It’s Sound Check!

with Tania Vlassova

I didn’t really know much about the sound world until I started uni (Bachelor of Sound and Music Design). Back then I was set on music composition and finding any excuse to play more piano.

It wasn’t until a couple of guest lecturers came in to talk about “sound design” that I was sent down a different path. They’d show short movie clips and ask us what SFX we thought would best suit a scene. I was so drawn in by the nuance and attention to detail needed for this that I went from never wanting to put my hand up in tutorials to being that nerd that won’t put it down. Then I ventured into the trenches of short filmmaking.

From there I emailed a constant stream of cover letters to various post houses until my WPM typing rate significantly increased while my ego deflated. I eventually received a response from Unison Sound, where I was offered a Sound Attachment role that was partnered with See-Saw Films for the Netflix production ‘The New Legends of Monkey.’

It was a really challenging few months, even just trying to learn the Pro Tools shortcuts, general sound terminology – and the struggles of conforms and reconforms reminiscent of trying to solve the last question of a maths exam – But I’m forever grateful for being thrown in the deep end.
I’ve continued to work in long-form television and film ever since, branching into SFX editing, dialogue editing and ADR – and finding a sort of side quest in field recording.

My most memorable project I would have to say was The New Legends of Monkey season 1 and 2.
That was the project which helped me discover the extent of what you can do in the sound world and where I was able to meet so many talented soundies I could look up to.

Monkey’s fantasy world gave us license to create many of the sound elements from scratch – it was a great project to uncover what is involved in building a show’s “sound”. There was incredibly detailed costume Foley for each character, magical sound design fighting sequences throughout, and the ambience wasn’t restricted to needing to sound like a real location so there was free rein to experiment. To hear all these detailed elements come together in the mix was rewarding.

Working on Season 2 years later, I was lucky enough to be one of the FX editors alongside a super talented team. Reconnecting with the show was an opportunity to see how far I’d come, but also how far I have to go. I began working on Monkey saying, “What’s the shortcut to add fades, again?” and ended with, “Look, it’s not a primetime Emmy – just a daytime Emmy.” So it’ll always be the most memorable.

If I wasn’t currently working in sound, I would probably be googling endlessly how to get into the industry.
Or working in music / screen composition (is that far enough from the sound industry?)

If I had to mention just one soundtrack I would have loved to work on… I’d say Sergio Leone’s – ‘Once Upon a Time in the West.’ I would have loved to work on even just the opening sequence. A fly in a gun, drinking water trickling from the top of a cowboy hat and a windmill which sounds like Ennio Morricone wrote a melody for it to play on repeat.

The best advice I have been given is If something doesn’t feel right or isn’t working, take a breather.
When you come back to it, you’ll have the bigger picture in mind and what didn’t work before will probably now fall into place.