Audio often treated like Cinderella by producers
By Ajith Ram November 17, 2016
- Great audio design can enhance a movie or game
- Full potential of Dolby Atmos tech yet to be realised
L to R: Ivan Cheong and Walid Omar
WHETHER it is movies or videogames, one of the least understood and critically important features is the product's audio design. On many occasions, the sound designer has been compared to the movie editor or the wicketkeeper behind the stumps in cricket.
If they do their jobs properly, very few realise that they even exist. But if they mess up, everyone notices. Equally, a good audio designer can save a mediocre movie or videogame from complete failure.
At last week's Level Up 2016 in KL, DNA caught up with Walid Omar, CEO of Tribe Audio. Walid Omar’s journey in sound and music production spans over 20 years. Raised and educated in the UK, his formative years were at Synchrosound Studios in Malaysia followed by Broadcast Film and Video in Bristol, where he was a sound designer and editor for BBC Natural History productions.
He then moved on to work for Technicolour and Todd AO in London, before becoming a freelancer. He worked with numerous audio postproduction facilities in London on films, games and TV productions.
In 2004, he moved back to Malaysia to start WASP Studios, a music and audio postproduction studio producing TV commercials for the region. After 10 years, he formed Tribe Audio and soon after created Lil Critter Workshop, a boutique digital 2D animation studio that specialises in content creation development.
DNA: Please introduce Tribe Audio to our readers.
Tribe represents a collective of in-house and independent sound designers, composers, musicians, producers and voice directors. Our network of audio professionals spans the globe.
We create original music and sound design for film, TV, radio, and interactive media. We grant access to some great talent from around the world to service productions in Malaysia and internationally.
DNA: Have you done any work in VR so far?
VR is an area we are actively interested in, but have yet to take on a project. I just returned from MIPCOM in Cannes where it was featured prominently in the seminars.
DNA: Is there sufficient professional quality audio talent in Malaysia?
Absolutely, Malaysia has world class audio talent. What we need is for investors and production companies to budget sufficiently for music and sound. MDEC events like Level Up help in sharing that message. Ultimately, it comes down to companies running with that vision.
DNA: At Level Up, you mentioned that you work with foreign music composers. Is this because there is a shortage of talent here?
We work with composers from around the world and in Malaysia. Each project has different requirement's from a creative brief and of course, the all important production budget. Having access to a variety of composers helps to keep our productions sounding fresh and original. It is a creative decision rather than a lack of talent. The majority of our music is composed in Malaysia.
DNA: What is your opinion of THX as a consumer audio certification standard?
THX has been a standard for a longtime, first in cinema and now bringing the experience/quality to the home cinema. When the investment is made in the hardware by the consumer, the quality of the content needs to meet those standards. That takes a big investment by the producers when producing their content.
DNA: Is Dolby Atmos everything it is cracked up to be or just marketing hype?
It depends on where it’s being used. Atmos is a great tool to create immersion for the audience and I feel it is under-utilised at this moment as not many have caught up to this yet.
I always watch action-packed movies in Atmos theatres. I think it rocks - but I’m a sound guy. I’m in awe of how the Hollywood sound guys create such natural unnoticeable sound with great impact!
DNA: What microphone would you recommend for voice recording?
We have a range of top end mics. Typically, we use a Neuman U87 plugged into an Avalon Class A pre-amp. The output goes straight into our Pro Tools HD DAW software.
DNA: What are your plans for the near future?
For me personally, I’d like to highlight the importance of sound and music in production to others. While most acknowledge its importance, people still put audio almost as an afterthought while they value the visual aspect of things more. Hence, I feel it should be something that is give much thought at the beginning of a project rather than the last step.
We produce a lot of TV animated series, trailers and theme songs. This includes casting, dialogue recording, music and audio postproduction and final mixing in 5.1 and stereo. We are actively looking to collaborate with mobile game developers and producers who recognise the importance of what good music and sound can add to their content and customers experience.