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Josh and Ned discuss the audio post production process, from collaborating with communities, to using analogue technology to produce authentic vintage tones, and into their process of producing sound for Virtual Reality and Video Game spaces.

Podcast Transcript

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[Introduction – 00:00]

Voiceover:

You’re listening to In Conversation with Screenwest. Today, we immerse ourselves in the exciting world of sound design and audio post production. With Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan from Envelope Audio, and Screenwest’s, Gabrielle Cole. From Screenwest, this is In Conversation

Gabrielle:

Today we immerse ourselves in the exciting world of sound design and post-production. With my two guests Ned Beckley, and Josh Hogan from Envelope Audio. Envelope is a West Australian post company based in Fremantle. That utilizes the talent of Ned and Josh to specialize in audio post production, music composition, and sound design across all media format. With an impressive global client base, and a couple of awards under their belt. Including the 2020 APRA/AMCOS Screen Music Awards for Children’s Television Show, THALO. Envelope Audio are ready to flex their Sonic strength, and tell us about their pathways into the industry, and projects they’ve worked on. Welcome Ned and Josh.

[Entering Audio Post-Production – 01:04]

Josh:

Thank you.

Ned:

Thanks.

Gabrielle:

Thanks so much for coming. I think let’s dive straight in. And if you could both tell me what brought you to music and sound design in post production?

Josh:

Yeah. Well, I’m a musician originally, by trade. So I studied music and I did that at university. And worked really hard to learn how to play in an orchestra, and things like that. And then-

Gabrielle:

Wow!

Josh:

…decided I didn’t want to do that anymore. And the whole time I was writing music as well. I was a percussionist. I still am. And percussion is a very Sonic instrument, It’s all about the sound you’re making. There’s literally thousands of percussion instruments, and it’s really about making a sound, and making a noise that’s in a musical way. So yeah, from there started working with software to make music, and started getting work as a sound person. I think the overlap between music and sound is massive. And I always say to musicians, “Learn to listen and think like a sound designer.” And I always say to a sound designers, “Learn to think like a musician in the stories you’re telling.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

That’s in a way, the philosophy behind our company. That we try to bring those elements together. It’s a really inspiring thing for us to do, to work on music and sound as one entity. And that’s why as a post-production company, we offer both of those areas.

Ned:

Yeah. My story is more of a DIY background. I became obsessed with sampling, and collecting records, and vinyl, and piecing together music. I went to uni and studied cinema at Melbourne uni. Yeah, I quickly learned that I was really fascinated with music, and sound design, and films. Rather than making films, or learning history about films. So I was really drawn to that, and I really just immerse myself with filmmakers, like making short films. And built my skills up that way. And I also worked at the National Film and Sound Archive in Melbourne.

Gabrielle:

Cool.

Ned:

Yeah. Met a lot of documentary makers, and how 16 mm film was put together, and all of that kind of stuff. Yeah, that’s brought me to the sound and music of film.

Gabrielle:

I think that’s really interesting that you said that like you were more interested in the sound part of it, rather than making films. I would argue that that is making films.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

But I think like for me, I have a background in production. And I was like, “I don’t actually care about the camera angles, or the color blue that you’ve chosen. I want to know how is that done.” And I think the cool thing about film is there’s all these people with very specific interests in a tiny part of it, that come together to make this global thing. It’s really cool.

Ned:

Yeah.

[Inspiration and Production Process – 03:25]

Gabrielle:

So what keeps you passionate and inspired about what you’re doing? Because you’re looking at the same thing every day, but I guess you have other projects that come on. So what do you do? How do you keep inspired?

Josh:

Yeah. Well, if you came down and looked at our studio right now, you’d see a mix of old and new things. And I think that’s really important. We are really into using the latest software and tools, to have production pipelines that are really efficient, and they’re really collaborative and now can work remotely. And we can deliver big mixes to a director in Sydney, for example-

Gabrielle:

That’s cool.

Josh:

…or overseas. And the COVID situation has accelerated that, but in a positive way, I think, and it’s allowed more collaboration remotely. And then if you look at the instruments that we’re using, when we’re making music, we’re collecting old instruments and instruments that make not typical sounds, let’s say. But we’re trying to really find the voice and the interesting thing that comes out of those instruments. I mean, a lot of composers and musicians will talk a lot about their instruments, but in the same way of DOP would talk about their camera or their lens. We’re trying to really coax the character and the voice out of that thing and find a way to fit that with the story we’re making. An example might be an old cassette recorder, which is something that if I said that to some of my oldest sound friends, they go, “Wait, why are you even touching-

Gabrielle:

Why would you that?

Josh:

…this tape recorder?” But for music, we can put some sounds on cassette, and then take them back off again. And use that-

Gabrielle:

Oh, that’s cool.

