The Olympics are almost here, and the anticipation is building by the minute. NBC just released a poetic celebration of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games and the passion of its hopefuls, heard through the spoken word of America’s Got Talent winner, Brandon Leake. The superb sound creators at Yessian Music teamed up with NBC on the effort, and Yessian Executive Producer Gerard Smerek and Senior Sound Designer and Mixer Jeff Dittenber stopped by SCREEN to tell us all about their journey to the finish line.
First things first, let’s take in the countdown spot, and experience the energy we all love about sports and competition answering the question, “Is it your moment in time and are you ready to take it?”
SCREEN: What will resonate most with everyone as they watch this commercial?
Sound Designer Jeff Dittenber: The anticipation of excitement surrounding the upcoming games. That was our job: to inspire viewers to connect on an emotional level with what the games mean to them. Sometimes we all forget how much determination and sacrifice it takes to achieve your goals and dreams, especially for these athletes who dedicate their lives for this moment. We hope that this will give people a little nudge to remind them how deeply important these games can be to the country.
Executive Music Producer Gerard Smerek: I’m a big sports fan and I was the youngest of five with three older brothers. Literally everything was a competition! I put that energy into everything I do. Especially music. You can hear that in the production the recording and the mix. I think if you put a part of yourself in your art people will relate to it. That’s what they’ll pick up on. The spirit of competition encompasses the struggle, the fear, the challenge, the joy. Win, loss, redemption.
SCREEN: What was your creative approach with this spot?
Sound Designer Jeff Dittenber: Brandon brings a blend of gravity and hopefulness to his poetry, and we wanted to match his message. The music was inspired by the idea of mixing two styles: Cinematic Narrative, and Olympic Inspiration. We begin with a sense of drama and determination, then quickly evolve the score into a full anthemic celebration that echoes the traditions of the Olympics and the prideful emotions it brings. While the music needed to emotionally thread the spoken word message, the sound design needed to create impact and momentary flashes of reality that we could all relate to. The challenge of competition and the warrior in all of us.
SCREEN: What did you enjoy most about creating this commercial?
Executive Music Producer Gerard Smerek: The recording of all the live percussion timpani, bass drum, cymbals, bells and chimes. So much power can be conveyed through proper orchestration and dynamics. So much emotion can be conveyed through faders. You can play a mix like an instrument.
Sound Designer Jeff Dittenber: The blending of two story-telling art forms: poetry and musical score. There is something so visceral about creative collaboration that reaches across traditional boundaries. When one supports the other, it elevates the emotional message exponentially. Then, once we began to craft sound design into key cinematic moments, it brought the scenes to life, and made everything feel even more impactful.
What’s Next for Team Yessian
Next Up for Yessian is another project with NBC, followed by a wide range of creative endeavors, traversing the full spectrum of genres. “We have a very diverse clientele,” Smerek told SCREEN. “We are remixing music for a rap star automotive collaboration project one day, and writing music for an experiential theater project the next. One of our greatest objectives is expanding the boundaries of technology in creative media. We are heavily involved in many immersive and interactive format projects and it’s an exciting position to be in.”
“We still get to make art, but now there are so many new canvases that the possibilities are boundless.”