Carl Sondrol

Composer and music producer

Filtering by Tag: animation

What is a Mullet?

Well, hello again. I had the pleasure of creating music and sound design for this charmingly funny video by my friend Giga Shane.. in which he interviews his parents to gather their theories on the age-old question: “What is a Mullet?”

I brought in some lovely live musicians for this one including:

Bass Clarinet: Eleanor WeigertBassoon: Brittany SeitsCello: Heather McIntoshVocals: Angeline Gragasin

I added some humming, then dusted off the accordion, broken guitar, and even some whole wheat spaghetti to season the music with the right mood for this bizarre conversation.

Special thanks to Richard Howarth for some very detailed work in helping get the dialog levels under control!

Speaking of… this conversation was recorded casually on an iphone, which presented some interesting challenges from a post audio perspective. Who wants to geek out!? Bear with me and I’ll reward you with a few pictures in a moment.

Usually when I’m processing vocals (from a singer tracked in studio for example), they’ve been recorded at a pretty constant distance from the microphone. Microphones will respond differently depending on how far away a sound source is, so this contact distance is helpful because it will yield a relatively consistent balance as far as low, mid, and hi frequencies in the voice. However, in this case Giga and his parents are at different distances from the iPhone which resulted in this scenario:

  • Giga (close to mic): More “harsh” or “bright” frequencies, louder volume
  • Parents (further from mic): More hiss and “muddy” frequencies (more of the “room noise”), softer volume

Since there is music underneath the dialog, it’s important for the speaking to be consistent as possible… from an EQ perspective AND a volume perspective. This will help it be more intelligible, and not as easily covered by the music.

Fortunately there are really cool “dynamic EQ” plugins built for just this type of scenario. I was able to apply a specific EQ setting for Giga (to tame the harshness) and a very different EQ setting to his parents (to reduce the hiss and muddiness).. and automatically transition between these in cases where the phone or the person speaking is moving. That is really really cool, right?

After improving the EQ balance of all the dialog, the overall volume levels could be dealt with using envelopes and compression.

Hmmm, as I seem to have gone on and on about the sound design / mix side, I will summarize the music side quickly: super fun! As promised, a few session photos:

Brittany Seits, Bassoonist Extraordinaire:

O, the delicate timbre of whole wheat thin spaghetti:

Los Reyes Omitidos

This haunting animation about the origins of Cuzco, Peru is by one of my favorite Chicago filmmakers, Gus Gavino. Check out more of his work at middle mind project (I especially love his music videos.)

My main focus with this score was tone. It features a lot of accordion.. but more for mood than melody (e.g. the “breathing”, key rattling, shakes..) Other elements instruments included: string bass, a few woodwinds, harp, faint whistling, and some close mic-ed “low sighing” for the skulls scene.

Thank you Richard Howarth for assisting with sound design on this one! With this piece especially, the sound FX are just as important as the music in making the piece feel right.

Also, my old intern Alex Wand (who gave a very inspiring MFA graduation recital at CalArts on Wednesday by the way) was kind enough to translate the text of the story:

The story begins with the telling of the founder of the Incan dynasty, Ayar Manko. Legend has it that he turned to stone once he got old. Others say he magically flew away to a place where he continues to protect his town. His Successors maintained that they were children of the sun and in this way, they were able to secure the obedience of the nations of Tawantisuyu.

The text then explains how the Spaniards, who came with an ambition for gold, conquered the land. (i.e. barbaric mistreatment of women, murders, destruction of sacred monuments). Manko II attempted to retake Cuzco from the Spanish, but ultimately lost.

Finally, thank you Mike Ambs for letting me use the audio from his project The Lonliest Mix in this animation. It’s the wonderfully low sound of a “last-known hybrid blue whale” which sings at 52 Hertz… much higher than its fellow whales, whose calls fall in the 15 to 25 Hertz range- hence the nickname, “The Lonliest Whale.” Beautiful… you’ll hear it for a few seconds starting around 1:03.


Starting the year off with a bang! I scored & sound-designed this spastic promo for frequent/fantastic collaborators Rebecca Rerdel (motion gfx) and Angeline Gragasin (director). This was my first time working on a project with DP Jeff Katz (his work is awesome, check it out!)

