What does speed sound like? Sound designer and electronic musician Joseph Fraioli, aka jafbox, was charged with giving a campaign just that feeling. The spot, directed by Aaron Duffy and promoting Google’s Chrome with some clever tricks and photography, has been a huge award winner in sound design because of just how masterfully he pulled off the job.
First, the accolades:
winner of the 2011 cannes lion bronze award for sound design
winner of the 2011 clio gold award for sound design
winner of the 2011 one show silver award for sound design
d&ad 2011 in book nomination for sound design
But now, I wanted to hear from Joseph just how he built these sounds, as they could provide inspiration to people working on commercial jobs like this as well as music.
And it turns out, while the sounds are short, Joseph has plenty to say:
Can you tell us a little bit about how you produced these sounds? Any particular techniques? Sounds that had surprising sources?
One of the more challenging Foley elements was the loading of the potato gun. For this I disassembled a bicycle pump, filled it with water and let it dry a bit it so when I compressed the pump I could get a squeak sound as well as the movement of the valve for the sound of the potato being stuffed into the barrel. I also reused this prop for one phantom (slow motion) shot sound where the potato is being launched from gun, in this case I reassembled the pump and added a small plastic nozzle at the end to get a compressed, more energetic ascending accent sound layer for the potato moving down the gun chamber. On “sound waves”, the most challenging part of the design was the synthesizer sound itself. Getting a clear sonic representation of the real time and phantom shots of the synthesizer required a lot of experimentation with different waveforms and pitches. Nothing was post pitched; instead the waveform, envelopes and register were altered on the nord lead 2 synthesizer for the scenes.
My favorite technique I got to use on this project was developing the design elements for the phantom shots. What I really love to do with this kind of footage is instead of pitch down and time stretch real time sounds, ill use source material that is naturally closer in pitch and time to what is happening on screen. With this technique I am able to retain a sense of intricacy, body and texture in the sounds that compliment the physics of the actions, whereas if you were to pitch and time stretch the source, the overall fidelity and detail gets lost. For example when the potato gun fires in real time it’s a pretty loud and harsh pop, much like an interior 9mm gunshot. When the potato gun fires in the phantom shot, instead of just pitching it down and stretching that sound out, I used are a military tank firing directly followed by a close up recording of a large roaring fire and shaped the fires envelope to what the picture was displaying of the blast. The only place where pitch manipulation was used was for the phantom shots of “lighting”. But instead of just straight pitching the tesla sounds down what I did was pitch them down just a bit and run them through a subharmonic synthesizer which recreates the sound one octave lower out of sine waves and makes it feel really powerful and dangerous.
In order to convey speed, it must have been necessary to reduce sounds to a single gesture, to try to convey more in less time?
Yes, but not just to convey speed, but also to keep clarity in the story. Keeping the design clean and impactful was really important with this project, especially since sound is the only thing supporting the visual to tell the story. Like with all projects, I wanted the audience to be entertained by the overall experience. To me the best sound design is that which supports the emotion and story of the picture without overstepping what the picture is asking for. This way sound adds another dimension to the experience and within that ill find a pocket to make interesting designs with purpose that are relevant to the project, all the time being mindful of the overall composition.
What are some sources of inspiration in sound design that lead you in your work?
For me, the most inspiring thing is developing new processes and recording new sounds. And beyond that combing and transforming those processes and recordings to further create something new and unique inspires me. Every project is different and a new challenge which I find inspiring as well.
Tell us a bit about yourself – who you are, and how you wound up doing this?
I had started my career in sound as a recording artist under the alias datach’i making experimental electronic music. Through word of mouth of my album releases I was contacted by the museum of modern art in New York to create sound for an installation. Through this process I realized that the sound design oriented experimental music I was creating was really I scoring pictures I had in my head. Working to picture gave me that feeling like I found what I was looking for. I went on to release 10 albums, toured etc while gaining contacts in the industry. From there I freelanced with a lot of sound / music houses for 4 or 5 years before starting my own company called Jafbox Sound where I aim to bring feature film quality and innovation in sound design into all types of advertising.
Find out more:
Joseph’s official site:
And the project page for this work: