As a sound designer, the last thing you would want is sticky buttons and knobs. But Christian Scheuer from SoundFlow is working hard to keep your hands glued to the instrument and your eyes glued to the silver screen.
SoundFlow binds everything you do into one, smooth, artistic workflow. It is a software platform targeted at sound designers, composers, and others working creatively with sound on the computer. As Scheuer puts it himself:
»When you’re working as a musician on an acoustic, physical instrument, you are in complete creative flow. You have the possibility of reacting immediately and instinctively to your surroundings and your impulse – there’s a direct link between emotion, physical expression and sound coming back into your ears, creating a synergistic loop. When working as a sound designer, you don’t have that luxury. You work offline. You press play, go back and edit, press play again, make adjustments, and so forth – nothing is real time and all ideas have to be queued up and dealt with after the fact.«
Or, nothing was real time, because when you are dealing with someone like Christian, it doesn’t take long for frustration to evolve into solutions. His solutions? They not only work – but they have made Hollywood take note – from the big studios in Los Angeles and northern California, to Russia, Germany, Britain, France, across Bollywood and into small indie productions in Scandinavia.
Read on to get the full story about how SoundFlow’s innovative solutions are creating new workflows and why it simply just works.
It started in the 80’s
Christian, a self-taught programmer, started his education early on, trying to decipher and understand his father’s coding – often scrambled to avoid prying eyes. The screen was blue, the pixels clunky, and the process slow, but it taught Christian an important thing: not only could he learn to understand the code, he could manipulate it, and once he could manipulate it, he could make it do anything.
And he quickly became so good at it, that he started developing custom IT-solutions for his school, his friends and companies.
Then, at some point, someone sat him in front of a piano. Music quickly became his raison-d’être and, many years later, his career. His creative spark led him from music to sound design and back again to film composition.
However, when his music and sound ideas were rooted in the computer, he often felt a detachment, a block in the inspirational flow caused by the idiosyncrasies of existing software programs. He constantly had to pause creating, because the different pieces of software he used could not communicate with each other, or would only do so in unintuitive ways. And, Christian being Christian, he started solving that – and with time the complete product, that started taking form while Christian was still a student, emerged.
“My ultimate goal is getting our focus as sound designers back to what is happening on the big screen, back to the conversation with the director. In an ideal world, the technical barriers are so low and the workflows so smooth, that you immediately will know how to translate an idea in your head into sound or music. The reasoning behind SoundFlow is that we want to free up artists from all these technical tasks and render them essentially musicians with sound as their instrument. It’s a very exciting process, and we are getting closer with each update, thanks to the invaluable and enthusiastic feedback from our customers around the world,« Christian says.
Sound? Check. Flow? Check. But… how?
SoundFlow is unique. And SoundFlow is innovative. But what is it that SoundFlow can do, that no one else seems to have been able to do?
»Most other workflow solutions start by reinventing the wheel. They create vertically integrated solutions and products that try to do everything, be the best at every task all at once. But that’s never going to work in the real world. There will always be a program best suited for sound editing, a plugin that is best at simulating room acoustics, a filter that sounds better than all the rest, a plugin to more unnoticeably remove noise and a sampler with a better pitch algorithm. Instead of trying to be everything, SoundFlow aims to be the glue that makes all these programs, plugins and samplers work together as if they were made by the same company. That way you get the best of both worlds,« Christian explains.
It is that insistence that things should be smarter and more intuitive, that drives Christian and SoundFlow. A guitar becomes the extension of the musicians body – why shouldn’t the tools used by sound designers work the same way? That is why SoundFlow is also integrating iPad surfaces and midi controllers into the workflow.
»The iPad is a singular versatile device that allows for near-physical, haptic interactions that are far more intuitive than keyboard and mouse, especially because the mouse requires that your eyes are on the computer screen, instead of being immersed into the movie. Using the midi controllers and the iPad allow us to build workflows that adapt to the artist’s behaviour, and where the artist herself can adapt it to her needs.«
The first product, which launched in 2017, is a shortcut solution for Pro Tools, which basically moves functions from keyboard and mouse, and replaces them with physical buttons. One of the hurdles of sound design is the many hours spent trying to click small on-screen buttons with a mouse pointer – and Christian discovered that many of these processes were simple, predictable repetitions: “The software was not designed to do exactly what we need, but instead it is designed to do a wide variety of tasks”, says Christian.
The new product coming from SoundFlow is an iPad app that integrates with the computer, and allows you to automate your workflows from an app you design yourself on the computer, giving you full control in organising your personal workflow.
In time, SoundFlow will also feature a cloud-based solution. The solution will focus on eliminating one of the most time consuming tasks in sound design: re-editing the sound following a recutting of the movie. Traditionally complex and with a high chance of errors, SoundFlow hopes to make it as easy as drag-and-drop, but with the computer taking care of all the minute adjustments, renaming, notes, tagging and so much more.
Credit: All images used in the article are courtesy of Christian Scheuer and SoundFlow