Thank you, moment’s-notice live musicians for breathing so much energy into this music:Max Crowe - guitarBrian Mantz - trumpetAndrew Conrad - bari & tenor sax

All the guys IN this video (Mystery Guitar Man, Mike Diva, DeStorm Power, Corridor Digital) are monstrously creative, hard-working badasses who I have a lot of respect for. Hopefully we did them proud.

And last but not least, special thanks to my pal Steph Belsky for throwing such a fun project our way!

Microsoft // Moving Blue // testimonial

I recently had the pleasure of scoring and sound designing an animation for Microsoft by director Ahmad Al-Awadi of Moving Blue. It was screened last month at Microsoft’s annual MGX event- a huge production with over 15,000 people in attendance! Above is a still (and yes, it did involve scuba diving)

Ahmad was quite fun to work with- he’s talented, organized, and works well under pressure. Our 10 hour time difference (Ahmad is based in Kuwait and I’m in LA) actually worked out really well because I would turn in a draft of the audio at night (morning in Kuwait) and Ahmad would pick up right away with the animation. Then at the end of HIS day he’d render out the latest animation for me. We kept trading back and forth in this manner, thus the project was speeding towards completion around the clock.

Anyway, Ahmad wrote me a testimonial for this and 2 commercials we collaborated on shortly after :)

Carl is an amazing composer & sound designer, the quality of his work is just outstanding! When we started working on our first project and I got to listen to the first music draft I was in awe, because he nailed it from his first attempt, it’s like he is inside my mind!

So far I’ve worked with him on several projects and he tackled every single one while being spot-on with his deadlines. It’s very rare to find someone who quickly understands the kind of sound design that works in any given situation, and Carl is that person. Moreover, when it comes to communication he’s a cool and friendly down-to-earth guy who is easy to work with. Overall I’m very pleased with his services and will definitely keep him in mind for future projects.

Ahmad Al-AwadiProducer/Director - Moving Blue

I’m excited to work more with Ahmad in the future! I leave you with a still from one of our other (unreleased as of yet) projects:

Axe Cop: #1 motion comic in existence

Ethan Nicolle (co-creator of Axe Cop) writes:

Topless Robot named Axe Cop the #1 motion comic in existence! That is pretty high praise and I hope all the guys who worked so hard on those things get a big warm fuzzy from that article.

I sure did!

The article described the soundtrack as “

the greatest cartoon music since the 1960s Spider-Man series

.” What do I say to that?? I am quite flattered. :)



and scroll down to see and read about the 3 episodes I’ve worked on thus far.

Man V. Candy Machine

I had the pleasure of sound designing, mixing, and creating a shifting robotic voice from director Angeline Gragasin’s dialogue for the above piece. I’ve never worked on anything like this before. It’s futuristic, theatrical, visually stunning, sonically dense, and the most challenging sound design project I’ve EVER taken on.

I will do a detailed “making of” post at some point, but now I’d just like to acknowledge the herd of extremely talented people who worked on this (below). High five everybody!

SYNOPSIS:In the year 2137, MAN goes to the supermarket, with the intent to order the goods and supplies he needs. MAN v. CANDY MACHINE is the story of his encounter and ensuing battle with an all-consumering omni-bot, which knows all MAN’s tastes, his preferences, his dreams and his weaknesses. CANDY MACHINE deals MAN groceries, movies, appliance, narcotics, a beating, and worse. Does MAN ever give into defeat at the hands of the immortal machine?

DIRECTOR: Angeline GragasinSCRIPT: Jonathon AnthonyPRODUCER: Daniel PostilnikMOTION GRAPHICS: Rebecca Berdel and Rand SevillaSOUND DESIGN: Carl SondrolMAN: Dikker OurfenorfCANDY MACHINE VOICE: Angeline GragasinSOUND EDITOR: Daniel PostilnikSOUND DESIGN INTERN: Joshua SauvageauPRODUCTION SOUND MIXER: Brian SulpizioDIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Caleb ConditASSISTANT CAMERA: Robert CaubleEDITOR: Angeline GragasinILLUSTRATIONS: Karen Abad and Gretta JohnsonCOSTUME DESIGN: Gretta JohnsonWIGMASTER: Mark BotelhoSPECIAL THANKS: Alec Oliver, Eddie Jordan, Ben Kolak, and Super Mega Action Plus