Josh:

…as an effect. And it actually has this beautiful kind of… well for myself, it gives it nostalgia, and it makes me think of being 12 years old again. Because I was 12 years old when I was listening to a Walkman on the bus. Yeah, Those sorts of things and the process of making stuff is really inspiring. And I think no matter how busy we are. Because obviously post-production can get really intense and very busy, that it’s trying to hold onto those things that inspire us.
You’ve nailed it in one there, that we could think about it as just staring at a computer screen most of the day. But it’s not about that. And I think if we were just doing that, we probably wouldn’t want to be doing what we’re doing. So we’re looking outside of ourselves as well, in terms of what’s really cool that’s happening with sound, and looking for younger people. I’m 40 now, and I consider that now I’m looking at the next generation as well, and what they’re doing. Some of the younger people that we work with now as sound designers, are thinking completely differently about sound to the way I do, anyway. So that really inspires me as well.

Gabrielle:

Probably less aware of this cassette.

Josh:

Yeah. Interestingly enough, some of those things come back like, yeah.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

And actually if you try and buy a Walkman on eBay right now, they’re quite expensive.

Gabrielle:

This is like making a come back the way that vinyl is.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

I’m sounding old by saying that. But younger people are buying those things.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

It’s the people are interested in that. And I think that culture cycles through like, look at something like Stranger Things, for example.

Gabrielle:

Yeah, that’s really true.

Josh:

There’s so much nostalgia there for stuff from when I was a kid. But actually it’s like younger people that have never heard that music, or know those cultural references they’re really into it.

Ned:

I think what else inspires us, is challenging briefs. Wouldn’t you say as well?

Josh:

Sure.

Ned:

Things that we can approach differently.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Ned:

Or that it’s going to challenge us, and make us do something different.

Gabrielle:

Makes you think.

Ned:

Yeah.

[Collaboration in Composition – 06:25]

Josh:

Yeah. We’re doing a show called Red Dirt Riders, at the moment. With Weerianna Street Media. And we did THALU with them last year, which is a great success. And we did most of the music for that, and collaborated on the theme song with Tyson Morin, who’s the director and producer as well. And what was great about that show THALU, last year, was that it was very community driven.

Gabrielle:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Josh:

Very collaborative.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

All the kids that acted in it were all from the community. A lot of the directors were from different indigenous communities around Australia. And we were there really to facilitate the story being told and bringing their voices out. And this project Red Dirt Riders, a really exciting part of it is that, the kids in the community are writing the music now for the show. So when we first got that brief, we’re like, “That’s really cool. They want us to help them write the music.” Working with a group called Big Heart, who are amazing. They’re up there literally at the moment, writing music with kids, using modern tools like GarageBand and-

Ned:

Inrawburn

Josh:

Inrawburn.

Gabrielle:

Inrawburn.

Josh:

And we’re literally cutting those tracks into the soundtrack now. So that’s a really great idea, when you hear it as a concept and it looks great on paper, but executing it is the really inspiring part. And all the things that come up when you go, “Oh, we’re going to put a whole lot of music that some kids wrote into a TV show. How do we make that work?” And yeah, that’s a good example of a current… and challenging is one word. But it’s inspiring-

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

…in a way, as well. So, yeah.

Gabrielle:

It’s a really good way to look at it. I think it’s a real glass half full way to look at it-

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And to know that, yes, every project’s different, but when you have things that constantly make you think and work, and you find new ways to do it.

Josh:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Gabrielle:

Yeah. And you’ve made me inspired to like, I want to go listen to some soundtracks already, and like… so you’ve touched on Red Dirt Riders.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

What else do you currently have on your sight, that you can talk about?

[Upcoming Productions – 08:08]

Josh:

Yeah. There’s a few things we can talk about, and some of the things we can’t. I’ve made my List here. Well, we’re finishing a 100% Wolf season one at the moment.

Gabrielle:

Right.

Josh:

The second half of the first season goes to air on the 28th of May, I think so. I don’t know when the podcast is coming out. But, it’ll be-

Gabrielle:

It should be out by then, yeah?

Josh:

Yeah. So we’re in a mad rush to finish that. And it’s all at the end of the post production cycle. We’re working on Shipwreck Hunters.

Gabrielle:

Yeah, cool.

Josh:

Which is coming up later in the year. Super excited about that, and…

Gabrielle:

Disney+?

Josh:

Disney+. Yeah, that’s-

Gabrielle:

Very exciting that media to Australia?

Josh:

Yeah. So we’re doing the music and the sound design for that. And that’s the first big Op-Doc, I guess, that we’ve done both for us. So, and it’s a team that we’ve worked with before. So that’s really cool-

Gabrielle:

That’s great.

