Your Shot: How Rosapark Is Bringing Foreign City Sounds to Super Smart Billboards for Thalys
Quite depressingly, headphones nowadays are so often used to shut out the sounds of a surrounding city. Thanks to train operator Thalys and its agency Rosapark, though, headphones are now bringing city sounds to headphones, instead of headphones keeping sounds out. With ‘Sounds of the City’ Rosapark headed to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam to capture the noises omnipresent in each city and transformed them into brilliant, personal billboards. LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Rosapark creative director Jamie-Edward Standen to find out more.
LBB> What was the initial brief like and what was your starting point when developing Sounds of the City?
J-ES> The brief for Thalys is always more or less the same thing – valorise their destinations and get people excited about getting on the train to visit them. You’d think that it would be easy to inspire people to visit Brussels or Paris or Amsterdam, but in fact people get blasé about the cities that are just a few hundred kilometres away! They’re perceived as less exotic. So the task is always to present those cities in a new light. In the past we’ve used images, we’ve done mini-documentaries on hidden gems within the cities, but we realised we’d never done sounds before.
LBB> I love the fact that it really subverts the idea that headphones are usually used to silence a city. More of us need to open up our ears to our surroundings! Was that an important part of the discussions when developing this campaign?
J-ES> Yes absolutely. It came up when we were designing the structure that would house the sounds. At one point we asked ourselves if we’d need to provide headphones, and we realised we wouldn’t have to because these days most people carry a pair around all the time. The fact that people would use them to explore a city instead was a nice irony.
LBB> What other kinds of conversations took place that led to the final idea?
J-ES> We knew from the beginning that we wanted a multitude of sounds. The conversation was then about how to present them. We finally settled on the stylised maps of the cities, but the creative team went through a few options before arriving at this solution. Different kinds of maps, even, at one moment, portraits of famous inhabitants made out of all the headphone jacks. But we’re really happy with what we ended up with – the billboards are good to look at too – pedestrians definitely stop in their tracks, before they even know it’s a sound billboard.
LBB> It’s weird because, despite there being no visuals, it seems more personal and close than anything a film could have achieved. Why do you think that is?
J-ES> For a few reasons I think. The recorded sounds are all candid, so they have an authenticity. And when you’re in front of one of the billboards, plugging in, you don’t really have the feeling of being advertised to. You’re just an explorer, making a random path through the sounds, in your own time.
LBB> Did you have much of an idea of the kinds of sounds you’d be capturing or were most of them recorded naturally?
J-ES> Both. We tried to brainstorm as many sounds as possible before the recording and came up with a long list. We then gave that to a sound recorder who visited the cities for a week, to try and record as many sounds on the list as possible, and to record whatever else he found interesting. And in the end, a lot of the really interesting stuff, he found by himself.
LBB> The sounds correlate with certain places on the city maps - do they really match up to where they were captured in real life?
J-ES> There are some sounds that match up with exact places. For example, on the illustration of Paris, it’s easy to spot the circle that represents l’Arc de Triomphe. It was like a bullseye and we knew it would attract people, so we put a sound that made sense there: a historic recording, a speech by Charles de Gaulle on the liberation of Paris. There are a few like that, for example if you work out where the Louvre is, you’ll find a recording of a museum guide talking about the Mona Lisa. Other than that, the sounds are grouped more or less by district.
LBB> Who did you team up with on the sound recording and film production?
J-ES> We had three important partners on this project. Matthieu Sibony and his Schmooze sound studio in Paris, who managed all of the sound. INA, which is the National Audiovisual Centre, who generously partnered with Thalys for this project, giving us access to a wealth of historic material for the Paris billboard, and Birth film company, notably founder Hugo Legrand Nathan, and director Vincent Rodella, who took care of both the video and the construction of the installations.
LBB> And what were the trickiest challenges you faced when bringing it to life? How did you overcome them?
J-ES> Without a doubt, the construction. We went through a few options that were just way too expensive. Our breakthrough moment was with production company Birth, who were able to use their film contacts to get the job done. The installations were designed and built from scratch. Even all the circuitry inside. My biggest fear was that it would fall over and break!
LBB> What were your most memorable reactions to the installation?
J-ES> I was amazed with the amount of time that people were prepared to spend with it.
Category: Services, toursim , Travel
Genre: Digital , Experiential