Alice in Wonderland revisited

[video src=“” poster=“” width=“500” height=“281”]

Above is a project I scored & sound-designed for CollegeHumor last year. Since I’m about to go into a lot of geeky detail I’ve mixed the music a bit higher in the above than CH’s officially released version so you can easily follow along :)

This was a nice challenge, as my goal was to create a score true to the classic cartoon style of the original 1951 Alice in Wonderland score by Oliver Wallace. It required 21 (!) cues in the span of about 2 minutes… just a few seconds each on average. I have to confess I LOVE this kind of music.. it’s so spastic, unpredictable and intricate. Carl Stalling, who did all the classic music for the Warner Bros cartoons, is another hero of mine.  I suggest giving his music a listen without the context of cartoon sometime (you can do this on Amazon here).. it’s amazing how daring and downright bizarre it is!

Anyway, to do a thorough analysis I cut up the audio of the original score into small clips, labeling each with a stylistic description. (e.g. “mouse chase music” or “angry brass staccato” or “confusing rabbit - ascending chords."  Then I placed these snippets into CollegeHumor’s video as a sort of "texture guide”. I also notated some of the chord progressions - not to duplicate them with my own music, but to learn what kind of progressions Wallace was using to generate each mood.

(CLICK to see clips from the entire scene labeled)—

Then I created an original score, using similar textures and instrumentation. The screenshot below is what my project looked like after finishing.. each of those orange/yellow blocks near the middle represent string parts. I’ve got the woodwinds, brass, and percussion parts minimized (each gray/blue block is an entire group of instruments) and the at the bottom you’ll see the three trumpet parts (played by the amazing Gerald Bailey). I recorded him using two mics at once- a ribbon mic gives the bulk of the sound, and then a large diaphragm condenser room mic is used to capture the brassy “bite” of the sound. In a perfect world I’d have an actual orchestra at my disposal, but to keep things simple and within our budget the rest is covered with Vienna Symphonic Library samples… Except for the “jug” track at the beginning, which I made by blowing into beer bottles filled to various degrees.

(CLICK to zoom)—



Now, if you’re really curious, here’s my score + sound design without dialog track so you can hear all the details exposed:[video src=“” poster=“” width=“500” height=“281”]

Finally, for comparison, here’s a clip I found on YouTube of the original cartoon (at least until Disney takes it down)- the “Unbirthday Song” starts at 0:32, and regular score starts at 0:54.

How’d I do?

Kudos to everyone else who worked on this: writer Dan Gurewitch, producer Ben Joseph, my old Chicago intern Josh Sauvageau, and of course Snark Rocket for nailing the animation.

Dragon Ball Z meets... Jersey Shore

I love working on animations, and the above sound design + music project was no exception.

I checked out a bunch of dragon ball z clips courtesy of youtube to get a flavor of their sound design. It’s largely a mix of explosions, jets, whooshes, etc. mixed with old-school sci-fi sounds (synthesizers galore!) I’m assuming the sonically dense fight scenes are the reason so many DBZ episodes consist of the characters just standing around grunting… their sound guys just needed some downtime?

The music mostly stays in line with the american DBZ music, which I must say is VASTLY inferior to the original Japanese music. Holy moly. In contrast, the former often sounds like some guy ham-fisting away at a casio.

Other than that, you can also hear me doing some vocalizations e.g. Goku yelling at 1:47 and Piccolo (the green guy) grunting at 2:15- probably the closest I’ll ever get to “acting”.

This project was my introduction to Jersey Shore, which I was quite fortunate to have never previously seen. This amazingly astute Netflix review (thanks reddit) pretty much sums up my feelings on the show ;) I have to say, putting a nice huge punch sound in at 2:21 was QUITE satisfying.

Nightmare Before Xmas Parody

I don’t have anything Thanksgiving-themed to post, but I do have something holiday-related. This is a piece I did music and sound design for earlier this year.. a parody of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.

As with Web Site Story, I:1) didn’t have sheet music so did my best to recreate all the parts by ear.  (I’m of course using samples and a few great musicians rather than a real orchestra) Here is the original if you’re curious to compare.2) thoroughly enjoyed dissecting this track and figuring out what makes it work. Danny Elfman is one of my all-time favorites and this was a real joy to work on. A very intensely-fast-paced-race-to-the-deadline kind of joy.