Josh:

…because we know the territory of what they’re going to be trying to do and what it’s going to look like. As sound and designer musician, if you have a sense of what it’s going to look and feel like before you start working, that can help massively.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

So, but literally the DOP on it, Darren McKay, I did a documentary one shot with him, a few years ago. And a beautiful water photography documentary about Big Wave Surf Photography. But we already have a sense of how it’s going to feel, the picture. Which is really exciting. Perth Children’s Hospital as well, which we’re working on at the moment. That’s due to kickoff in post pretty soon. Another Australia Versus Anxiety as well for joined up. So we’re doing some music and sound for that as well. So yeah, really busy and a couple other things we can’t really talk about. But an exciting slate ahead for us. And always trying to figure out how we’re going to stay inspired and we get through all that. But yeah, it’s really exciting to be-

Gabrielle:

That’s a really busy slate.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

A lot.

[The Envelope Team and Collaborators – 09:43]

Josh:

Yeah. We work as a team, so there’s four of us full-time with Envelope; Ned and myself, Lucy Tobwilnson, who’s like our junior sound designer, and Nat Neugebauer, who’s our new music supervision and music licensing person.

Gabrielle:

Oh, cool.

Josh:

She’s-

Ned:

She’s also a composer.

Josh:

She’s a composer as well. So she was our fourth addition to our team. But we brought her on board because there’s so much demand for music in what we’re doing, and we need someone to really be there to facilitate all of the music coming in and out of the studio, if that makes sense. So yeah, and then we have a whole fleet of subcontractors, and people that-

Gabrielle:

Come in.

Josh:

…to work with us. So, but we really take a collaborative and team-based approach. And that allows us to take on more bigger jobs, basically. So yeah, we really like to long-term think of ourselves as a small, and agile company that can scale up to bigger projects.

Gabrielle:

It’s a such a smart approach, as well.

Josh:

Yeah. I think it helps even the work out a bit, and not have to just jump from one project to the next.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Ned:

We’ve just finished a whole bunch of long form stuff as well. We just finished a ENAs.

Gabrielle:

Oh, nice!

Ned:

The web series. Which is really funny.

Gabrielle:

I’m exited to see that. I can’t wait

Ned:

And also-

Josh:

Are You Addicted to Technology?-

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Are You Addicted to Technology

Josh:

Yeah, and that’s just come out. Hasn’t it?

Ned:

Yeah, a couple of –

Gabrielle:

I think the answer is definitely going to be yes.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

So what have you just finished? What’s coming down the pipeline?

Josh:

Well, Iggy & ACE is a good one. Laura’s Choice, you can see at the moment as well. Which was a big one from last year.

Gabrielle:

I’m psyching myself up to watch that. It seems like it’s going to be really-

Josh:

Yeah, really-

Gabrielle:

…hard thing to see.

Josh:

Yeah. Really powerful documentary, that one. And Girl Like You, as well. Which-

Gabrielle:

Yeah, I’m really exited.

Josh:

And those is great. Both Laura’s Choice and Girl Like You, it’s important for us to work on projects that we care about, philosophically as well, or ethically, and both of those were really rewarding in that sense. And such a great thing with Perth, that there’s a lot of that Op-Doc production that [00:11:30] we get to work on those things, so.

Gabrielle:

That’s amazing.

Josh:

We worked on Homespun as well, last year.

Gabrielle:

I saw Homespun down at Cinefest. I thought it was amazing. Well done. That was great.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

That’s so good.

Josh:

That was another really collaborative process. Bec has put together a huge team of people around her to-

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

To make that happen-

Gabrielle:

Power force Bec Bignell.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Such a good coming vibe off her, it’s like yeah-

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

…amazing.

Josh:

No, it’s good to hear it went well down at Cinefest.

Gabrielle:

Yeah. It was the feeling in that room was so beautiful.

Josh:

Oh, of course.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Of course, I know.

[Facilitating Narratives – 12:01]

Josh:

Yeah. And we recognize as well that, we’re here to facilitate those stories being told. The audience that she’s trying to reach with Homespun is pretty broad. But it’s also, she’s got that really specific audience, that’s her community. And same with the indigenous projects that we work on as well, we see our role as facilitating those stories being told. It’s not necessarily always about us stamping our voice on it, or doing it our way. And so that’s another reason we have to be agile, and having a team helps with that too. Because it’s not just me, for example, deciding what needs to happen, it’s kind of the team going “Well, maybe we should do it this way.”

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Ned:

It’s a big collaboration.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

It’s interesting when the take on telling stories that need to be told, and not necessarily putting your voice forward, and the work that you do is literally amplifying other people’s voices, and allowing other people’s voices to come through, which is really amazing when you think about it and kind of… I really think you can make or break a project with the sound, and the music. And we get to watch lots of cuts, and you watch a cut and you’re like, “No, it didn’t really hit me.” And then you go back and you watch it with a soundtrack on it, and you’re like bawling your eyes out and you’re like, “Okay, I get it.” So it’s quite amazing what you can do.

