We recently spoke with Samy to find out more about his work in sound design for film:
What is your earliest sonic memory? (from childhood?)
The purring of my cat Mao.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a sound designer? (Did you start from the side of music? From audio engineering? In other words, how did you come to be a sound designer?)
After a short stint as a live sound engineer, I fell in love with sound for motion picture and became a sound editor. I started out by doing a lot of cartoons for TV. That period was essential because I learned editing, creation, and sound design.
Her favorite sound for picture was the work that Hamilton Sterling and Richard King did on “Master and Commander”. One day she came in with an article talking about the sound design on Master and Commander; in the article she had circled the name “Kyma”, and she asked me “What is this?”. In order to answer her, I decided to buy one!!!
For Un Monstre á Paris, please tell us about the evolution of the singing monkey sound, how you imagined it, how you realized it, how you performed it, etc.
I started with the voice of -M- singing like an opera singer. When I saw the animation, I first tried using the classic monkey sound but it was unsuccessful. Those sounds were too short and not close enough in frequency.
I finally found a sample of capuchin monkey whose frequencies were closest to those of the human voice. I analyzed the human voice and the capuchin monkey in the Tau Player. Then I performed the result using my Motormix and, after several tries, once I was able to perform it in sync with the picture, the result was incredible!!!!
I understand that there is also a scene of a plant or plants growing at incredible speed. Can you tell us more about that scene and how you designed and controlled the sound for it?
This was created with a SampleCloud (one of my favorite prototypes) and played on the Wacom tablet. I took a short sample of leaves rustling, and with this magic tool it became a giant sunflower!
Who is the monster in Paris (and how did you design his voice)?
The voice of the monster in Paris is a mix between rock singer Matthieu Chedid ( “-M-” ), a raccoon, and my own voice … I used the Tau player again to morph these three sources in order to make him credible and sensitive.
From the point of view of the sound designer, what are the differences between working on an animated feature vs a live action feature with human actors? Or is it virtually the same? Do animated features give you more latitude for sound design? Or is it the same either way?
The editing is very different. In a live action feature, you’re constrained by the way the sound was spoken during shooting, and especially by the ambience. It must match exactly.
In an animated feature, you receive only the voices, so all the atmospheres can be created by your imagination…
In the end, though, I think that sound design is not so different between live action and animated features, because even in live action features you rarely use “real” sounds (of guns, cars, etc), it’s always exaggerated to make it more spectacular. And it’s the same in animated features.
Where does Kyma fit in your arsenal of sound design tools? Do you turn to Kyma for specific kinds of sounds or ways of working?
I’m working with a Pyramix which is the tool I find most flexible and effective for sound editing (and I think it is less well known in the US).
My Pacarana is connected via a Capybara (used as an audio interface) directly through digital inputs and outputs to the Pyramix. That way I can use Kyma as an external effect, sending a sound from the Pyramix. Or I can play Kyma Sounds and record directly in the Pyramix.
What would you identify as the strong points of Kyma or the sort of things that Kyma is best at?
Kyma is especially impressive when you want to treat a real sound and want it to stay organic and real-sounding… for example, with voices…
Were there any sounds on this film that you could not have done without Kyma?
The monster, the singing monkey and a great morph between a metallic sound and the name of “Raoul”.
Describe your ideal meal. Who would be there, what would be on the menu, where would it be, what would the conversation be like, etc
You would be there to talk about your vision of sound…
Einstein would be there to explain to us this strange dimension called space/time and also explain why today a neutrino can go faster than light…
Someone would be there to give the beginning of answer on the origin of life…
There are too many things to talk about with so many interesting people; it’s too complicated to reduce it to one meal…
If you were to give advice to someone who is just starting out as a sound designer, what would that be? What would you advise them to study, where should they live, what kind of work could they do to prepare themselves?
1. Listen to real life all around you; this is very inspiring….
2. Sound can be simple®
3. Break the rules.
What’s next for you? Do you have a project lined up (one that you are allowed to discuss yet?) What new sound design challenges are in store for you in 2011-2012?
I’ve just finished the sound design for an exposition in Paris. And I’m preparing a new motion picture called The Marsupilami by Alain Chabat; this is very big sound design challenge.
Thank you Samy! We look forward to seeing (and especially hearing) Un Monstre à Paris!