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3D Animation and Sound Design: An Interview with Anthon Bäckström of sub.stnc®

Anthon Bäckström, a key figure at sub.stnc®, together with his team brings a unique blend of architectural and sound design expertise to the forefront of the creative industry. Founded in early 2023 by a team of passionate creatives, sub.stnc® aims to bridge the gap between visual and auditory elements, creating seamless, sophisticated projects that elevate both aspects. In this interview, Anthon shares insights into sub.stnc®’s meticulous design approach, the importance of effective communication, and the exciting future of 3D and sound.

Can you tell us about the inception of sub.stnc® and the vision behind its creation?

sub.stnc® was founded at the beginning of 2023 by a team of creatives with different backgrounds, passionate about 3D and sound design. The idea came from a shared vision to integrate sound and 3D animation in a way that elevates both elements. We saw a gap in the market where visual and auditory elements were often treated as separate entities, and we wanted to bring them together seamlessly. Usually, studios are focused on either 3D or sound design. We believe it’s beneficial to bring them together under the same roof. We also try to undertake projects with sustainability as a theme as much as possible because we want to promote such values and help the planet in our own small way.

How does having a background in architecture and sound design influence your design philosophy and approach at sub.stnc®?

Having architectural competence and background in the team is very valuable, especially when building out environments for our creations. It ensures that spaces look good and feel good design-wise. On the other hand, my experience in sound design brings an appreciation for the auditory aspects of a project. I like to think of it as bringing emotion to each piece. It can look good and provide a certain feeling when you look at it, but when sound is added, you really get the emotion that’s needed for the piece to feel “complete.”

We always record all of our sounds from scratch in 192kHz; we never borrow from third-party libraries. All clients receive their own sound for that specific production. This approach helps to distinguish what we do from others.

There are interesting experimental approaches that we are exploring. For example, letting sound drive animation. Usually, sound is an afterthought for many, but imagine starting off with sound and building visuals afterward?! Kind of amazing.

Effective communication is highlighted as a key aspect of working with sub.stnc®. Can you describe how you ensure this throughout the project lifecycle?

Good communication is crucial to avoid misunderstandings and problems.

For instance, there’s a popular story about a husband and wife who had been married for decades. Every morning, the husband would give his wife the crust of his toast because he thought she liked it. Meanwhile, the wife always gave the husband the middle part of the toast, thinking he preferred it. It wasn’t until years later that they discovered neither of them liked what they were being given, and they had both been sacrificing their preferences to make the other happy. This type of misunderstanding can be avoided with open and honest communication from the beginning.

I like to think about communication from this perspective when it comes to business as well. Start by laying out all details in the open and make sure to really walk the client through them. This way, there will be no misunderstandings later. The real secret to giving clients an amazing experience is to make them feel safe and happy about their own creative choices and the way we’ve together chosen to get there. How do you do that? Communicate; don’t be silent.

Agency vs Studio?

If you were to buy milk and you wanted the best possible taste, where would you go—to the grocery store or to your local gas station? No, you would go to the source, the farmer with the cows who makes the milk from the beginning. That’s the best taste. It’s the same when companies are buying creative services from agencies (grocery stores). Just because it’s handy to have more products to pick besides milk doesn’t mean it’s the best value for money or that it will give you the best result.

Think about it—what are you really paying for? Agencies have many employees to pay. Do you think those costs are included when you buy services from them? You bet they are. Another issue is communication. When you buy a service from an agency, they just pass on your thoughts to the creatives who produce what you want. Do you see a risk here? Communication can become very frustrating.

Imagine going directly to the source instead, to the studio. What happens then?

First, you save money. A smaller team means fewer employees to pay, resulting in a smaller budget while still getting exactly what you want. Second, you avoid miscommunication by explaining directly to the source what you’re after instead of having a middleman.

Draw your own conclusion, but to me, the answer is clear— studio over agency.

What can clients expect in terms of transparency and project status updates when working with sub.stnc®?

Clients can expect complete transparency from us. We provide regular status updates on progress. We believe in honest communication, so if any challenges arise, we discuss them directly, openly, and collaboratively.

This approach builds trust and ensures that clients are always in the loop.

What are sub.stnc®s thoughts on AI and the future?

At the moment there are no AI tools that can replace software like Houdini, C4D, etc. But we certainly see the potential in some tools like Google’s VEO, Runway, and Sora. It’s just a matter of time before AI can create visuals that are so good you can’t tell the difference. So we think it will all come down to “taste.” 3D design firms will act more like art directors in the future, and may the best prompter with the best taste win!

Can you share some insights into your process for developing bespoke music and sound design for clients?

Our process is usually very personal. We try to create something for the piece first that we like ourselves with the help of a few guiding keywords from the client. Many times, this works well. If the client isn’t pleased with what we came up with, we ask many questions and go deeper to understand what they’re really after.

What are some upcoming trends in design that you are excited about integrating into your future projects?

We are particularly excited about taking 3D assets and processing them through services like Runway. It can produce some really interesting visual effects that are nearly impossible to achieve inside Houdini or C4D!

As a sound designer, what inspires you and keeps your creative process fresh and innovative?

Music and design are my main sources of inspiration, and of course, the work of other amazing artists and studios. The ability to record and create all my sounds from scratch keeps my approach fresh, I think. Each project is different and requires its own touch.

Finally, what is next for sub.stnc®? Are there any exciting projects or collaborations on the horizon that you can share with us?

We have several exciting projects in the pipeline, including collaborations with leading fashion and tech brands. We are also exploring new markets and expanding our service offerings. One of our upcoming projects involves sound design work for a soap brand in Switzerland. We think they should incorporate 3D as well—it would look amazing. We’ll see how it all unfolds. 🙂

From the editor…

Anthon Bäckström’s visionary approach at sub.stnc® is setting a new standard in the creative industry by bringing 3D and sound design together under the same roof. Through meticulous craftsmanship, effective communication, and innovative trends, sub.stnc® continues to create impactful and elegant assets for their clients. With exciting projects on the horizon and a commitment to sustainability, sub.stnc® is poised to redefine the future of 3D and sound design.