So you want to be…a sound designer or voice over artist

In the next instalment of our series, 'So you want to be...' Natalie Moutafis speaks with Dan Brumm, commercial and animation voice over and the sound designer for the multi-award winning Bluey.

We’re sharing some varied careers with you to discuss with the young people in your life who are beginning to think about the careers they’d like to pursue.

In this next instalment of our So you want to be… career series, Natalie Moutafis speaks with Dan Brumm, commercial and animation sound designer and voice over artist for Bluey – he’s the voice of Uncle Stripe – about how sound impacts our viewing experience.

When did you know you wanted this career?

I’ve always loved the story details and imagery that sound design fills in for the viewer or listener, depending on the medium. As a kid in the eighties, we had these picture books that came with a cassette tape of a narrator telling the story, with some sound effects in there to punctuate key moments. I loved them because your mind creates imagery based on the sounds. I love to work thinking that, if the audience closed their eyes to the picture, would the sound design I’ve created help propel the story for them.

In my capacity as a voice over artist, it had certainly never been on my radar. Throughout my whole life, people have often complimented me for my voice. One day while working as an audio engineer for a post-production company, a client asked me if I’d like to be the voice of his latest television commercial. It was a nervous start I made, but from that one commercial, my fifteen-year career as a professional voice over artist has blossomed, and it’s my favourite thing to do in the world. It’s one of those things, I couldn’t have planned it, it just had to develop organically.

Did you undertake further education (University, TAFE, on the job training etc.) for this career?

I obtained a Bachelor of Film and Television from Griffith University, graduating way back in 2001. Here, we studied all aspects of screen and filmmaking. Though it was an elective subject on Sound Design, towards the end of my time there, that really piqued my interest. I would say, it isn’t necessarily a field where a University education is beneficial. Plenty of the best soundies around the world earned their stripes by finding entry-level employment at an Audio Post House, and learning the ropes from there. You could see it as a trade, in that way.

As a voice over artist, I probably should have studied acting, done singing lessons and the like. But I didn’t, I just kind of worked it out on the job.

Did you choose subjects in high school to aid you in this career path?

I did Film and Television at school, so I suppose that helped with my comprehension of how media is created. The best way to get a good feel for sound design is to watch a bunch of films and television shows and get a feel for how the best in the business tell a story through sound. Honestly, just watch a few YouTube videos of how legendary sound designer Ben Burtt created the sound effects for the original Star Wars films – you’ll learn more in ten minutes than you would three years of University!

What do you love about your career?

Sound design is mostly just a really fun time. With Bluey, I often go around Brisbane with a microphone and record props at a local playground, or the sound of a flowing creek, or the birds in the trees. It’s such a beautiful city, and I love that I get to show off its sonic character globally. Like any job, it has its challenges, but, mostly, mine are solved by clanking wooden blocks together, learning how to do an armpit fart using a straw, or slamming a shopping trolley into the aisles at a supermarket (watch the episode Kids and you’ll see that in action!)

Any advice to students contemplating this as a career path?

Honestly, it is not an easy field to make a career out of. There are limited jobs, and limited projects. But, like a lot of things in life, if you’re passionate about it, if you’re doing it for the love of sound, you’ll find a way forward. My advice would be to look into game sound design, That’s where the future is for my field, there seems to be an abundance of work at the moment. Good news is, it means you’re going to have to start playing more video games! Buy yourself a great set of headphones, and play them for hours, consider the sound choices the designers have made. Buy yourself a Zoom H4 handheld microphone, and go out and record everything in the world around you, it’s such a great pastime.

About Dan Brumm

You can stay in touch with Dan Brumm through his website and on Instagram and LinkedIn

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