Cow &Gate’s new Supergroup ad is all about the sounds made by toddlers experimenting with instruments in a recording studio, with the haphazard sounds magically culminating in a reversioned Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Sound engineer Adam Smyth at Soho Square Studios had to create all the sound other than the specially created version of the single from composer Lester Barnes.

Supergroup has been described as ‘category re-defining,’ as it uses minimal branding and no product information, ending on the brand’s new strapline, Feed their personalities.

The two-minute film was directed by RSA’s Jim Field Smith, who directed sitcom Episodes and recently-released feature film Butter and is now working on new BBC comedy The Wrong Mans with James Corden.

The shoot involved two cameras in a studio with toddlers. Field Smith described it as being like “a wildlife documentary."

At Soho Square Studios, Smyth began working with the edits as a rough guide to how the sound should be built, with the brief to create a sound track that was realistic and which would gradually merge with the soundtrack from the composer.

He then started with the two minute video and no sound. The first move was to go back to the rushes from the shoot where he managed to find some sounds, including drums and a dropped guitar. But this had been a shoot with parents on set and there was the noise of concerned mothers and fathers encouraging their child to rattle the tambourine, hit the drum and blow into the saxophone, on most of the sync sound making it almost unusable.

Some library sound effects were effective at replacing the more unusable sync sound, including a saxophone and the hum of a guitar amp feedback which gave  depth and realism to the instruments being played. But, the sound design needed more than just library sound effects and sync sound, so Smyth headed to Denmark Street, famous for its music shops and just down the road from Soho Square Studios.

“To build on the sound from the rushes I needed to add in the actual sounds of instruments being played, for example a keyboard being struck or a drum pedal being kicked,” he says. “But in order to get these effects, I had to spend an afternoon loitering around the music shops of Denmark Street, playing the instruments and recording the sounds with a location recording kit.”

Smyth also needed to reinstate imperfections to make the sound realistic, such as a child’s hand on the keyboard, the detuning of guitars and tambourines being dropped.

“I’ve never done sound design which was so musically intense,” says Smyth. “I’ve usually built sound design from library effects, but this was a type of foley, the foleying of instruments in a very different way.”

The soundtrack of Come on Eileen, arranged by Lester Barnes, was broken down so he could work with the individual elements.

“One of the great things for me was the chance to collaborate with the composer and really begin work on bringing the sound and the ad to life, which rarely happens in the audio post stages of an ad campaign,” says Smyth. “Usually I receive a full mix of the music, but in this instance I had all the elements which enabled me to ensure the  sound is of a much better quality and has a nicer feel to it.”

Drawing on his training as a drummer, he was able to build in the tempo and get the right timing for the crescendo effect as the toddlers appear to be doing their own cover version of Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The ad launched last week with a 40-second version; there is also a 30-second version. A two-minute extended ad is launching in cinema and available on YouTube.

Ad agency BETC London
Exec creative director Neil Dawson
Copywriter Clive Pickering
Art director Paul Copeland
Designer Louise Sloper
Agency producer Nikki Cramphorn
Director Jim Field Smith
Production company RSA Films
DoP Rob Kitzmann
Producer Debbie Garvey
Editor Dave Webb
Editing company Final Cut
Post production Unit TV
Sound design Adam Smyth @ Soho Square Studios

Pippa Considine

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