Aline Bruijns – Sound Designer Interview

Aline Bruijns is the founder and owner of AudioRally Sounddesign – a post-production company based in Harderwijk, The Netherlands – as well as a member of the Trailer Music & Sound Design collective, The Solos.

Aline co-heads the SoundGirls Netherlands chapter.

Maëva Ciavaldini: Hi Aline! Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us today. What are you working on at the moment?

Aline Bruijns: No problem! At the moment, I’m finishing sound for an Experience Center in Lisbon, Portugal, which is really cool. It’s called Quake, I’m working with a company named Mr. Beam, who is providing the content for the immersive experiences and AV installations. I worked closely together with composer Roel Slootman to do the whole soundtrack for it, which is awesome. It’s based on the 1755 earthquake that wiped out the largest part of Lisbon. And after the earthquake, there was a tsunami. What was left then caught fire so it was kind of a horrific day!

MC: So you have been re-creating the whole soundscape for it?

AB: Yes, I am making the sound for everything. It’s quite a fun challenge because there is a time travel element to the experience, so you have to think about futuristic and magical sounds, but also set the scene for 1755 Lisbon in a market street with people shouting and cleaning stuff up. 

MC: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started in the sound industry?

AB: I kind of got into sound design by accident! I grew up in a very musical family and I went to a conservatory for Jazz vocals. But I was always interested in working in a studio. I volunteered at a venue where I learned about live sound & lighting, and that really intrigued me. After the conservatory I went to the HKU music & technology in Utrecht (at the time still in Hilversum), to study music composition for media, but I really wanted to do the technical side of sound too. So they let me do the main course in sound design, with music composition as a secondary subject. From here I fell completely in love with sound design – it was like composing, but with any and all sounds.

I also did a lot of voice directing with voice artists and voice actors. Because I could apply what I had learned about the voice to direct people in a natural way or emphasise dialogue to give more presence, it helped to reach the things we were trying to achieve. So my Jazz training has been very useful for Post-Production sound.

MC: Speaking of Post-production, you run your own post-production company, AudioRally Sounddesign – how did you start it?

AB: After graduating in 2007 with a Master’s degree in Sound Design from the HKU, I started AudioRally with a befriended composer which I met at the HKU – we hoped to provide the full soundtrack for projects we would take on. We worked together for a couple of years, but since the market wasn’t always looking for the whole package we eventually decided to split up AudioRally into AudioRally Sounddesign and AudioRally Music. AudioRally Music isn’t around anymore, unfortunately. We specialise in sound design, sound effects editing, foley fitting, dialogue directing & recording – the complete audio post-production process.

MC: Is the sound industry competitive in the Netherlands?

AB: It is competitive, but not in an aggressive way – It’s a healthy network. People work together because they have a good work ethic. The work is really diverse too, I’m doing audio tours for the Van Gogh Museum, which is really nice. For a young adults tour, I made binaural soundscapes to create atmospheres for some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. You feel as if you are a part of the paintings in some way, it was fun. Within audio post too, it’s slightly easier to find opportunities because you can also be hired for engineering roles.

MC: Is there a post-production sound in particular that you enjoy most?

AB: I think the roles where I can really just create, sound design, record stuff and those other fun things. I like to challenge myself too, trying new things and working with new plugins or recording new sounds.

I’m also in a collective of sound designers and composers called The Solos – we do a lot of trailer sound effects and trailer music, but we also make presets and sounds for music software companies. Recently we worked on Native Instruments Kontakt instrument, Ashlight. We recorded a lot of stuff for that and then made presets out of it. That was the first time that I used granular synthesis, and it completely opened my eyes, I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Every time you get to work on a project where you get to do something new, it helps you take that knowledge into your next project. I hope I make a difference in some way, in that what you add to a project only helps tell the story better or emphasize the whole experience.

That is the nicest part of the sound community. Most people are really open and down to Earth. You can ask them things and they like having someone to talk with the same passions, who want to learn.

Aline Bruijns

MC: What other kinds of sound work have you done in your career?

AB: I love Foley editing. Editing and syncing Foley really helped me become a better sound effects editor. With Foley, you need to make sure that you’re 100% in sync with the footage, your guide track, your FX track and dialogue track – whatever Sync points you have. That was something that I wasn’t aware of when doing my first foley editing project! But that is how it goes – at the beginning of your career, you just have to do stuff and learn. Sometimes you fall flat on your face and you learn something new the hard way. Once you have more knowledge, you can help other people, and it is so humbling. People come to you for advice and opinions and help.

That is the nicest part of the sound community. Most people are really open and down to Earth. You can ask them things and they like having someone to talk with the same passions, who want to learn.

MC: You are the co-head of SoundGirls for the Netherland Chapter. I was wondering if you could share any of your experiences with the issues SoundGirls is helping to raise?

AB: When I started at the HKU, there were a few girls. Some went more into music recording and some went into composing. But within the audio industry, within sound design specific or audio posts, there were almost none. I was the first female to get an internship at some of the post-production studios here, which was nice, but sometimes led to some confrontational moments.

For example with commercial clients, they would assume I was the coffee lady or something. They would come in and ask for coffee and I would just respond saying “yeah, I would like a coffee as well, that would be nice! Nice to meet you I’m Aline, your sound engineer.” I grew up in bands being the only girl, so I have thicker skin, so I try to make a joke out of it or address it head-on – I knew my way around those situations. Luckily, I never had any serious problems, though I know of some girls who really did. Oftentimes people say “Oh, you’re doing sound, Wow, that’s awesome!” surprised to be working with a female technician.

I have more of those reactions than really serious situations like harassment or assaults, so I’ve been lucky, although that’s also something which is sad to have to say. Sometimes an odd comment comes along where I’m asked what to call me because “sound guy isn’t the right word” I just think, really? I’m a sound designer or sound editor, just like you.

MC: Do you see a change coming at all?

AB: I see more and more girls coming into the industry now so that’s nice. There is a change coming. But sound-related work is not something that people come into contact with often, so if we want to change something, then it should be more visible. Opportunities for sound work should be visible already from high school, where people are going to make a decision of what path they want to follow. Because I didn’t know of the existence! I loved films, but I never thought about how sound was made for those films. I never thought of it as a career for myself. It’s something that should come onto your path one way or the other. And sometimes people know really early on, that they want to be in sound and they follow that path. And I knew that I wanted to do that, but I thought I was going to be more into music.

MC: Can you tell us some more about your work with SoundGirlsWhat opportunities has SoundGirls opened to you?

AB: I started with SoundGirls in 2019. In the Netherlands, I knew of maybe a handful of girls who worked in sound, and I never thought that there were more. But through SoundGirls I got into contact with many other women, non-binary and transgender throughout the world who work in audio post-production or live / music. So SoundGirls has opened a lot of doors for me in terms of network, but also it’s so great to see so many women just doing what they love and rocking it. And finally having role models that you can relate to, which I didn’t have starting out in the business. Diversity is so important, and I think the more diversity there is, the more normal it will become having more women and non-binary people within the business. 

MC: Do you have a dream project you would love to work on?

AB: I’d love to do something for a Theme Park, that would be awesome! Something I found out working with this project, which shares similar elements, is that there is a lot of movement going on in certain places. All your senses are being stimulated by something. That’s something that I find really intriguing because there are so many things that you can play around with and so many things that you can give focus on. So that’s something that I would really like to do! But yeah, I have so many cool things that I’ve already done. And I can only say that I’m really lucky to be able to do what I love.

MC: Aline, it has been great speaking with you today!

AB: You too, thanks for having me!

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