Samples Spotlight recently caught up with Sam Estes and Michael Hobe of Sonicsmiths. Last year, Sonicsmiths released their first commercial sound design tool, The Foundry. As a team, they’ve worked on numerous feature films, video games, and television shows creating virtual instruments as well as doing custom sound design. They’ve spent years working together in the private industry of sound design and sample instrument creation and have recently set foot into the commercial industry.
Sonicsmiths is a relatively new company in the industry for music production tools. However, you both have been working together for a very long time. How did you guys meet and what were some of the challenges you two have faced when branching off into the commercial and private world of sound design, sampling, and synth programming?
We met while working for Hans Zimmer at Remote Control Productions. Michael had been working there for about a year in the sample department as an assistant editor, when Sam was brought in to head the department. We both worked to expand the department and duties of editing to a more creative and direct roll in creating sounds for the scores created at RCP. Our biggest challenge so far is to connect and work with people outside of the RCP circles, as with any aspect of our industry, networking is key and even with our experience it does become hard to continue to do so. It’s also been a challenge to educate composers on what we do, and how we can ease their workflow. Often times they look at our credits and think, too expensive – when in reality we get things done very efficiently and effectively, saving a lot of money in the long run. No project is really too big or too small for us.
Your list of credits are impressive. You’ve worked on several major motion picture, television, and video game projects with some impressive composers like Hans Zimmer, Junkie XL, and James Newton Howard. As a team, how do you two approach projects like these? Are there any major differences between the mediums (ie; Film and TV). What is the creative process with the composers like and what are some of the biggest challenges you face when starting a new project?
The only real difference is with the Composers we work with. Every composer has their own workflow and communication styles. Any project we take on, TV, VG, Film – we always apply the same quality and expertise too. The challenge always comes in doing something new and unique. It’s hard when there is so much pressure on the composer to do the “safe” things and when we are brought on to help push the “safe” it can sometimes get in the way for the producers. We pride ourselves in getting past the safe, allowing it to be left behind, and creating the unique.
Aside from your day job as sound designers, Sonicsmiths have recently entered the commercial world with their sound design tool, The Foundry. How did you two come up with the concept and what were some of the biggest differences in crafting a commercial product compared to working exclusively with private clients?
Producing a commercial product is a very, very difficult thing to do, much more so than any private library. With a private library you have one (or a handful of people) person you need to create it for, so there is very clear direction. With a commercial library, you have to create something that ANYONE can use, and provide enough tools to work with anyone’s style of workflow. The other major problem with producing something [commercial], is dealing with third-party problems (we designed in Kontakt) so as a third-party developer, we are subject to any issues with Kontakt and the user’s system. If something is not working right – the third-party developer get’s blamed, when it’s not anything the developer can really fix, since the host program is not their own, it’s very hard for a public to understand that, much easier for a single client to understand it. Usually those problems arise with the vast differences in setups and systems. As a small third-party developer it is near impossible to foresee all those problems.
Since The Foundry focuses on sound design and creation, Have any users surprised you with how The Foundry has been used in their work?
The depth of how The Foundry is being used really surprises us. It’s been used for Pop, Horror, Ambient, Beds – and even 1940’s pop-Marvel projects (Agent Carter). The wide range of things you can do in it and the way anyone can adapt it to their workflow has really surprised us with how versatile it can be in the right hands. It has been surprising many times when we are sent audio and many amazing users have created some incredible pieces or sounds that we didn’t know the Foundry was even capable of creating. Many of the rhythmic patches are truly amazing. At least once a week we are floored by some of the stunning sounds users have created, it has been inspiring.
What’s next for Sonicsmiths and their commercial releases? Do you guys plan to create new and innovative tools for the market or expand on The Foundry and its capabilities?
We are working on a v1.1 for The Foundry now. Nothing major just a few tweaks. We plan to do a massive update for the Foundry with all new graphics and a few workflow tweaks, but that will not come until the end of the year. This may be a completely new version of the Foundry with 100% new sounds, we are unsure of that yet. There are many new groundbreaking instrument ideas that we are working through as well as some amazing plugins. We want to maintain the idea of allowing musicians and composers to be truly creative without having to use presets to create the ideas in their head.
Thanks again for taking the time to share some of your insights on the sound design and sampling industry. Do you have any advice for those who plan to get into musical sound design and how they can take the next step on their journey?
Get to know your software and tools – always educate yourself and listen to what the guys working are doing. Then figure out what your voice is, what tricks you use that set you apart. Next, apprentice yourself with someone in the industry, either through an internship or just a simple relationship. That’s where you learn how the industry works, and how to start developing relationships outside of the studio. You won’t get anywhere without really diving-in and being self-driven and constantly artistically checking yourself. If you are not willing to put in that amount of work, find a different industry.
If you would like to know more about Sonicsmiths and The Foundry you can check out their website at www.Sonicsmiths.com.