In the studio with King Bee Animation

When Martyn from King Bee Animation couldn't join me in the studio to mix our teaser soundtrack, a creative solution was called for!

I’d been so looking forward to introducing Martyn, Managing Director of King Bee Animation, to Steve, whose studio I record in and who works as a producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist, but it was not to be – well, not in person anyway!

Covid restrictions meant that it was simpler for us to mix our teaser soundtrack virtually, which is why Steve and I found ourselves Zooming Martyn one cold, grey Monday in January.

The task? To put together a 90-second soundtrack (comprising a voice track, sound effects, background music and excerpts from two songs) and sync it with the animatic Patrycja, the show’s designer, has been working on from her studio in Poland.

In the studio with Steve Rose
Steve getting ready to mix the teaser soundtrack

For those who don’t know, an animatic is an animated storyboard and it provides an opportunity to sketch out a piece of moving image prior to animating it. (To find out more about how this works, please click here.)

This particular piece of moving image is the teaser for the preschool series Martyn and I have been developing with the help of my sister, Polly. I created the series – including the characters, the world they inhabit and their songs and stories – and Martyn and his team are providing the design and animation.

Martyn from King Bee Animation
Martyn and me on Zoom!

This, together with our pitch bible (an illustrated guide to the series), will be used to sell the show to broadcasters. And the good news is both teaser and pitch bible will be finished by the end of June ready for pitching at this year’s Children’s Media Conference!

So… there we were in Steve’s studio – Steve and me in person and Martyn on a screen.

We’d met briefly the previous week on Zoom, which was great as I was able to introduce Steve to Martyn so they could chat about the best way to approach the session. Martyn suggested sourcing some background music in advance and Steve put together a backing track containing excerpts from three of my songs (minus the vocals, of course) before the session, which was a fantastic start.

Recording some spontaneous barks in the studio
Steve recording some spontaneous barks!

Now we needed to bring everything together and sync it with the animatic – no mean feat!

There’s no magic bullet in situations like this – you just start at the beginning and work through till you get to the end.

So that’s what we did, mixing the voice track (recorded during lockdown with actors playing our narrator, main character and one other character) with sound effects, background music and song excerpts.

At the end of the session, I went home pleased but with the niggling feeling that things weren’t quite right. I emailed the finished product to Polly and she and I chatted things through the following week.

We agreed the soundtrack felt busy – as if we were trying to cram too much into too short a time.

The series is about outdoor learning – about the pleasure of working in natural surroundings and the sense of wellbeing and mindfulness that this brings.

Yet this feeling of being outdoors was somehow missing. We chatted to Martyn and Steve and they agreed. Where was the bird song? The sense of space and fresh air? We decided to add another 30 seconds to the teaser, making it two minutes rather than 90 seconds in length. We would use this extra time to create more space, allowing the soundtrack – and the teaser – to breathe.

And so, a couple of weeks later, Steve, Martyn and I reconvened for Zoom session No. 2.

Zoom session No. 2!

This time, we weren’t syncing to the animatic since it hadn’t been possible to extend it in the meantime. But this was actually freeing as it gave us an opportunity to locate the sections that needed more space and to extend them by ear and feel.

It did the trick. The finished soundtrack is amazing and Martyn, Steve, Polly and I are so chuffed.

Now it’s full steam ahead as Patrycja and the rest of the King Bee team get to work creating the finished teaser, adding backgrounds, movement and colour to the animatic (as well as an amazing psychedelic sequence!) and creating end credits.

Polly and I feel so excited to have reached this stage – we can’t wait to show you the finished product!

Header photo: In the studio – King Bee’s animatic on one screen and Steve’s digital audio workstation on the other