Josh:

You’ve identified the big picture challenge of sound and music is that. The need for us to amplify and facilitate the emotion of the story that’s happening on screen. And we admit that we don’t always get that right as well, and that’s why we need to have a process that that’s really collaborative, and it’s impossible to feel all of the emotions that can be in one story for one person and you need a team to do that. It’s a big responsibility for both music and sound. I used to like the analogy of we add steroids to flex the emotional muscle. But that’s a pretty macho analogy now, I don’t use it so much. But it is that we’re trying to add, and not take away from what’s happening on screen.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

Of course, Yeah.

Gabrielle:

The seasoning.

Josh:

Absolutely!

[Creative Process for Compositions – 13:52]

Gabrielle:

Well, I think that leads us really well into my next question, which was, so you’ve won an award for your amazing compositions on THALU, and that was a WA children’s series that we touched on that shot up in Roebourne. Can you talk through what was your process for creating that? What do you think about it worked so well and resonated with your audiences, and I guess, an award jury panel as well?

Ned:

Well, yeah, the collaboration started with Tyson from Weerianna Street Media. You heard a song that he’d composed, which was basically a stripped back acoustic version of the song that we adapted. We basically built up to reflect the style and the feel of the show THALU. And Tyson was able to pull together a group of kids that would sing the lyrics that he’d written for the show. And that really gave you goosebumps listening to it.

Josh:

Yeah. And then the Score, that was the theme song. And the Score Ned, actually… so Ned and I usually compose collaboratively, which is another weird thing that we do. But Ned started the process of developing the look and feel, in terms of sound. And the brief for that show was steampunk, post-apocalyptic, desert-

Gabrielle:

Quirky?

Josh:

Yeah, quirky, but kids show. We do a fair bit of kids TV. And we have to always be really careful to think about what’s going to be appropriate for kids, emotionally.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

We can’t scare them too much. We can’t freak them out too much, basically. Which music can do really well, if you go too hard with it. But we had to come up with the sounds of the desert up there, and this story. And Ned did a beautiful job of working his way through the process with the production team of developing the sound of the music for the show. And it’s probably a good dovetail in a way to talking about challenges as well.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

Because you can take time to establish the musical voice of the show. It probably took about six weeks to get that right.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

And it requires that music is written, that gets thrown out, basically. You have to write stuff that you believe in, but then accept that it might not be what ends up in the final thing. It’s the heartbreaking part of being a composer.

Gabrielle:

I was going to say that sounds really like you… no one wants to make something being like, “Yeah, this is  might not work.” But it’s quite vulnerable in a way.

Josh:

Yeah. But I think that’s one of the main things I tell anyone young who’s coming in is, “You have to be willing to commit to ideas and really put your heart and soul into them. But also be willing to let them go.” It’s a paradox, if you like.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

Because it’s collaborative. Yeah, I mean, if you’re Nick Cave. And you’re writing amazing, lyrical songwriting, you can just be Nick Cave. I’m not Nick Cave. And I’m usually a composer that’s hired to work on a job, and facilitate that the story is told. So that job is much more collaborative.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

That role. And I’m sure that Nick Cave is amazing, one of my favorite artists. And I’m sure he’s amazingly collaborative, as well. But it’s a different kind of role as an artist, I would say. I think-

Gabrielle:

Yeah, I get what you mean, yeah.

Josh:

I would say that I’m an artist. I would say that Nick Cave is an artist. But there’s a distinction there between the importance of my work. Maybe, let’s say, I’m probably getting a little too in the weeds now-

Gabrielle:

I don’t know about that. No, I don’t know about that, because I would say your work is probably equally important. And what I think it is, is that with some artists, and I think whatever form you’re working on. There are some artists where they are like, “This is my voice, and this is what we’re doing.”

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And everybody gets on board with this.

Josh:

Yes.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

It sounds like to me, that your process is a lot more, you bring people into that and you bounce ideas off. And you take, this is the story’s voice, this is what we’re trying to achieve. And then you work together to get that goal, which in some ways is I think can often produce better art.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Because I think you need that filter process.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And allowing those new ideas-

Ned:

And that happened with THALU. We had an instinctive approach right at the start to make it a certain style of music. But we had to shift that instinct, and collaborate more with the group making the music, I think.

[Creative Voice and Compromise – 17:47]

Josh:

Yeah. If I was saying to a young sound designer or a composer coming in to the industry that, “You need to have your own voice. And you need to have your thing that you do because everybody will want that in the end. They want you to be authentic. They want you to be yourself. But you also have to be willing to compromise, basically.” The dream for any creative, I think is to be that artist where you’re like, “This is my work. This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” There’s a famous story that the guy did the logo for Steve Jobs when he left Apple, Next. I don’t know if you know that story.

Gabrielle:

No.

