at in the future. It can be difficult to find time when you have the almost constant pressures of client work keeping you busy, but when there is downtime, there is still work to be done. I think that if you stay inspired and enjoy what you do, you will be able to bring the best to any project that you are involved with. Other than that, just running a business – finding work, developing relationships, promoting yourself and everything that goes with it is also challenging. I feel fortunate though, to have made this my career, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What are your 5 most played mp3s?
ok, well this obviously changes radically, but right now :
Cliffs – Aphex Twin
Vertical Ascent – Moritz Von Oswald Trio
Bowls – Caribou
Riot Rhythm – Sleigh Bells
Gaslamp Killer – Akuma no Chi Ga Odoru