That’s Jacob Carlson on vocals (as Danny Elfman!) and one of my Chicago favorites, Gerald Bailey on trumpet. Last, and surely least importantly, I cameo (vocally) as a drunk priest at 0:55.

The lovely claymation is by Chelsea Manifold, and a few nice visual effects are by the wizards at Gloo Studios.

As for my friends at CollegeHumor: Josh Ruben and Vincent Peone directed, Ben Joseph wrote & produced, and David Fishel edited.

Animated Bears, Brutal Metal

This sketch is about the true nature of animated bears, and required 2 very different types of music: “Happy Forest” music and EVIL metal.

To research the former, I scoured youtube for clips of The Berenstain Bears, Yogi Bear, Winnie the Pooh, and even some Charmin commercials. As you might expect, most music accompanying animated bears is pretty similar: usually flute, glockenspiel and some very pleasant strings. So I took that general approach for the happy scenes and then customized each to match the sensibilities of the scene.

For the latter scenes with “more realistic” bear behavior, I made the most evil-sounding metal I could manage (props to Max Crowe for the dropped-D guitar sludge). I even used my EastWest Symphoic Choir samples for some low male grunting (which definitely give Pooh’s scene a “ritual sacrifice mega-evil” vibe) and seasoned to taste with orchestral strings effects.

Someday I need to make a list of all the times CollegeHumor has attempted to retroactively warp my childhood.

AXE COP 3 + writing process + testimonial

I just finished scoring & sound designing another episode of the AXE COP motion comic! There’s actually a video of Malachai (age 5) writing the story for this episode.. so if you haven’t seen that, watch it first. That’s his brother Ethan (who illustrates the comics, age 29) interviewing him:

And here’s the new episode. I did all music & sound except the opening/closing credits… it’s a real WHOOSH-BOOM-stravaganza. In addition to the usual crack team of people who work on these we are joined by Maurice LaMarche as the voice of Avacado Soldier. You might know him as “The Brain” from Pinky and the Brain or from any other cartoon in the past few decades. Pretty awesome of him to help out.

Finally, Ethan wrote me a nice testimonial which I’ve posted at

The Neighborwood

Early this year I had the pleasure of scoring this short pilot for animator-extraordinaire Mike Parker. We’d previously worked together a few times as he does a lot of great animation for CollegeHumor.

This score involves a lot of dramatic star wars-esque music as well as a mixed bag of other genres (gotta love cartoons).

Voices by Diedrich Bader and Will Friedle, guitar ‘n bass by the ever-solid Max Crowe, and trumpet by Nick Sednew.

AXE COP score + sound design

Every once in a while, the internet calls our attention to something truly amazing and unique. One of my favorite examples is the webcomic AXE COP which is written by a 5 year-old (Malachai Nicolle) and illustrated by his 29 year-old brother (Ethan Nicolle). It’s a pretty wonderful thing to see Malachai’s wild imagination fully-realized in comic form by a professional comic artist. I’ve been a huge fan ever since it came out.

I am very proud to say I scored and sound designed the above motion comic version last week- easily one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. I worked hard to make the action music as ridiculously OVER-THE-TOP as possible, and have the sound design continuously punch you in the face! I’ve been listening to the Die Hard 2 soundtrack a lot over the past few weeks to get in the right mindset :)

Anyway… enjoy!

I’d like to give a shoutout to Tony, Glenn, and Donald of Promo Scape in Australia who did an amazing job animating and producing.

I was completely blown away by the voiceover work, which features Bob Souer (narration), David DeAndrea (Axe Cop), Lee Gordon (Flute Cop), and Marcus Irvine (Telescope Gun Cop).

Last but not least, kudos to Step Dad for an axe-tastic theme song.



The first new project I’m posting this month is a 2-second “song” for animator extraordinaire Mike Parker’s CollegeHumor project. My good friend Jason Jackson provides vocals dripping with game show schmaltz. It’s about halfway through.

Jason and I have a long musical history together- he was the singer in our science-themed band accompanied by live powerpoint presentations. A “one take wonder” all the way, it’s always a pleasure working with him.