Carl Sondrol

Composer and music producer

Filtering by Tag: sound design

Everyone's Bee is Important: bee-hind the noises

As Mila puts it in this interview, “Daddy draws the (un-intelligible) and his friend made the noises.” Ha!

This project came about when 3 year-old Mila Shane improvised a song about the Importance of Everyone’s Bee. (We all know everyone has a bee, so I won’t get into that here.) Then her fantastic filmmaking father Giga Shane animated it, and brought me on board to sound design. As you might imagine, I had a lot of fun with this project.

Giga and I chatted about the approach on the phone and he basically told me “go nuts!” (while of course leaving Mila’s song as the focus.) I think this is the best sort of collaboration- where there are a few guidelines and boundaries but plenty of room for experimentation and fun.

Despite the fact that this was one of those start-friday-finish-saturday turnarounds, I decided it would be a good challenge to not use any pre-existing sounds (i.e. commercial SFX libraries) since:

1) I like how constraints often lead to more interesting results. Given the amount of personality in Mila & Giga’s contributions, I wanted to put as much character into this thing as possible!

2) To paraphrase Alice Waters, if you want a great meal, start with delicious ingredients. I love applying this idea to music and sound, hence using homemade sound effects instead of “canned”. For this same reason, most projects I do these days involve at least a few live musicians :)

Here’s a list of how I made every sound effect in this thing!

sound effects

  • 0:00 waves/water = bathtub/bucket sloshing
  • 0:03 shooom = mouth sound
  • 0:03 birds = the sound right outside my front door in the morning (featuring my neighbor’s birds)
  • 0:08 logo disappearing = bathtub draining
  • 0:10 title card = B’s played on the chromaharp
  • 0:15 branches extending out = opening my blue umbrella
  • 0:16 bears = me growling
  • 0:18 bees = me buzzing
  • 0:19 bee body pump up = accordion air release
  • 0:19 bee’s wings sprouting up = umbrella
  • 0:19 hammer hitting flask = tapping trumpet with harmon mute
  • 0:21 honeycomb filling in = lips/finger noise with delay
  • 0:25 grey transition = removing disc from led zeppelin boxed set
  • 0:24 factory ambiance = bike wheel spinning + me saying “tikatikatikatikatika”
  • 0:25 flask falls = me meowing
  • 0:29 close-up flask bubbling = water boiling on gas stove
  • 0:31 psychedelic tongue warp = mouth/tongue noises + whistling with effects
  • 0:33 teeth flying in = trumpet valves rattling
  • 0:33 lips/faces appear = me “taking a bite” sound
  • 0:33 lips/faces pulled apart = me saying “whoa!” as grandpa
  • 0:35 teeth fly out = more trumpet valve rattling
  • 0:36 jar appears = catching a pickle jar
  • 0:36 house appears = snare brush in jar
  • 0:37 garden fall = oven opening
  • 0:37 shutters/walls appear = paper
  • 0:37 curtains up = my curtains
  • 0:38 plants grow = vocalizations
  • 0:39 volcano / green ocean = vent hood rumbling (cheap piece of metal from home depot)
  • 0:41 it’s like, the universe, man = bunch of vocalizations
  • 0:42 honey men vocalizations = “say ahh” vocalization
  • 0:47 cosmic honey color swirl = vocalization
  • 0:48 eating cosmic honey = me saying “bwlowllowllowllowlow”
  • 0:50 bee quick entrance = me quick buzz
  • 0:52 start honey button = me saying “blerp”
  • 0:53 honey machine = chromaharp and accordion ascending glissando + vocalizations
  • 0:53 honey machine slams = plosive P’s (me saying “puh!” really close to the mic)
  • 0:58 team hands = leg slaps
  • 0:59 space cats = me meowing
  • 1:02 bees fly by = me buzzing
  • 1:17 bees exit = more grandpa whoas

Check out Giga’s write-up for even more Bee-hind-the-scenes goodness including storyboards and photos of him and Mila on their way to the Lower East Side Film Festival premiere.

The Dark Knight & 60's Robin

I recently had the pleasure sound designing this sketch by Paulilu (the very funny Lucia Aniello and Paul Downs.) Have you seen a better Robin than Paul plays here?? I haven’t. Bane (Luke Sholl) and Batman kill it as well.

I watched a lot of Dark Knight scenes to get a flavor of their bass-heavy punches, and spent a good amount of time picking the perfect bone crunches/squishes for Robin’s one-on-one scene with Bane. Lucia and Paul were all about keeping the sound effects as “real/brutal” as possible (albeit within the styled reality of Christopher Nolan’s batman)– No vintage kung fu punches allowed! I liked having “make the audience wince” as a goal. Other than that I bass’d up Batman’s voice and did some general audio cleanup.

Thank you Richard Howarth for helping out with this, and Giga Shane for allowing me to set up a temporary audio room in his NYC basement :)

Paulilu are quite funny and attentive to detail. A+ collaborators!


I recently had the pleasure of scoring & sound designing this video, directed by the wonderful Celia Rowlson-Hall. She describes it thusly:

watch me demolish a city, perform in a broadway show, stroll through the jungle and turn into a ghost… all over a pair of shoes.

I’ve been following Celia’s work for a few years now and it was a real treat to team up. It was a fun challenge to figure out how to complement the stream-of-consciousness visuals in a compelling way… I’m pretty excited about the godzilla-soundscape-into-broadway-sassiness-into-electro-jungle-ominousness-into-bittersweet-death-music-with-ghost-breathing approach we landed on :)

Thank you to all the great musicians who helped out on super-short notice:

Shannon Stone - tenor sax, clarinetWalter Simonsen - trumpetAngeline Gragasin - vocalsMax Crowe - guitar

Also, thank you Richard Howarth for assisting with sound design (as with last week’s post!)

Special thanks to frequent collaborator David Fishel (who also assistant directed and edited this video) for the introduction.

Enjoy! Then check out more of Celia’s films and choreography here.

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!

Scribble design

A glimpse of a quick foley session featuring talented collaborator/intern/professional scribbler Richard Howarth. While sound-designing a bumper at the end of my pal Angeline Gragasin’s video we began searching for the perfect scribble sound. We tried highlighters, sharpies, but finally settled on a plain old ballpoint pen.

Angeline’s vid is below, which documents (and nicely captures the spirit of) last weekend’s “Occupy LA”. Rebecca Berdel, another recent Chicago-to-LA transplant, made the awesome scribble motion graphics. Thus, a mini-reunion for team Man v Candy Machine!

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.

Scare Tactics (puppet sound design)

One more post before hitting the road to LA…

“Scare Tactics” is a live action puppet piece co-directed/co-produced by the great Frankie Cordero and the also-great David Fishel.

This was a lot of fun to sound design.. my favorite part was recording the vocalizations (vocal parts besides the actual narration, which is by Andrew Schoen). Turns out my go-to guitar/bass expert Max Crowe is great at screaming so I had him handle the numerous freakouts for “Charlie”. I handled the narrator character’s vocalizations (e.g. grunting for the fence jumping at 0:47, ugh!’s and such for the fight scene at 1:20)

Back to packing!

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

Man v. Candy Machine screen test

Here’s a sneak peak at something I’m sound-designing right now. I didn’t do any of the sound in this screen test, but it will give you a preview of some of the very cool motion graphics work it features.

It’s directed by my new friends at NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS, who describe it as an interactive “Internet Tele-Play”.

Definitely the most futuristic project I’ve worked on (robot voices and sound effects!) Stay tuned and I’ll let you know when it’s all wrapped up.

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.