Josh:

I’ve forgotten his name. But it’s a beautiful story where Steve Jobs had been kicked out of Apple, basically. This is before he came back and made it the modern company that is. And he set up a new computing company called Next. And Steve Jobs was [00:18:30] so aesthetic, that he wanted to have the best logo designer in the world. So he went to… I can’t remember his name, Paul something or other. And the graphic designer said, “Okay, it’s…” And at the time, this is in the late 80s. “It’s a $100,000. You get no revisions. I’m going to give you a logo and that’s it.” And this is Steve Jobs, who was the micromanager, control freak aesthetic guy. And he had to accept that he was just going to take the logo as is. Now that is a fantasy situation-

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

…nobody gets that.

Gabrielle:

I don’t-

Josh:

I tell that story because-

Ned:

It’s the dream.

Josh:

No, that’s the fantasy and not the reality. And it happens in between Steve Jobs and the greatest graphic designer in the world. But for a lot of the work that we do, it is collaborative. And it’s a really healthy thing to do as a human being, in anything you do-

Gabrielle:

Yeah, I think so.

Josh:

…is to work with other people. If you want to be an island and come in thinking that you’re just going to be you, more power to you. If you’re going to keep doing that, I have absolute respect for that. But you’re not going to be able to work with other people so easily-

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

…if you do not. That said, it’s a paradox. Because most of the artists that I really hold in high regard, they have that thing. That’s the kind of, I am that artist and take it or leave it. And that’s-

Gabrielle:

Can be really interesting to look at what their career paths then have been, and their journey of collaboration. And have they always had that or-

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

…have they built up a portfolio in 10 years. We’ll be having this conversation. You’ll be like, “We give people a track and that’s it.”

Josh:

Yeah. We were talking about soundtracks that we really like. Jeff Barrow is a composer that we really like. And he’s an example of, he created the band Portishead in the 90s. I don’t know if you know that band.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

But incredible, one of my favorites from the 90s. They invented the genre of trip hop really, along with Massive Attack. Which is a big thing for me, a 90s… I grew up then. And so he used a really authentic artist, and really committed to doing things his way. And so he scored films like Ex Machina.

Ned:

He did some of the Black Mirror episodes.

Josh:

But I imagine even a guy like that, I like to think he has to collaborate with-

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

…people. If he’s going to score films, he’s at some point decided that he’s going to go through that process and work in collaboration. And compromise might not even be the right word for an artist like that. It’s like, but they have to do the work of working with other people.

Gabrielle:

A film is not, it’s very rare that one person can control every aspect of that. Yes, you can have a director that has a very distinctive style and vision, but you have to bring people in to make that vision. So I think through that process, you naturally collaborate.

Josh: Yeah. You’re called to collaborate and it’s a challenge, but that’s the reward in the end as well.

[Sound Design for Games and Virtual Reality – 20:56]

Gabrielle:

Yeah. That’s really inspiring. Well, I think we’ve touched on quite a bit of film and TV as well. But I guess under that banner, as well isyou guys do sound design and implementation for games and VR. How does that process differ?

Josh:

Yeah. It is quite different. It’s different in a really exciting way for us. We would love to be doing even more of it. I guess the main consideration with interactive and game stuff is that, you’re dealing with a medium that’s created in real time. And what I mean by that is, there’s no working over and over again on the fixed locked cut of a thing, and it’s told shot by shot, and it’s edited to the frame. You’re trying to create an experience that will unfold in an interactive way.
That said, a lot of the same things that are required for scoring a TV show, or a film, or creating sound effects for a TV show or film, are the same. The emotional impact of sound is still the same. One of the things that’s really cool though, is you can create soundtracks that evolve and shift according to what’s happening in the experience. We worked on the THALU VR experience actually, which happened before the THALU TV show, with Frame VR and with Weerianna Street Media and Stu Campbell, who was the artist on that. And, we use Middleware. Middleware is the term for software that sits between two main kinds of software, that makes sense. So there’s this middleware software called FMOD. We started using that, and we use that in our studio now. And it allows sound designers to create sounds that are interactive, I guess. So we can put a sound in and we’re normally we’d put it into our software. And we’d hit play, and it would play back, and it would happen on rails, we say. It just happens beginning to end, and then it’s done. This way we can create a sound where we say, “Well, when this thing happens, it could sound like this, but if this thing happens, but some other condition has changed, if you push a button, but you’re outside the button sounds different.” Bigger example would be, this is a creature that when it’s in a particular emotional state, according to the game you’re playing, yhat it sounds like this. And otherwise when it’s closer to you and it’s chilled out, it sounds like this. So you can design the thing to be interactive and that’s really exciting. I think it is the future of production of media. I think also in film, because the sounds that we can create in that creative tool environment, that we can’t really do in the traditional linear editing environment. At the moment we’ve been working on, it’s a virtual architectural tour of Ivanov building.

