An interview with John L Cobban (Sound Designer)

Where are you from and how did you become a sound designer and editor?

[John] I'm from Glasgowand moved in to film and TV from theatre where I had worked as a sound and lighting designer, mainly in performance art and dance.  I first started inTV composing music but gradually become more interested in sounddesign.

What does a sound designer andeditor do and can you describe the creative process that went into thecreation of the Seachd soundscape?

[John] Sound design as a role isreally about the balance between the creative and technical elements ofmaking the soundtrack. If it's done well, the technical side of the job:  smoothing dialogue edits, cleaning up sound and mixing the various soundstogether - should be invisible to the audience.  The creative side isthe more conspicuous part of the job, and involves building up layers ofsoundtrack elements as prompted by the action, locations, mood, story andeven the characters themselves.  In the case of Seachd, this meant a lot ofcareful selection of atmosphere tracks which would not only be authentic and believeable for the locations on Skye, but which would also reflect theemotions of Angus at the various parts of his journey.  Much of thelocation sound is not only augmented by adding sound effects, but isfrequently completely replaced to create an entirely new soundscape.  Itwas important to gauge Simon's vision for the film as an ambitious cinematic entwining of fantasy, myth and reality, and to ensure that the soundcontributed as much as possible to the realisation of thatvision.

Was it difficult working in a language that is not your own?

[John] No, and in fact it's actually quite a valuable experience to be liberated from direct understanding, because you become much more aware of the emotions which are being expressed, and yourealise that meaning is conveyed by so many other aspects of communication.  Itwas great to work with the flow and pacing of the Gaelic language.

Does storytelling matter?

[John] Sometimes storytelling doesn't matter as much as emotion in cinema, but in the case of Seachd, it is the telling of storieswithin the film itself which gives it so much of its emotion, so I'd say it's pretty important.

What was the best thing about making Seachd?

[John] When you're working for weeks on afilm and viewing scenes over and over again, the beauty of the Skyelocations and the cinematography certainly made that a pleasure.  The range ofemotions the film takes its audience through, from sweeping action, tocomedy, to subtle drama, and the opportunities that offers me as sounddesigner was one of the most satisfying things about the project.

Can you tell us anything little known about the making of Seachd?

[John] It was funny to walk into the studio where Travis Reeves was working on the foley, to find him clambering on a tiny breeze blockto recreate the mountain climbing scenes!

Previous interviews:

An interview with Aonghas Macneacail (Co-Writer)

An interview with Aonghas MacAoidh (Editor)

An interview with Vidal Sancho (The Spaniard)