NAME: David F. Van Slyke
COMPANY: Slick Sounds Media Partners
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Slick Sounds is a boutique sound design company that handles audio post — from dailies to the delivery of the DCP (Digital Cinema Package). We creatively apply the craft, especially the art of telling stories with sound. We partner with directors, picture editors, color timers, composers and mix stages.
WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
Lead Sound Designer and Re-Recording Mixer
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
That I am also sales manager and CTO. I also attend conferences and regularly go to talks about how to get a jump on the new workflows. I’m constantly letting vendors know they can collaborate with us to create a cost-competitive product with professional standards that will pass a third-party QC.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
Each project requires a unique sonic approach that I enjoy figuring out. The story speaks to me, and I interpret which aspect of creative sound is needed. I also do a lot of field recording. I love finding new source sounds.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS FOR SOUND DESIGNING?
It’s like a chef who is trying to come up with a new signature dish. You open a lot of items, chop things up, add some secret sauce, make a mess, and then you see what has the best flavors — and you trash the stuff that doesn’t taste good.
It has to be right. To me, and my clients, “right” is the feeling you get when you watch the final mix of a section or the whole piece. It creates the proper response in the viewer.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
I always start by getting in the zone. My room is dark and the dual 23-inch monitors are right in front of me; I lose myself in the fact that while I may not know exactly what to do at the start, I am confident that I will figure it out. It’s fun to play in the unknown. I tap into creativity and come up with things that I later ask myself, “Where did that come from?”
CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH YOUR WORKFLOW?
I watch the picture several times and try to really get into the filmmaker’s head. Sometimes that means looking at it frame by frame. I can figure out what sounds I create quickly and what story points I need to obsess about. The sound design must always sell what the picture is telling us. I obsess about big sound moments because they need to make a big impact on the viewer.
DOES YOUR PROCESS CHANGE DEPENDING ON THE TYPE OF PROJECT?
Yes to a degree. This is where good training in the craft of sound work comes in. There are nuts and bolts things that just have to be banged out, and then there are signature sounds that take the most creative energy. I often do the creative part first knowing the basic stuff will happen quickly.
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
“I’d open a haberdashery” — that’s my favorite line from Spinal Tap.
HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
It took a little while since I enjoyed being a professional musician for a couple of years. I realized as a junior at Berklee College of Music that I needed a career that had more steady income than playing gigs or recording bands. My love of recording led me to sound design and into the digital revolution that has changed the record and the post industry.
CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I just finished mixing a feature documentary called Chris Brown — This is Me; the CSI series finale, which was a two-hour television movie called “Immortality” (pictured above); the pilot for Lucifer, a new Jerry Bruckheimer series coming out soon; and I am mixing 20-minute mini-docs for League of Legends.
WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
All of them… well, most of them. We give the same creative intensity to all our projects. It’s not done until it’s right! Some recent projects though are Dragon Nest: Warrior’s Dawn for Universal; Tyrus, which won the audience award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival; and Home — a Bruckheimer pilot that I’m currently sound designing and co-supervising — which will hopefully get picked up for next year.
NAME SOME TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
Avid Pro Tools|HD, Serato Pitch ‘n’ Time Pro, iZotope RX5, Soundtoys and SoundMiner.
WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m not so good at social media. This is a referral business and very few movies are sound designed because of a social media presence. Perhaps the micro budgets get their sound designer from social media, however, if they have any budget at all they want known talent on their project at a known professional facility with amenities.
So, I do old-fashioned social media — I go to lunch with clients I like to work with.
THIS IS AN INDUSTRY WITH TIGHT DEADLINES. WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
First, I say, “That’s an impossible deadline, how can the timeframe keep getting smaller and smaller?” Then I figure out how to do it. Which means sometimes having to say no to jobs because they don’t give me enough time to do it “right.”
I live and breath this gig, although it doesn’t always feel like work — it’s just fun!