Gabrielle:

Oh, wow!

Josh:

So Ivanov is a well- known WA architect. And working to create the sound of being in a house at City Beach. Which sounds kind of-

Gabrielle:

I’ve heard of this project.

Josh:

It’s still got a lot of traditional storytelling elements. There’s a voiceover, for example. So much of our work in audio post is in cutting together narration and dialogue, that really hits the mark and tells the story. So there’s still a lot of those same things to consider.

Ned:

And we also worked on the Periscope Pictures Whadjuk Boodja, which is a VR experience.

Gabrielle:

Oh, yeah.

Ned:

And it was my first delve into grading  sound for VR. Yeah, it was really fascinating. And basically you creating an asset list of sounds that you can attach to objects, or you can put the sound of the bird, the proximity of that is. The sound of it all come closer to you or further away, or yeah.

Gabrielle:

I mean, when you’re talking about that. My head is like, how do you control that? Because there’s so many possibilities and there’s so many things to think about.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

I feel like it could go on forever. How do you keep that to a timeline or a…

Josh:

Yeah. Well, and you’ve identified the challenge there, which is what we call the asset list. Which is really just the limitations of the things you’re going to make to-

Gabrielle:

Yeah, okay.

Josh:

…create the world. That said just like in a film, if you look at a big, even a 100% Wolf. Which we work on with, Zoe does the SFX on that. When I get her sound effects added in, and it’s in surround sound. And it’s got 100s of channels in it of stuff, and that could be 30 layers of sound effects happening at the same time, just for one shot. And then other times the sound works really well when there’s just a very good, atmos layer, the right sound effects, and the right thing happening in the dialogue. And there’s three layers. So it’s this paradox that we can do heaps of stuff. But also sometimes to create the feeling of being there with sound doesn’t need a lot, it just needs the right thing. That’s the art of the sound effects editor really, of this identifying the right sound that feels like you’re there, and often you can’t create that. You have to find it from a recording or…

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

It’s about the atmos. But then if you’re dealing with games where you’re making things that are, for example, a creature that has never existed before. Or yeah, let’s say for virtual Whadjuk, that VR experience. Obviously, there were limitations there in terms of, we could have sounds of all of the possible bird species on the Swan river to be there in an interactive way, and happen in a general way. But within the limitations of the software itself, and what it can do you have to create a sense that you’re there. You’re still in a virtual space, that technology will get better and better. And they were even talking about virtual, there’s virtual voices now. AI is now, they’re capturing-

Gabrielle:

Yeah. Which is kind of creepy.

Josh:

Yeah. You can go to the, I think it’s the Tate Modern in the UK, and talk to a virtual version of Nile Rogers, the disco producer, amazing guitarist. And he’s had himself captured as an AI.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

And that’s the future with actors and virtual performances and even ADR

Ned:

Or a Holocaust survivor.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah. There’s a famous one with the Holocaust survivor-

Gabrielle:

Wow!

Ned:

…you can ask them any question and-

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And they get an answer.

Josh:

You can have a conversation.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

And so that kind of technology is coming. It’s just around the corner. That will have huge ramifications, even for things like ADR, because we may not have to get an actor back into the studio. Because we can just sit there and type we want them to say and they’ll say it.

Gabrielle:

I reckon we could go down a full rabbit hole on this. Because it’s so… and I read this amazing article, and I wish I could remember who it was by, or who sent it to me. But it was 40 pages about what is the future of film, and TV, and actors. Rather than having their makeup artists that comes with them, they will have a virtual reality technician that is theirs, that’s the only person that’s allowed to look on there likeness. And I just think we’re on this cusp at the moment. And that, yeah, once you go down there’s so much possibility.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

It’s endless.

Josh:

And it’s already happening in gaming. Gaming is really interesting as a format, because it really is pushing the bleeding edge of what can be done with storytelling. And globally, It’s reaching more maturity as a storytelling medium-

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

…now, which is really exciting. It’s not just within a narrower audience, which would be traditional gamers, I guess you would say. And that’s expanding to really talk about it as interactive storytelling. And I think it would already with… I mean, I’ve got a six year old, and actually, we don’t give them a lot of technology. We deliberately don’t. But I think about the stories that he’s going to be consuming. And if I look at a 12 year old now, and if they’re on Snapchat, and watching the content that you can scroll through on-

Gabrielle:

Yeah, it’s so different.

Josh:

…Snapchat, is completely different to what I was exposed to when I was a kid. That said, nothing beats Bluey for kids. And that’s traditional content really.

Gabrielle:

Absolutely!

Josh:

So there’s a place for all of it. But I think more and more, we’re going to see these interactive, storytelling mediums happening. And we’re really into that as well. We’d love to be doing it all the time, because it’s very creative and exciting.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Yeah. It seems like an art form on its own.

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And I think you’re right about expanding, especially with the federal offset that’s been announced starting what? End of 2022 financial year. So I think it’s a space that’s just going to explode. And it seems like the games that’s now starting to get a lot more recognition for what they do do.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And it’s not just a teenager in his room playing by himself, it’s quite an amazing following and, yeah, watching the space in games. I think it’s going explode. It’s great. Have you got any advice, speaking of the young people. Or maybe not young people, we shouldn’t put people in boxes. If anyone’s looking to move into sound post or music composition, do you have any advice for people looking to start their career or get in to the industry?

Ned:

We would probably say put in the hours. I think-

Gabrielle:

That’s a good one.

Ned:

I know I did. You’ve got to really be immersed and obsessed with music and sound, and really be passionate about it. And learn as much as you can. Go on YouTube and…

Josh:

yeah, and I think that’s the paradox too. You’ve got to put in the hours, but you’re not going to put in the hours unless you care about it.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

So only do it if you care about it. Because I would say for sound and music at least, than I’d probably say for most creative industries. You’re not going to walk in and just be able to fudge your way through it, it’s… and fudging your way through is an important part of the process. Because you’ve got to make it up as you go along, but you’ve got to continually be interested in it. What draws you to the thing? So do the thing that you’re passionate about. And figure out what you’re drawn to. Sometimes when I look at young people, like a university aged student. I might be teaching, for example, they have so much choice now that’s an incredible opportunity, but it’s also harder in a way I think, now to find something that you’re into because you have so much choice. So it’s finding the thing that you’re into. Lucy who works with us, she’s 23, I think. So I consider to be half my age. But she’s into the same stuff that I’m into, and she’s also interested in getting better at what she does. You’re not going to come out of a course at uni or TAFE, fully ready to go. And university, I think most students are figuring out as well, it’s not exactly equipping you for what you actually need to do at work. So, get out there and find a studio like ours, or find people like us that are working and just go and hang out with them. And see if you line up with what they’re into. Find your tribe, if you like. That’s important, I think that works with us. I think we’re pretty clear about who we are to people, and that attracts certain kinds of people to us, as well, in terms of who we work with. So staying authentic, and finding that part of you that is you, and that sounds a bit nebulous, I guess, but if you’re really into doom metal music, do that. And if you’re going to do metal music, but you want to score a film, find the director or the people that want to do films that have that thing in it. There’s an overlap there somewhere to collaborate. I mean, in sound and music, I’d say as well, that just listening and hearing is, you need to be someone that’s listening. You need to be sitting in conversation with people and listening to what they’re saying. That’s a really important part of being a sound person. Because if you’re going to edit dialogue, you need to hear what a person’s actually saying. And I know that sounds obvious, but-

Gabrielle:

No, it’s a good point, though. Right?

Josh:

…your whole job is to make sure that the voice connects, right?

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

And if you’re a sound designer or an SFX editor, you need to go out and listen to what the tree sound like outside your house. And then go out to the bush and see what they sound like out there. And you need to be listening all the time.

Gabrielle:

I think that’s to your point, Ned, you need to put those hours in.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

And if you love it, then it’s not going to feel like hours. It’s going to be easy to do, and you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing. And it’s really good advice.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah.

[Future Projects – 32:04]

Gabrielle:

What does the future hold for Envelope?

Ned:

We’ve got two really interesting projects on the go at the moment. One’s a custom music library and the other is-

Gabrielle:

Oh, cool.

Ned:

…a podcast that we’re producing.

Josh:

Both of them supported by Screenwest.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

With the, fix it in post fund. Yeah.

Ned:

Yeah. I mean the music library that were launching very soon, has come about through years and years of making music that hasn’t made it to picture and have ended up on the cutting room floor, basically. And we thought, well, there’s all this really good music, how could we use this in a better way? Basically, a couple of years ago, we put together on a Dropbox link, basically. In an organized fashion. And we thought there could be a better interface for this where the public could browse and search for music.

Gabrielle:

It’s amazing.

Josh:

Yeah, and we’ve expanded that now. So that was about 300 tracks. And then we thought, okay, we’re not going to be able to write another 300 pieces of music in the next six months. Were too busy. So we expanded it to include other composers. And we’ve brought in other composers in WA composers, and I’m really talking to other composers about music that they’re not using, basically. Which, as I mentioned before, this cutting room floor idea. There is a lot of that music sitting around. And it’s good music. It’s sitting on the cutting room floor because it didn’t fit exactly that picture. But it still had an emotional intention behind it.
And we recognize that with music and scoring, the quality of the music and the clarity of the emotion is what’s important. And we went out there and with the internet, and with our network as well, I have been able to find a whole lot of other amazing music that still fits into our style, if that makes sense. Because we’re not trying to be too broad. There are a huge production music libraries out there, that have 1000s and 1000s of tracks. Our goal is to get to a couple of 1000 tracks within a couple of years. We’re at 500 now.

