The duo behind Silent Studios combines hard-hitting visuals with original music compositions, and is keen to promote the virtues of ‘sound design’. Fiona Sibley meets the collaborators who like to make you cry
Nathan Prince and Liam Paton aren’t impressed by the sort of music often churned out to advertise and market brands. Cocking a snook at campaigns that rely on Mylo and Moby tracks – or worse, bad imitations – these two collaborators are determined to change the sonic landscape of branding.
Prince and Paton are hungry to promote their nascent audiovisual consultancy, Silent Studios, as a breath of fresh air for both branding and advertising industries, by offering a one-stop shop for original music composition, graphic design and art direction. ‘If you use sight and sound and get them to influence each other, you’re capable of creating a more powerful piece,’ says Paton. ‘It doubles the scope of what you can do. We want to create emotional experiences – you can’t make someone cry unless you tap into something a bit deeper.’
It is an interesting partnership/ Prince started out at Coley Porter Bell aged 19, making the tea, and in six years became a multimedia designer, working on identities and mood films for brands. While sourcing music for one project, he met Scottish musician Paton, who had recently moved to London after graduating from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.
Prince was getting bored of the big consultancy world, while Paton was fresh out of college, with musical talent but little commercial experience. They decided to team up on projects that demanded a synergy between music and visuals in 2004, and became Silent Studios in 2006. They work together on creative direction, then Paton writes original music compositions, while Prince develops the visual concepts.
Last year saw them produce a hard-hitting film for the charity Shelter, plus bespoke music and visuals for several corporate events – including 2007’s Fiat Bravo car launch and 3 Mobile’s annual conference – while working with events management company GSP.
The Shelter film has become the pair’s calling card. As part of the charity’s Wall of Shame campaign to raise awareness, Silent Studios created a film that has toured the country, being broadcast publicly from an interactive, 30m-long wall. Writing a soundtrack to accompany it was Paton’s responsibility, and he worked with four musicians to create the music. ‘It was quite a dark track, but it was perfect for the job. Gareth Parker, Shelter’s events manager, really got where we were, and gave us the confidence to make the film,’ he says. Parker has since called the campaign ‘one of the most successful and talked about in Shelter’s history’.
Yet they are not geared exclusively towards commercial work: they have created visuals for Charlie Dark’s Blacktronica at the ICA, and last year produced a film to be shown at London’s Sketch.
That film, Revolutions, was created in collaboration with motion graphic designer Zedzero, for the 12 projectors that fill the upper walls of the restaurant/gallery at Sketch. Silent Studios came up with the concept of recreating the experience of dining in the BT Tower’s revolving restaurant, then used Flickr to source photography from locations around the world to give it an international feel – viewers are transported to the Rocky Mountains, the Nevada desert and Paris, among other places, during the 35-minute film. Animated touches, such as birds, weather and car crashes, give the scenes a cheeky, surreal quality.
‘We’re audiovisual designers, but we like to do art and commercial pieces,’ says Prince. ‘It helps us, because we know that brands aspire to work with artists.’
Prince’s background in working for big brands at CPB has helped them to get work from that calibre of clients already, and their video-editing and music skills have been called upon by companies such as Aston Martin. But it is a different ball game. ‘Working on our own, we’ve needed different thinking. I had a vision of a smaller, more adaptable studio,’ he says.
The duo remains convinced that sound design is an overlooked entity. ‘Clients often see it as an add-on and don’t get it, or how to buy it,’ says Paton. For that reason, next month sees the partners launch Resonate, an initiative to promote a collective of musicians whom they have collaborated with so far.
‘We wanted to offer our musicians more than just fees, and also to convince clients to either source music from Resonate on licence, or commission new music,’ says Paton. They’ll be releasing samplers, packaged with artwork by illustrator Si Scott, and supported by an exhibition at Beyond the Valley. ‘We’ll be turning the gallery into an interactive sound installation, composing a soundscape between us in two weeks,’ Paton says.
Resonate launches with an exhibition at Beyond The Valley, 2 Newburgh Street, London W1, in mid-February