Tom Lemajič interview

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Brief list of credits

Dark Matter, Dream pixels, Various documentaries and movies for Slovenian National TV

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?

My name is Tom Lemajič and I am 27 years old. I am a sound designer and musician. What I do to pay the bills is work for 8 years at TV post-production studio as a sound designer, which includes editing, ADR, Foley and Final mix with mastering. I work mainly on Slovenian documentary films. I started my piano lessons when I was 5 and left the music high school when I was 17. I was always bored with the sound of piano, except once when I got in a big empty storage room of the high school that had a broken piano placed in the middle of the room. The walls and the ceiling were so reflective that I was really blown away by the reverberated sound of broken piano. I stayed in that storage room until the school was about to close. I am an electronic musician now. Working with synthesis. I evolved from classic and jazz practices to electronic music making. Mainly genres like drum’n’bass, atmospheric jungle and chill out with audible feel of hiphop. My career got to a point where I wanted to work on a game audio. I worked on Interwave’s Dark Matter and Dawn of play’s Dream of pixels as a sound designer and composer.

What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?

I have the skills that are exceptional like any other passionate audio professionals out there. But what makes me stand out is that I work 8 hours as a sound designer at work and then 8 hours as a musician at my home studio. I am on a growing path all the time and somehow I manage to work with audio for 16 and sometimes more hours per day. Every day I learn something new. If I have to be specific I would say my sculpturing of a sound with different synthesis types, my ability to read directors mind and my very well trained ears, which are practicing critical listening every day.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?

At work I am working in two different studios on NEVE Lybra post mixing desk and Digidesign D-command 24, which is more of a Pro Tools controller. For audio processing I use compressors and equalizers of NEVE mixing desk. For other purposes I use outboard such as Lexicon 480L, Waves L2 limiter, Sony R7 reverb D7 delay F7 filter M7 modulator, Cedar DNS 1000 Noise suppressor, TC Electronics Finalizer 96k, Eventide Ultra Harmonizer H7600. I use a large palette of microphones and different Genelec speakers and I work with a Daw Pro Tools. TC Electronics Loudness meter TM9. Different speakers are 5.1 system Genelec, two different types of Genelec nearfield monitors and Yamaha nearfield. Main are L and R from 5.1 setup others are used for reference.

At home I work in Logic Pro 9 and. iMac and Macbook pro are both synced with hardware. Hardware I use daily is Access Virus C, Elektron Octatrack, Novation Ultranova, Jomox T-Resonator, Kaosspad, Monome, Mpd 32, Nectar Panorama P4 and an iPad which is one of the best midi controllers on the market. A great sound card that I use is Motu Ultralite Mk3 Hybrid. It has just right amount of inputs and outputs so I don’t need a mixing desk. Speakers Mackie Hr824. Zoom H4n for outdoor atmosphere recording when not making music indoor.

What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)

My go to plug-ins… fewer the better. For noise processing I use Izotope RX3 and Insight for detailed metering. For Dynamics and EQ I mainly use native plug-ins that come with the DAW. They are easy on the CPU and sound as great as many mainstream plug-ins. Go to effect plug-ins are Izotope Stutter edit, BC-Aether and native plug-ins of the DAW. Virtual instruments are Spectrasonics Omnisphere, U-He Zebra2, Cakewalk Rapture and Motu BPM. Go to software are Logic and Pro Tools.

When do you find you are most creative?

Mostly when I am a little under the pressure and when I am relaxed and when the mobile reception is very bad. Being creative is not an easy task to be.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?

What I do is start from the beginning and work my way through. I leave space for ideas to come later. I don’t get into ideas as soon as one comes to mind I write them on a paper. Film is very straight forward, but film directors are sometimes not. When working on film I usually start cleaning the material I got. I never watch the whole film at the first studio session. First I make my Pro Tools session neat and tidy so that I am organised and that the channels are transparent. Then when I am cleaning the audio from unwanted sounds and placing fades I slowly get to know the material and later on the ‘character’ of the film. A must is a piece of paper next to the mixing desk. This way I prepare myself for later brainstorming with ideas, which do change over time. So when I come to a stage that the material is cleaned I start with my first ‘getting to know’ the film and that is dividing it into scenes.

Then I start from the beginning and prepare atmospheres and Foley for each scene. For this Pro Tools have great markers to put around the timeline, which come in very handy when marking the places of what to do here and what to do there. This way I stay organised and tidy throughout the editing process. After I got through all the scenes in the film with placing the atmospheres and Foley parts, I can say that I know the movie and all the little details that need work. This is usually day 3. At this point I surely got the music from a composer. Composer will bring mastered music for the film but sometimes I get bunch of tracks and have to mix it myself. At this stage voice artists, or if needed actors for ADR are called on a session.

After this is where the fun begins. So I am prepared to dive in and start mixing. But I have only 10 fingers, two sides of brain, a small pro tools screen and something like 60 tracks or so. What can I do are premixes of atmospheres Foley and sometimes music if I have to mix it. The director and composer are with me on the session and here my piece of paper comes in very handy. When making premixes director will have some ideas and composer will too. I have to take those ideas into account and process them the way they want and the way I want mine. It is very important that the communication runs smoothly and in that way the idea exchange can happen in a good way. Sometimes it doesn’t. After we got through the scenes with premixes I got left with 15 channels or so. That is way better for my brain CPU than 60 tracks of total mayhem. What goes on in the mixing stage is very different from session to session and from director to director. This is the final stage where sometimes I have more than 5 people in the control room and they can’t be silent or sometimes only with the director, which is much better for creative approach to the mix. When mixing I use automation to record all of my movements on a mixing desk. This is like ‘cherry on top’ the most beautiful work I do here and is at the end of all the process. It is very important to save some energy for the final mix. I enjoy this last part the most, if I prepared the session well. It is the last creative part of the audio post-production. And all I need to trust here are my ears, my relationship with the film and auto save.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

None really. If I have limits I can be more creative than if I have none.

Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?

Making an oboe like sound out of a snare and a gritty bass sound out of kick with beat repeat, filter and reverb. All modulated with a fader in order to control the parameters. Done live with Elektron Octatrack. LINK

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?

A simple accident happened when I was working with dialog, I premixed denoised track on a stereo track and then assigned that stereo track to two mono tracks. Panned in the middle. So when the actor was close to the camera I had both channel faders up. And when the actor was further away, I closed one channel. This way I got subtle almost real life like changes in voice and still preserved those frequencies that were important. Specially when working with reverb or space emulators.

When working on noise reduction be careful because your ears adapts very quickly. Split the audio in regions and work with those. And make presets in denoise plug-in for later recall. I find 10 minutes working on noise processing is way than enough. Then take 5 minutes break. Compare and process for 10 minutes. Then 5 minutes break… Best lesson I have learned yet.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

I don’t have any tips how to get into Hollywood or something like that. What I have is a heart that beats the rhythm that I follow. Do what you like and you will like what you do. Work on projects and respect the project the way you want to be respected. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. I myself got a project to mix a film in 5.1 and have never done it before. I said yes, lets do it! Believe in yourself. Learn from others but don’t be like others. Be unique and different. Be ready to work hard. And start drinking coffee if you don’t already. The last one is a joke… or is it?