People of Kuato: A day in the life of an Audio Designer

As Kuato’s Audio Designer, Phoebe Garratt is responsible for everything sound-related in our mobile apps. Her outputs range from creating Woody’s footsteps and Buzz’s laser beam in Disney Story Realms, to orchestrating a full ‘Wimoweh-inspired’ Lion King soundtrack, complete with Swahili choir melodies. We’re immensely proud of Phoebe’s talent, and we wanted share her work and creative process for wider recognition.

What do you do at Kuato Studios? 

As Audio Designer, I compose the music for the games and create the sound effects. It’s really varied, one week I might be asked to create a track in the style of Lion King, another, the team might need a spooky Halloween track or an epic Superhero theme. I will also record and layer sound effects such as character footsteps, ambience and voices. It involves going deep inside the world of those films and characters.

My music process usually starts with noting the instruments used in the original soundtrack. For example, Lion King consists of African drums and Swahili-language choir combined with orchestra, which inspired me to use similar instruments and write some Swahili lyrics for our choir.

I use sampled instruments but always record where I can – it just brings the music to life. For example, a trumpet would be recorded live, and then I supplement that with instruments I can play such as keys, percussion, vocals and even the odd violin or guitar part. The rest would be sampled using electronic instruments.

The music team at Disney have entrusted me with a lot of creative freedom but also offer lots of support and feedback. When composing for Frozen 2, the film wasn’t out at the time, but Disney gave me an insight into the tone and mood of the soundtrack, and the types of instruments used.

How did you get into music as a career?

I started piano at 7 and would often make up my own tunes to play. I eventually studied Music at Manchester University and specialised in ‘Film Music’ in my final year, which inspired me to pursue a career in Music for Media. I started off my working life with film and animation roles but was eventually attracted to educational games because of the work place culture, collaboration between the team and the good cause.

What advice would you give somebody starting their career in your field?

Focus on your ideal job and make sure you have a stellar portfolio in that style to impress people with. It’s a hugely competitive industry, but there are roles out there, even if it takes a lot of searching.

How have you been coping with working from home?

I feel lucky to have had a positive lockdown story, though I do miss the fantastic people at Kuato. The main advantage is that I’ve recorded more, relying less on samples. It’s been easier to find a quiet space to do footsteps or just pick up a guitar and see if it will add something to a track. I’ve learned that a combination of this with face-to-face collaboration is the best way forward. So I’m grateful for that learning curve.

Which musicians inspire you and why?

Nina Simone because she created her own genius blend of classical and popular styles and harnessed the best of both worlds – in the middle of a song that may seem quite jazzy she’d throw in a piano solo in the style of Bach. There’s something about her vocals that’s unpredictable yet satisfying at the same time… it keeps you listening to the end of every line.

Favourite soundtrack to a film/game/tv show?

It’s too hard to pick one! Today I feel like mentioning Micheal Giacchino’s “UP” because that theme is so memorable and it makes everyone cry.

Do you have a public portfolio for your work?

You can find a large collection of my work on Soundcloud, including most of the Kuato soundtracks, everything from Wreck-it-Ralph to Captain Marvel: 

I have also composed music for a wide range of other projects, and you can find a selection of my work on video content here: 

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