Therapy Studios' Eddie Kim Is One Busy Bopper
The talented creative has recently worked on two documentary feature films that both premiered at the last two SXSW festivals: ‘Manny’ and ‘Landfill Harmonic’. Eddie Kim is also behind these oh-so-cool recent campaigns: Converse, Reebok, as well as the virtual reality film “Evolution of Verse” directed by Chris Milk.
Oh and he worked on film Little Boy, a moving story about a little boy who is willing to do whatever it takes to bring his dad home alive from World War II. Actually the entire Therapy team did.
And did we mention he is the official DJ for band MANGCHI too?
Eddie Kim catches up with LBB to discuss his latest projects and more…
LBB> What was the highlight of working on the HBO show ‘Foo Fighters Sonic Highways’?
Eddie Kim: The absolute highlight was being able to work on an inspirational docu-series that follows the history of musical legends, directed by the good-hearted and super talented Dave Grohl. I’m a musician myself, and my work on the project coincided with the time we were making our album. It was a huge source of inspiration to be connected to these musical greats and to go through the history of each studio, where all these legendary albums were recorded.
And last week was a pretty great moment, when we found out Sonic Highways was nominated for four Emmys. After winning the Cinema Society Award and the Motion Picture Sound Editor's Golden Reel Award, it just keeps getting better.
I knew from the start that it was an awesome project, because of the fact that Therapy had previously done Sound City with Dave. Part of the reason I joined Therapy was because I was so impressed with what my friends of over a decade were doing there (Therapy Content produced the film, and Therapy Studios handled the post). It was a perfect movie, and Sonic Highways is kind of an extension of the whole idea, so I knew it would be well-received.
LBB> You worked on SXSW festival premiere documentary films Manny and Landfill Harmonic. What’s the big difference working on TV series versus documentary films?
EK> I came from a film background, so my audio work is in line with that kind of aesthetic. Really, it’s a matter of understanding how sound is moving through the air and pumping through the speakers.
When I do a television project, I usually work in a filmic environment. I work in my studio to try to make it have the best possible sound, at a feature-film level. Then I go through the process of getting legal limits, because TV has different specs and standards than film.
The dynamic range of movies played in theatres is much greater than TV, but the main goal is making it sound good! Sonically, films are played in theatres and have data, which compounds the sub, whereas at home, the sound just comes through your TV speakers.
Big Hollywood movies with huge explosions can move sound though the sub woofer; TV doesn’t have that same kind of dynamic feel. That’s where the legal limits come in.
LBB> You’ve worked on virtual reality campaigns for Converse and projects with Chris Milk at Vrse. What are the major challenges of this new kind of work?
EK> One major challenge is the workflow. The process of VR inherently requires more time, as to a large extent we’re making it up as we go along.
For Converse, they gave me the entire 360-view on one movie so I could see everything that was going on in every frame. Then I used the same technique as I would for any film or spot: I see something and make a sound for it. I recorded Foley and added designed effects, and different voices, water dripping, a variety of elements to fit the 360-environment.
Sound design/mix needs to be crafted for the virtual space but the placement and integration requires a binaural programmer. So all of the sounds I created went over to the binaural master, Jeffery Anderson, who took my sound elements and plugged them into a 360 space to be played back in the Vrse binaural audio engine.
Binaural isn’t stereo. It’s a different technology than film. When you watch a film in the theatre, your vision is always forward, so the fixed speakers simulate the sound all around you. In VR, your orientation dictates the way the sound is coming at you.
Think of role-playing video games: Imagine you walk by something on your left. You would hear it on your left side; but if you change your orientation of your head, you would hear it go from left to right, or right to left, however you’re turning your head.
I’ve been lucky to be involved with a few amazing Vrse projects, starting with Evolution of Verse with director Chris Milk, which premiered at Sundance.
I’ve also been working with Chris Milk on a series of VR films about issues happening around the world. These films are presented to the UN so the representatives can better understand the conflicts in each region. The first film, Clouds Over Sidra, is a docu-piece about the life of a 12-year old Syrian refugee as she adjusts to the conditions of the Zaatari Refugee camp in Jordan. I had no sense of connection to what was going on over there, until I heard her story.
The new second film, Waves of Grace, is about an Ebola survivor in Liberia. After you contract Ebola, you’re immune to it. So this young woman became a health worker to help others who are dying of Ebola. It’s about the desolation and revitalization of the community, told in her own words, and we follow along in her journey.
The experience is intense. It’s hyper-real, because it puts you right into that space where you get experience to this little snippet of life.
It shows what a powerful tool VR is. It’s a great medium for creating empathy and giving people a sense of understanding of what is happening in these vulnerable communities.
LBB> Where do you seek out inspiration as a sound designer?
EK> I grew up a skateboarder, musician, and art enthusiast. I’m constantly listening to new music and making music with my band.
I’ve been a skateboarder my entire life. I view myself as a very rigid person but skateboarding has made me more flexible and fluid, and I try to put that towards how I view life. I take in every moment as it comes and try to understand everything around me. When I’m working, I notice all the minutiae so I can translate it sonically.
When a dog walks across a stream, what does it sound like? What does the water sound like? What do his paws sound like on concrete or grass? What kind of chain is he wearing, do we hear that? Is he panting?
I love what I do; I love the art of it and bringing life to moving pictures with sound.
Pretty much everything I’ve learned about life I’ve learned from skateboarding and Three’s Company.
People could learn a lot from Jack Tripper. He’s a fun-loving charismatic guy, he practices acceptance, he’s a chef, he lives his life artistically, and he knows how to pick up on girls…
LBB> Do you have any upcoming projects you are excited to get stuck into?
EK> I’m sound designing for a gritty comic book story called 'Officer Downe' with my Therapy crew. Clown from Slipknot directed it, and I get to do all this trippy, dark sound design and create character voices. Definitely NSFW.
I love when the music projects coming through Therapy connect to my passion for all things musical and sound.
LBB> What has been your favourite campaign to work on?
EK> My favorite campaign recently was for Taco Bell. It was a joint collaboration from all the Therapy players – like so many projects we work on, we all had a part of it, all the clients could bounce from room to room and make things happen quickly.
Another favorite campaign was a Reebok Super Bowl with Venables, since I got to be a part of the re-branding of the iconic shoe. I was very proud to be a part of that. I think the commercial industry is a cool thing when it hits the masses like that in a good way.
LBB> You are also a DJ for a band… what kind of music do you guys create?
EK> It's an electro/punk band called MANGCHI. Money Mark, David Choe, Steven Lee, Ashley Dzerigian, and Dylan Fujioka are bad-asses, and we create art for your ears.
I have just mixed/co-produced/mastered our new album. It’s very eclectic; it ranges from punk to Disney hits.
Our last show was in San Francisco with Ninja of Die Antwoord, and we also recently played with Deltron 3030 in Hawaii. The highlight of my trip was definitely kicking it with Del the Funky Homosapien, talking about skating and giving him tips on how to ollie.