(Originally published at Calgary is Awesome.)
Ear Candy is “a Calgary based audio boutique built on a foundation of passion and creativity… and some say, a modicum of madness,” according to their website, anyway. They’ve worked on television, movies, short films, and of course music and advertising. I was introduced to the studio, and sound guru Beau Shiminsky, through a group I had volunteered for in the past – Apocalypse Wars. Apocalypse Wars was a charity event held to raise money for Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. It was a game like capture the flag – with deadly consequences. You played either as a zombie, or a zombie hunter. Now, Ear Candy had put out a call for the scary folks from Apocalypse Wars to make their very best horror noises for an upcoming film, Spencer Estabrook’s The Hunt. I sat down with Beau in Ear Candy’s cozy, colourful studio on 10th Avenue to chat about their past work, and some exciting upcoming projects.
I just heard about you guys through Apocalypse Wars. How long have you been in Calgary?
I’ve been here with Ear Candy for ten years. I was at another facility in Calgary for a bunch of years before that, but this is mine, so that’s the difference!
So what’s your team like?
It’s just me! Me, and Alyssa, and then I have some freelancers I use out of Vancouver for films that I need more people to work on, but the ideas are generally me.
What do you mostly find yourself working on?
Uh, you know, it’s half an half. I do a lot of ad work. I write music for ads, and I do sound for radio and t.v. That’s half of it. Then, the other half is like corporate stuff or film. For film we do documentaries, dramatic shorts… we don’t do too many dramatic films, just because there isn’t a whole lot of it! Lot of shorts though – we’ll do a few a year, and a couple docs. That kind of thing.
So, the current film project is a horror one.
Yeah. It’s called The Hunt. Spencer Estabrooks is director, and there’s a guy from Heartland in it – local kid. Right now this week, we’re casting, getting some people in to do the sound for “the creature”. So it’s going to be a kind of fun little session. Instead of going to a CD library and finding growls, we’re gonna have some fun with it!
What is the process like for someone who comes in to work on this ? In the email volunteer call I received, it basically read “Come down to the studio and scream”.
Yeah! There’s not a whole lot of crap involved! I think we’ll just play with it in the studio, not waste a lot of time. So the process is just coming in, we’re going to have the film on screen in the voice booth so they can watch and see the action, and we’ll record at the same time. And so they can see what the creature looks like, and kind of give him his own life!
Then we’ll run that voice, probably through some processes. We have gear here, like a harmonizer and things like that, so we can adjust the pitch and do some weird things. And they can hear that in their headphones! They’ll probably be weirded out by the whole thing [laughs].
That’s great! Do you often do open calls for the stuff you do?
Open calls, not usually, no. When we’re casting for talent for television or radio, or longer form films, we have a very large voice bank – anywhere in the world we have a list of people. We usually draw from them because they have demos, so we can submit them and then the client goes “Oh, we like these three people”, so then we can bring them in. Open calls are rare – and this one isn’t even really an open call itself. I met Tara [of Apocalypse Wars] doing some work, and she had mentioned that she’s involved in this apocalypse zombie thing. You know, there are certain people that get into that kind of world – so I thought, instead of just going down the road of normal talent, let’s take these people and see what they can do!
Tell me about the process for someone who would like to try voice acting, and getting their name into that bank.
There are courses you can definitely take. Now, there’s one group (I don’t now if you want to drop big corporate names into this) but they do classes. You meet people starting out. We’re actually doing a class here, it’s called the Voice Gym. So people who get into those, it’s up to them to come and sign up and play in the studio. So it is a paid lesson, but they can ask questions, and we’ll work with them. So once they get a sense of what it’s like, and if they even like it, or we notice some talent, then we push them to demo. So, it’s a little side thing they can possibly do, or make it bigger if they want!
What is one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on at Ear Candy?
I’ll talk about a recent one I really enjoyed doing. It was a documentary called Second Chance. It was about this Iron Woman, an athlete, who got in a massive car accident. They thought she was never going to run again. A few years later… she competed in Iron Man again and came third, as a pro. It was quite the story arc, and a fun piece because I wrote about forty minutes of music for the film. Just trying to speak to her… machine-like quality I guess. Lots of people who get injured, it’s often very difficult. She’s just got this huge heart and mindset, and the music was driven that way.
Was this a Calgary based project?
Yeah. The production company’s here, Kelly Brothers, and the film premiered here in November. It’s actually premiering this week in Penticton, where she’s from. So, that’s where the home of Iron Man Canada was. [It premiered on Jan. 24th.]
So, how about some challenges you find yourself running into in your work?
Deadlines are a big one. It’s tough. A project gets filmed, or written, or whatever, and that’s great – but then they want to get it done right away. Audio is the last step of the journey for most things. It’s not that we’re thought of last, it’s just the deadlines are met, and then we come last… it’s the trickle down effect. Really though, the challenges aren’t bad. It’s a fun thing to do. We get to make great sounds, and crazy stuff, and bring in talented people. We write great music. People let us do what we do. There’s not a lot of “You do this, and this” but instead “Here’s our project, have fun with it, make it great!” When you can go to work like that, make it nice.
I watched a documentary a few years ago on how sound designers have to be creative – like in Alien, they made the alien bursting out of a chest noise by slowly pouring out a can of cat food. Do you guys have any similar creative workarounds up your sleeve?
Yeah, there are some interesting ones. When we’re doing snow in the summer, and there’s no snow, what do you do? So, to walk in the snow, there’s an old trick where you take a styrofoam cup and some Coffeemate and you squish the cup into the Coffeemate. So you do that, and time it out, and just record it on a microphone. There’s good libraries of sound effects, but sometimes it’s just nice to do it yourself. It’s called foley – just reenacting the sound in time with the picture rather than cutting in each individual footstep.
Another thing – celery breaking is great for bone snapping in horror. You take celery and snap it – it’s a wet, gross sound. Really squishy, fun stuff.
That’s so great! So, on a less squishy and more happy note to end on – what makes Calgary awesome?
Well, I’m from here (raised in Vancouver, but most of my career has been in Calgary). What makes Calgary awesome is there’s a lot of great work done here, a lot of really talented people in my industry. They also have a great respect for the work that we do – it’s not so cut-throat as in major centres where it’s all about price. Here, we find that our relationships are based on creativity, experience, and attitude… and that’s what makes Calgary awesome!
25 Jan 2013 / 0 notes