Web Summit 2022: Nuno Fernandes (Sound Particles)
Join João Tomé for Conversations at Web Summit 2022, one of the biggest tech conferences in the world — held November 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal.
In this interview, Nuno Fernandes, Founder and CEO Sound Particles (a Portuguese startup that is providing audio software to shows like Game of Thrones or movies like Dune), goes over how his company use the Internet; where is the Internet going and how can it be better and use cases of the use of Sound Particles technology in Hollywood.
My name is Nuno Fonseca, I'm the founder and CEO at Sound Particles. We are based in Liria, it's one hour north of Lisbon here in Portugal.
And what does your company do really, for those who don't know?
So, Sound Particles uses computer graphics, but instead of using them to generate image, like regular it is, we use computer graphics but for sound.
So, we have this CGI kind of software, like Maya or Blender, but to allow you to create soundscapes and allow you, for instance, to create a battlefield with 10,000 sounds playing at the same time.
And then our software is used in all major Hollywood studios in productions like Game of Thrones, Dune, Star Wars, Stranger Things and other productions like that.
They're using our software precisely to create these epic soundscapes, this epic sound design that sometimes is needed.
For instance, Game of Thrones have used our software for the epic battles of the last season, you know, with thousands and thousands of zombies and all of those sounds.
So, they use Sound Particles because it allows you to create these thousands of sounds very easily in a very interesting way.
We are a company based in Portugal that exports 99 point something percent.
So, we work globally and of course for us, Internet, it's a fundamental tool to be able to be in Portugal and have a lot of clients in LA, in London, in other movie production cities around the world.
So, for us, Internet is what makes this possible.
From contacting them, reaching to them, marketing activities, sales activities, reaching them, awareness.
So, for us, without Internet, we could not be a company in Portugal working for Hollywood studios.
Exactly. So, the technology is more easy to show to the world in a sense using the Internet.
And, for instance, with the Internet, we can do things like share the sound of our software, doing demos and allowing people to listen to the demos of the software.
We are able to reach them and allow people on many places around the world to know a company from Portugal that are doing sound design software.
So, yeah, Internet has a fundamental role.
Without them, we could not exist here or at least we had to move to LA or some other city to do our business.
I think that Internet is going to be even more transparent.
On the beginning, we would go to the Internet, we would open the browser.
We definitely do some kind of operation to enter the Internet.
I'm still from the time that you actually had to dial the modem to enter the Internet.
Nowadays and in the future, I think Internet is going to be much more transparent.
People will not even realize what is going using the Internet, what is not using the Internet.
If I'm doing something either with my Alexa device or my Siri or whatever device, all of this with Internet of things, with all of those things, I think it's going to be much more transparent and simply be part of our lives.
In terms of using the cloud, AI, updates to your software, do you intend on using the cloud in some way?
Of course, we already use the cloud for things like subscriptions, managing, allowing us to track which users have a valid subscription or a valid license and make sure that the right features of the software are unlocked depending on all of those things.
We are also working now on a project that is going to be based on cloud that will be a kind of a marketplace for sound designers to be able to get sounds because today I'm working on a movie about cars, so I need a lot of engines.
Tomorrow, it's a movie about a farm, so I need animals. People are always needing a lot of sounds.
One of the things that we are going to release within a few months is to have a cloud solution with sounds and for that, we're going to use a lot of cloud, a lot of storage, a lot of access.
We know that the users should be able to, I'm looking for a sound, going there, search the sound quite fast, be able to retrieve the sound, listen to it, go to the next sound and all of this based on cloud.
Do you think the cloud is a need-to-go area to expand, to show different aspects of your product?
Yeah, it's one of the things that pretty much everyone in IT needs nowadays.
Some may need more, some may need less, but everyone needs the cloud.
