#UNITATHOME | Q&A with UNIT Creative Director of Sound, Chris Southwell.

As we continue daily life in lockdown the UNIT talent are set up working remotely from home to ensure the safety of everyone, whilst still being able to collaborate on all client projects . 

We are looking to shine a spotlight on some of our key talent to hear more from each. We’ll be taking a look at what creative work they are busy with, how they are handling and mastering remote working, how they are approaching collaborating in different ways, how they are learning to navigate the world of virtual events and relationships, what measures they are taking to stay sane, and how they are learning new creative past-times or hobbies that can even improve their creative output.

The second of the #UNITATHOME series is a Q&A with Creative Director of Sound, Chris Southwell.

Tell us about your at home remote working set up Chris?  I’m lucky enough to have had a home setup for a few years which I use for composition pieces. It was a pretty smooth transition from UNIT to home, we just had to set up a link back to the studio in order to access client backups. It’s the same story for the rest of the audio team. The whole UNIT sound team have full SFX capabilities, Zoom,  Skype and Source Connect setups for remote voiceover records.

How does sound design / composition at home work? Sound design and composition works the same way at home as in our UNIT Berners Mews studio in Soho. I still have access to SFX libraries and in fact I’m enjoying the natural playground of foley possibilities. I’ve just finished a sound design/composition job at home which required kitchen and nature SFX. It’s handy to just pop into the kitchen and record the required foley items!

Kitchen foley sound recording!

What are the vibes in UNIT Sound team right now?  The whole team are comfortable with their WFH setups and have adapted amazingly well to the day to day running of a remote audio department. However we all miss the daily banter of working within a great team of characters and I certainly miss chatting about the ‘have you seen this latest plugin on offer’ and have you checked out this track / album / artist conversations. Although that’s the danger of being at home – I keep buying new plugs / libraries

Recent UNIT sound team creative highlights? And your own recent best creative projects? 
Jamie Thomas’s Promax Gold award win for Now TV’s ‘Gomorrah’ really lifted the team. He worked tirelessly on the composition and complex sound design – the final outcome spoke volumes. 

Promax Awards and the UNIT + Now TV team on stage collecting their award.

Markus has recently completed a foley and sound design project with Atomic London for Homebase ‘Love Your Garden’ ITV Idents. He went into great detail designing the sound which I believe really stands out on TV.

One of my most recent highlights was working on BP ‘Unbreakable’ for Psona films – to celebrate BP’s sponsorship of the paralympics for over 10 years. This story followed the story of inspirational paralympic fencer Ammir Ali and his two children. I’ve been lucky enough to do a few of these films over the years and Director Stewart Suggs always captures a beautiful story. Every job requires sound design to help tell a story. This film in particular allowed me to explore slow motion sound design of falling objects breaking and exploding. 

BP ‘Unbreakable’

Anything you are working on right now you can mention? 
I have literally just finished working on a great new campaign for Homebase starring ‘Gary the Tortoise’ working closely with Atomic London and Director Ozzie Pullin and Rick & Mario out of Partizan. The iconic ‘Black Beauty’ soundtrack was used to showcase Gary the Tortoise’s speedy journey through the garden. I used subtle sound design to help emphasize key moments of this fun ad.

Homebase ‘Gary the Tortoise’

What is your go to music genre of choice?
Always a tough question as I have such varied music taste. I think it’s important to expose yourself to as much music as possible. In fact that goes for most media and music art forms in general. It’s a great tapestry of creative ideas and influence which you can apply to your work.

What are you listening to right now? Any new artists we should check out? Album of the moment?
I’m actually taking a lot of influence from Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. These composers have recently worked on HBO ‘The Outsider’ and have also written music for ‘Enemy’ and ‘Ozark’ to name a few.  I really love their use of string instruments and how they manipulate the sound. I’m currently writing a score for a short film and it’s heavily influenced by this sound.

What technology / apps / new software / systems are you using most right now and which ones do you recommend? I don’t leave home without iZotope RX 7 Advanced. I love this software for dialogue clean up etc. I’ve also recently bought the instrument software ‘Cello Untamed’ from Westwood Instruments. Westwood have captured some lovely random Cello performances and integrated them into a software sample library. You can create some really interesting composition pieces with these virtual instruments.

What are your isolation top creative / innovation tips? And tips for personal survival?I have been starting each day exercising which is something I never really find time for. The mornings were usually chaotic with school / nursery runs and the commute. 
I have found making time for exercise each morning has set me up for the day and something I’m certainly going to take forward.

And what daily small pleasure in life are you embracing?  I’m not missing the train commute and this probably goes for a lot of people! I’m also enjoying being around and seeing my kids more, this is something I will definitely savour. Although my 2 year old son doesn’t understand when I need to do work and usually times his visits to me whilst on the phone to clients etc!

I’m not one for rousing speeches, however I’ve certainly learnt how important it is to reflect, take a step back and realise what’s important. A clearer mind allows you to be more creative and that’s when the magic happens. Looking forward to seeing you all back in Soho soon!

Stay safe everyone.