Gabrielle:

It’s pretty decent.

Josh:

Yeah, that’s been a huge job to get to that point.

Gabrielle:

I’m glad you mentioned that, because I was going to ask what happens, because you have these labors of love, that you end up not using. And I was like, do you keep them? Do you…

Josh:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Maybe it fits something else.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah. So, and that’s been a really interesting process. Because we’ve also realized that the way that we score, we’ve changed that a bit as well in that, one way that music gets used a lot in editing, is that there’s temp music, and that’s the bane of every composer. Because people get used to hearing the temp all the time, and they want you to be the temp. Which is just, it’s a loser’s game for everybody, because you can’t be something else other than you are. And you can be something else, you can copy the style and pretend to be that. And that we do that as well, but it only really connects if it’s good. And you do it in a good way. That’s really exciting.
We’re doing a podcast as well. And the library and the podcast we’re developing, are both our move into being producers ourselves. Because we recognize long-term that we provide a service and collaborate with other people but we really want to be able to express ourselves and our company as well. So those two things are what we look at as developing our own thing, our own intellectual property, our own stories. So yeah, the podcast is called the Gribble Line and we are piloting two episodes of that. We’re just about to finish the script for the second episode. And it’s really exciting, it’s an indigenous story. And so we have indigenous stakeholders and collaborators on that. It’s a historical story about father John Gribble. Who was an Anglican minister, that came to WA and was sent up to a mission up North.
And I probably won’t go too much more into what happens next. But it’s a tale of heroism, if you like. It’s a tale of the historical colonial history here. The colonial experience of indigenous people in WA. It’s a story that indigenous people in WA are aware of, and non-indigenous people are less aware of. So we see our role as well, bringing that story to a non-indigenous audience. And yeah, we want to test that audience. We want to make something and see if it will find the right ears, and people will be into it. And so we now have all the challenges of a producer as well. Not just the sound –

Gabrielle:

Yeah. Just because you didn’t have enough. And when do you think you’ll be launching that?

Josh:

That’s a great question.Bbecause of everything we have on our plate, it sort of sits there in our Google time, if you like. And we don’t have huge pressure to put it out. It’s really self-driven. But I would say that it’s probably in the next six months-

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

…that we’ll be having a highlight. And the idea is to turn those two episodes into eight to 10 episodes. And off the back of that raise more interest and funding and-

Gabrielle:

Exiting!

Josh:

It’s super exciting. And podcasting is the ultimate medium for us, because it’s linear storytelling using sound and music.

Gabrielle:

Yeah. It’s safe.

Josh:

So if you get rid of all the film and the picture, what’s left, that’s a podcast, basically.

Gabrielle:

Yeah.

Josh:

Yeah. We bring in all the best elements of what we can do to that project, and we can do it all ourselves in-house so, yeah. So that’s super exciting. And yeah, the dream five to 10 years is doing amazing collaborations with people. I think all the work we do with indigenous companies is really important to us as well.

Ned:

Yeah.

Josh:

We’d love to be doing heaps of that. To be working in games, working on stories that we care about. We also recognize the PDV is an amazing opportunity, and it’s trying to bring stuff in, bring work in from outside. We know that some of that work like 100% Wolf, for example, which is really positive, it’s allowed our company to grow massively. It’s such an amazing project. We’re really excited about the work we’ve done on that, and we’ve worked really hard on it. The projects like that, they’re projects that we care about. And so to answer the question, what we want to be doing in five or 10 years, we just want to continue to be doing work that we care about. If we’re doing stuff that we don’t care about, we know that we’re not on mission, as such as a studio.

Gabrielle:

It’s hard to stay inspired if you don’t care about it.

Josh:

Yeah.

Ned:

Yeah.

Gabrielle:

Well, as you’ve just mentioned, WA does have an amazing PDV rebate, which is 20% off for your first 500,000 of expenditure, and 10% thereafter. Not to brag, but it is the best in the country, currently, so it’s definitely worth looking at and taking advantage of. For more information or to inquire about Envelope Audio services, please visit their website envelopeaudio.com.au. Thank you both so much, for spending time with us today.

Ned:

Thank you.

Gabrielle:

We really appreciate it, and look forward to seeing more of your work.

Ned:

Beautiful! Thanks.

Josh:

Thanks so much, Gaby.

[Outro – 38:30]

Voiceover:

This has been in conversation with Screenwest featuring Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan from Envelope Audio.

This podcast was brought to you by Screenwest. Screenwest, which is the thank Lotterywest for their continuing support of the WA screen industry.

Today’s episode was edited by XB studios, with music by Andrew Wright. And produced by Gabrielle Cole, and Alexandra Biddle for Screenwest.

[Transcript Ends]

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