It's one of those tools, the same way that, okay, we have a computer that is a tool, now we need Internet and now we have the cloud, so it's one more tool that we have on our tool set to use and definitely it's an important one that nowadays, especially with all the offer that we have in terms of the service that we get from the cloud, from AI, GPU, CPU and storage and all of those things, and with 5G available, more and more we move into the cloud and that's the way of the future.
Especially in our case, what we need to make sure is that bandwidth continues to increase, because in our case, for instance, imagine this case, I'm a sound designer, I'm looking for sound, I need to almost have instant access to the files like they were locally.
It's not downloading a file and then downloading the other file and downloading, no, we need to be quite fast, so essentially what I feel that the Internet and the cloud need is to have almost this instant behavior, the same way that when we're using desktop applications, you press the button and everything is instantaneously, we need the same thing with the cloud, making sure, of course, a lot of things already have that kind of behavior, especially applications, we have applications and those things, but there are some things, like in our case, in terms of sound or in terms of video that are more heavy, in terms of size and storage, that we need to make sure that the bandwidth continues to increase to make sure that the experience is very smooth with the users.
For those who use, being faster in terms of that cloud experience makes a huge difference, right?
It takes you much less time doing something in a large amount of proportion of time if you, if the bandwidth is quicker, if the speed of the Internet is quicker for you to see the file.
Yeah, because once again, the difference of half a second in one operation, okay, it's that half a second, but I do hundreds of operations in one hour or hundreds of operations around the day, so that half a second actually turns to be that latency, that delay may end up having several minutes of latency or even one hour or more of latency in some cases.
So, yeah, sometimes people say, oh, it's only half a second.
No, but it's one half a second multiplied by thousands of times. So, it turns out being a...
For a full team of software engineers or people that work on sound, that's a crazy amount of time if you put a whole team together, right?
Yeah, and it reminds me of this story.
There is this story from Steve Jobs that apparently he was pushing the team to make sure that the startup time of the Mac was faster.
And they said, okay, we cannot accelerate more. It takes this time. And then he asked the team, okay, if the life of someone depending on this, would you be able to accelerate it?
And they said, depending. And they'll say, okay, we have thousands of users.
If you multiply these minutes by all of these thousands of users, it's going to mean that it's a latency of many years.
So, you are actually saving the life of a person by accelerating this.
So, I think it's the exact same thing.
Yes, small half a second here, 200 milliseconds there, but multiply by thousands of users, multiply by thousands of operations a day.
It makes all the difference.
For us, it's always, we love to receive feedback from our users.
Because sometimes it's not about, most of the times it's not about new features, because most of the times they are asking for things that we have already thought.
But more important than that is to help us give priorities to the things.
So, I get the feedback and say, okay, it's the third person talking about this.
We should definitely increase the priority of this feature and make sure that we accelerate this faster, this feature, instead of another that we have on our backlog.
So, yeah, receiving the feedback, it's fundamental.
Once again, not to get new ideas, but most of the times to help us simply give priorities to the things that are more used to our users.
But was there a specific example, like a big production, where you saw a use case, an interesting use case that you can share?
No, of course, there are a lot of use cases that we have.
For instance, even last week, I went to LA and I was there inviting to go to Fox, because they were doing the double that received the Oscar in Bohemian Rhapsody, where they're doing a new movie about Whitney Houston and they use sound particles for all the audiences and the concerts and the things.
And they invited me to go there to the mixing stage to see the final results of the use of sound particles.
And it's great because, okay, there I am in this room with four Oscar winning persons and all of them giving feedback about, okay, you should do this, can we do this, can we invent a tool to do this kind of things?
And for us, it's very important to get this feedback.
For sure, and it shows a large scope of what you built from Portugal to the Hollywood stage, in a sense.
Yeah, and it's quite rewarding when you see the product that you have made being used in things like Dune and Star Wars or Game of Thrones or Stranger Things.
And it's very interesting for us and also for our team to notice, okay, we are doing things and our things are being used in this production and that is quite rewarding.
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