Toronto, Canada – December 21, 2020 – Neil Parfitt composes music for children’s animation, spanning preschool, teen comedy and even Japanese Anime. Since the episodic programs he works on can carry a massive range of possible themes, emotions and characters, he needs to maintain an equally vast range sonic options — with all of them being accessible at a moment’s notice. With Flock Audio’s PATCH System, he is able to audition bespoke signal chains faster and keep the creativity flowing.
After earning a degree in Music Industry Arts in 2000, Parfitt eventually landed in the world of audio post production and animation through a series of serendipitous events and by continually delivering solid results for his clients: “I once worked at a music store, and a lot of music composers would wander in looking for help with technical setup in Logic, Pro Tools and synth work, and this is how I met some of my first contacts,” Parfitt says. “Some of these people I still work with today. The more you work on projects, the more they trust you and you build those tiers of trust.” In terms of his audio infrastructure, Parfitt has recently come to trust Flock Audio’s PATCH System — which has enabled him to navigate his analog hardware at the click of a mouse.
No more set and forget
“In 2015, I had DAW fatigue, and got tired of just staring at a screen all the time so started buying some of my key outboard gear,” he recalls. “So I began using analog outboard on the front end, and also during mixing on the back end, and things began to get really complicated.” Once he began using PATCH, all this changed: “PATCH has changed my set up from ‘Set and forget’ to a sonic playground because I can easily reconfigure everything at any point and has actually made me appreciate outboard gear even more.”
“I love the sound of having things hardwired, but in the past, you couldn’t experiment in the same way as you can in a DAW with software,” he continues — it was more ‘set and forget and there was not as much experimentation. Now, PATCH has allowed me to play with my gear like Lego. I feel like I can experiment freely without crossing this threshold of going ‘in the box’. It has made my system a giant sandbox playground. I can load different presets and changes are seamless for any of my projects.”
Working ‘in the sandbox’
In Parfitt’s work, using a wide palette of sounds and folding them into a musical narrative is the name of the game. Depending on the vision of the producers, a sonic palette can range anywhere from cowboy music to huge orchestrational mayhem: “My work is always different and is never monotonous,” he says. “Last week I was writing sprinkly ballet music, and this week I am writing conga driven island beats. You just never know what is going to come.” He says that with the PATCH System, he can easily cover a vast degree of sonic territory, since he can create and recall any number of analog signal paths at a moment’s notice.
Parfitt explains his typical creative process: “Normally we get the animation and spot the video with the director and producer and figure out where all the music needs to go. Then they let me loose for six days and I have to compose all the individual music cues — it could be ten pieces, it could be sixty, depending on the episode. In addition, these music cues may span different music genres within the same episode, so PATCH has been vital in creating, saving and accessing these different sonic flavors.”
In terms of sonic palettes, each show is a little different. One might contain epic Hollywood kinds of sounds, and another one might be piano and mallets. You never know what each show might entail. Parfitt was the composer on The Remarkable Mr. King, a children’s television series about a short-sighted little lion: “The producers wanted the soundscape to be gentle with some light mallet percussion, marimba, vibes and shakers — gentle sounding instruments because it was for a very young audience.”
From a technical perspective, Parfitt has his PATCH connected to the master insert on his Neve 8816 summing mixer. “From there, all my analog gear kind of acts like sweetening,” he says. “I can do mid-side, parallel compression, and other kinds of processing. But on the flip of a dime, if a client calls, I can instantly load a different preset which automatically takes that same outboard gear, I can run my synth through it and record it. PATCH has allowed me to reconfigure my entire workflow instantly and that what hooked me into it.”
Now, Parfitt is able to treat his analog hardware much like DSP plugins, with dedicated ‘paths’ for each show he works on. “When I am on a show, once I figure out the signal path for a particular show, I will give it a preset. For instance, maybe one preset will involve tracking modular synth that will contain the outboard I need. In these cases, using different gear, I can audition any order of any outboard gear instantly, which is unreal. I can instantly add or remove compressors, reverbs or other processors without having to rewire or ever leave the mix position. PATCH has opened up a whole new world for me.”
In addition to his ongoing sound design work, Parfitt is currently working on a pre-school show entitled Ranger Rob, a program for which he was nominated by the CSA (Academy of Canadian Film & Television) for “Best Original Music, Animation”. Parfitt remains very enthusiastic about his PATCH set up and looking towards acquiring the new PATCH XT in the near future: “Once I get the larger version, I can tap each stereo output of my summing mixer and insert dynamics and processing there. Also, PATCH XT has so much I/O that I will be able to gain access to all sorts of gear that generally sleeps on a shelf until I need it. I’m really looking forward to being able to access all of this from within the PATCH App.”
“PATCH has made me appreciate outboard gear even more,” Parfitt concludes. “It just makes it all so much fun in addition to being efficient and doing the tasks right. I never thought I would have more fun using a patch bay, but here we are!”
To learn more about Neil Parfitt, please visit www.neilparfitt.com.