I recently had the honor of catching up with Anne Juenger, Co-Founder and COO of Umlaut Audio. Umlaut Audio is a newer private sample developer who joined the scene in 2015. They have quickly gained momentum by providing custom instruments for many of today’s top composers, such as Danny Elfman and John Debney.
Umlaut Audio officially launched last year. How did Umlaut come to fruition in this industry? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a new start up in the private sector of the sampling industry?
Being surrounded by composers all the time, we came across the need for custom sounds over and over again. That’s where the idea originated. We not only wanted to provide unique sound libraries but also give composers the ability to work more efficiently by providing them with an easy to use playback instrument (through Native Instrument’s Kontakt) to quickly access and/or organize the sound libraries we developed or even their own. Time is always an issu e for composers,so we want to make sure to provide a streamlined service and more importantly, easy to use products. I think one of the biggest challenges has been time vs. creative ambition. Especially when we started out we were a small team, so we had a lot of sleepless nights. Once we got the ball rolling it all worked out by itself. We got bigger projects, could hire more people and could therefore take on a larger number of more exciting projects
Part of what makes Umlaut Audio run is the staff, would you like to talk about your programmers and behind the scenes crew? What makes Umlaut tick?
Besides having our uber talented crew the creative direction is equally important. As an example, programming is completely done in Europe, so that means proper time management. When we worked with John Debney on “Jungle Book” the actual sound design and sound recording session was done in India and in LA simultaneously. The scripting of the Instrument was done in Croatia, GUI Design in Greece and the overall creative direction in LA. We have creative directors in 3 [time-zones] to make sure that we have a 24 hour workflow plus being available for our clients in a heartbeat. And all of this for multiple projects. So yes, our team is like a well oiled machine of creative power horses. 🙂
As a company, you’ve worked with some pretty prominent film and game composers such as Danny Elfman, Jack Wall, Tyler Bates and Harry Gregson-Williams. Each of these composers have their own signature sound. How does Umlaut approach working with composers and sound designers to create that customized set of instruments and sounds?
All of those guys push the limits on every film they do.It is our job to give them the tools they need to create something new and unique. I mean, we don’t reinvent the wheel, but you can always push the limits. the “signature sound” comes from the way they compose, the harmonies they use, how it is orchestrated and so forth. The tools we create are the dot of the i but the “signature sound” is the touch of the composer.
In part with your close collaboration with your clients, your website, www.umlautaudio.com, offers an interactive online experience to help each client specify their needs ranging from soundscapes and pads to rhythmic pulses and beats. How exactly does this work?
Yes, we developed our own online portal to design and manage custom projects, providing the
best possible experience for our clients. Rather than having thousands of emails flying back and
forth, we wanted to keep everything simple, streamlined, and organized in one place. The artist simply logs in with his/her email address and password to get started on their own project. They can submit their initial ideas and thoughts to express their needs so that we can provide an instrument tailored to their specific needs/workflow. The specifications and requests are all. This is all super confidential between Umlaut and the client, of course. How [does] it work? The online portal takes them through a simple questionnaire just so that we learn about their specific needs and workflow. Once they have submitted their idea, we receive a notification that a new project has been initiated. It takes them to their “Project Board” which almost functions like a “Chat Room”. Within that ”Project Discussion Board”, their initial ideas can be modified, Questions will be answered, Sounds can be approved, and much more. Basically, all project-related files, links and documents will be shared within that Board. After gaining some information about the project, we’ll send a budget estimate/project proposal for the client’s approval. Once approved, the project begins and the status of the project will change from “Pitching” to “In Production” and so forth (> “Delivered” > “Completed”) throughout the process so that everyone is on the same page. All status updates can be viewed by the client within the web app, so they’ll always know the stage that we’re on. There is absolutely no commitment in creating a project anyone can submit an idea through the online portal. We always love to hear about new ideas and needs so that we can provide solutions for more efficient workflows.
Umlaut Audio focuses exclusively on custom Kontakt based instrument design. As some of us know, Kontakt has many limitations. As a private developer, do you plan to expand out into other samplers (ie; MOTU Mach Five) or have you considered developing your own proprietary software for instrument development?
At this point Kontakt is still the “Go To” Platform to develop, at least in the film music/film scoring
world. We have found most film composers to be using it and it’s great for managing large sound libraries. MachFive is a great sampler too, especially the built in FX. We are definitely open to expanding to other platforms if the demand and opportunity presents itself. For the foreseeable future, we will develop exclusively for Kontakt.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions. What’s next for Umlaut?
From our experience working with professional composers, researching, brainstorming and participating in countless studio sessions, we have been inspired to come up with our own
custom made software instruments. In fact, we are super excited to announce our first publicly available products that are now being sold through our new Web Shop . We wanted to make products that are focused, easy to use, and affordable to anyone. People can still customize their own [instruments], however it is nice to be able to find something that just works the way you want it to. There are a lot of amazing software instruments out there for Kontakt, but our approach is to give people single use products that are intuitive, simple, and tailored to their needs. Instead of having an overwhelming load of all kinds of sounds, we supply easy to use instruments that provide specific sonic “flavors”. In fact, we are super excited to announce our first publicly available products, PADS and ARPS, that are now being sold through our new Web Shop. Stay tuned on our social media sites and feel free to share with your fellow friends.
Thank you for this fun interview Chris. We hope everyone will enjoy our instruments 🙂