According to Greg Marshall, our Chief Storyteller and direct connection to the Brewers team, we composed the original music and sound design. We also produced (and casted for) some of the footage that was used in the video, but our primary role with this one was music composition and sound design.
It was a true back-and-forth with the Brewers marketing team, and while Greg did assist in producing it, Dave Olson (pictured below) handled primary music composition and sound design duties. So I went and asked Dave a bunch of questions about the project for you. (You’re welcome.)
CID: How do you even begin a project like this? Where do you start?
Dave: The first note of a piece of music is always the hardest. With a client like the Brewers, I want to knock it out of the park (pun intended), so I dig deep into my toolbox and start searching for directions.
Usually I view existing footage and respond to that, but I got involved early enough that they hadn’t actually finished shooting the footage yet. The Brewers sent over a few reference videos as examples of the mood and pacing they were going for. And lucky for me, the creative team at the Brewers have an awesome aesthetic. The dark, gritty, epic feeling they were going for is what I love to create to most. It comes naturally to me.
CID: How did the song start to take shape once you received those reference videos.
Dave: I started out by creating a template of sounds and colors to choose from, then layered those textures until I got a feeling that moved me. That transition from making logical computer decisions to letting your gut take over without thinking is always the goal early on.
CID: So, did you just make one song for this video?
Dave: I ended up writing two pieces of music that were each about four minutes long. Giving the Brewers a couple of options helps the dialog move forward. In the end, they liked the direction of the first piece of music, so that became our focus.
CID: For this video, you worked on music composition and sound design. What's the difference?
Dave: I don’t make that much of a distinction between sound design and composition.
Sound design is that layer of otherworldly non-musical texture that fills in the gaps. Big rises, hits, and transitions that come into play once I have the picture in front of me to look at. It’s not specifically connected to an action you see on the screen, but it can be connected to the way the editor cut the footage together. It’s really the glue that locks the music to what you are seeing.
The foley, or a sound that represents an action on the screen is another layer that helps the sound become more real to people. With this video I did about half the “real world” sounds like crowd noises, motorcycles “vrooming,” etc. But even those layers for me become sound design and music depending on how I treat them.
The video the Brewers put together almost has a dreamlike feel to it, so to put super literal sounds in it would have ruined that slow, dreamy vibe. I spent a lot of time treating these layers to make them feel more supernatural.
CID: Can you elaborate on that?
Dave: Crowd noise, for example, can be jarring if the video you’re looking at is in slow motion and cutting between different ball games. Just dropping a cheering sound on top of the footage would pull you out of the moment. So I play with pitch, reverb imagining and volume fading to make it feel more other-worldly and dreamlike.
The other layers I love playing with are subtle noise texture that you don’t really hear, but if they were gone you might feel like something is missing. For the first 45 seconds of the video there is a layer of very quiet noise or hiss that sits underneath the mix. The opening shot of the city are affected to feel like they were shot on super 8 or 16mm cameras and I wanted to give a nod to that era of production by adding a sound that represents that look.
Of course most people view these videos on their phones standing in line at the cafe so they probably miss that, but it’s there and I know it.
CID: Do you have to use a different brain (so to speak) for each of them? Does it use different parts of your brain? Or are you always thinking about both as parts of the whole?
Dave: My first pass is always the music, then I move into sound design, and then foley. In the end, I let the music and the picture tell me where the sounds need to be and at what volume. I probably use my gut more with music. My brain and gut with sound design and just my brain with foley.
CID: Greg said that some of the little, subtle things you did with the sound design made a huge difference and transformed the video. (e.g. the subtle hum, the fire alarm, the squealing tire, crowd noise, etc.) How do you decide to add that kind of thing to a piece? How do you differentiate between where a sound is needed and where it isn’t?
Dave: I don’t really worry that much about overdoing it, because I always provide layers to the video editors. They can take things out if needed. I don’t put a sound for every literal action on screen, but with every layer I apply, I want it to bring the audience closer to the feeling and reality of what they are seeing.
Since the music built so slowly and wasn’t overpowering in this piece, the sound design had more room to breathe. I think it stood out more than in other videos I’ve been a part of.
CID: Any specific sound design moments you’re especially proud of here?
Dave: At the 1:10 mark when you see the old-school footage of the Brewers winning the 1982 ALCS back in the day. The clip in the video had no sound, but I really wanted to hear the historic announcer’s call in that game. So, I did a DEEP YouTube dive and watched a ton of 1980s Brewers games to find that one sound clip from that moment.
CID: Does contributing to an announcement as big as this impress your friends/family at all? Or are they like, "Cool, Dave. Great. Now let's just hang out."
Dave: I think my family and friends are proud of me. I probably annoy my wife Jonna by making her listen to videos I’ve done on multiple playback devices to see how it translates: “Jonna, now listen to this on a phone. Ok how does it sound on the TV? What about an iPad?”
It sounds fine, Dave.
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