Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Livemau5 on BBC Radio 5 Live

Radio's always best when it's live, and responds to things that happen there and then.

Even if it's unexpected and certainly unwanted.

I love how Shelagh Fogarty deals with this. An honest reaction to an unwelcome guest.

She still manages to back-anno the guests very well though...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Recovering My Religion

This is brilliant. Simple, clever and very, very well done.

Major Scaled #2 : REM - "Recovering My Religion" from major scaled on Vimeo.

Monday, 7 January 2013

London's New Year's Eve Fireworks 2013 - The Story Behind The Soundtrack

Bounce is all about creativity in music, sound and content.

We work with a range of brands and broadcasters producing audio, writing music, providing consultancy and creating content... and so when we were asked to design and produce the soundtrack to the Mayor of London’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display for 2013, how could we possibly refuse?

The event is produced on behalf of the Mayor of London by Jack Morton Worldwide. They are one of the world leaders in staging events and a fantastically creative ‘global brand experience company’.

If you’ve ever wondered how an event like the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display comes together, the answer is simple. You get a company with the experience to pull off something of this scale to do it all!

Fortunately, at Bounce, we didn’t have to worry about crowd control, about viewing areas, and about liaising with all the relevant authorities. No. That was handled by Jim Donald from Jack Morton, whom we christened ‘Head of New Year’. Without him, there is no New Year kids!

Our job was the soundtrack.

And we started, as you always do... in a room... with some people... and some ideas... and a blank sheet of paper.

The people were... myself and Dan McGrath, Bounce’s Creative Director; Jim Donald and David Zolkwer from Jack Morton; and Darryl Fleming - the lead fireworks designer from Kimbolton Fireworks. They know a thing or two about fireworks, and were involved in some small events like the Queens’s Jubilee and the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

David Zolkwer is one of the world’s leading producers of public events and ceremonies, with his credits ranging from the Athens and Beijing Olympics through to the Hong Kong handover and World Cup in South Africa. He has also been appointed as Head of Ceremonies for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

So, it’s fair to say we were working with the best of the best.

The objective was to produce a 10-11 minute soundtrack which not only welcomed in the New Year in style, but celebrated the amazing year that was 2012.

We wanted to produce something that was very British, very London, and would help raise a smile or two on the night as well.

At the initial briefing meeting, we threw round some ideas... some song titles... some potential themes... and that was it. We were off.

Quite a few people have asked me what comes first. Music or fireworks? The answer is the music comes first, and only when that is complete can the fireworks be designed and choreographed to the music, along with the lighting design. So the pressure was on to deliver!

Any collaborative creative process is fraught with ups and downs. You can have what you think is a great idea; spend hours producing a demo of a sequence, only to realise that you were the only one who liked it! Straight away, you’ve got to dismiss any notion of being too protective of your ideas. Yes – bring them to the table, sell them in, be passionate about them... but if they don’t grab everyone’s attention straight away, move on. They’re only ‘ideas’ and there are always plenty more of those.

For several weeks, we worked like this with the whole team, producing ideas and sequences, having daily conference calls, listening, discussing, getting feedback, agreeing, disagreeing... and laughing. It’s important to laugh when the pressure is on. Often, we’d talk several times a day... updating as we went.

Dan and I were working out of 2 studios simultaneously to maximise the output. Technology allows us the freedom to work like that these days, and we honestly couldn’t have done it without Dropbox, Skype, and of course Logic.

I had to go and work for a few days in Vienna half-way through the intensive production period for this, and so my trusty MacBook came with me! I’m pleased to say that one of the sequences in the final cut was produced in a 6th floor hotel room in Vienna at 3am, fuelled by Red Bull and take-away Weiner Schnitzel!

As things started to take shape, we identified some quotes from the Olympics, Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee that we felt added something to the soundtrack... so permissions were sought from Number 10, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, the IOC, The Mayor of London, BBC Sport, Lord Coe’s office etc. And where rights could be easily granted, they were.

We continued producing different sequences, doing different mash-ups, trying to get the flow right until eventually after several weeks of late nights and early mornings, and gallons of coffee... everyone was happy.

At that stage we’d reached version 17!

And just when we thought we were finished, we got word that there were problems clearing just one particular track (which shall remain nameless!)... so we had to find a new sequence to fit in the exact gap. Darryl had already started designing the fireworks at this stage, along with the lighting from award-winning lighting designer, Durham Marenghi, so we couldn’t just scrap the whole timing.

So of course we did produce a new section... so strictly speaking it was version 17b that went to air!

The result was fantastic. 12.9 Million people watched on the night in the UK, and at the time of writing this, there are over 2 Million views on YouTube and counting. We got great feedback regarding the soundtrack, and even Joe from Nero (who have the very 1st track of the sequence - "Me and You") sent us a lovely email and thanked us for making Nero the opening track of 2013. We apparently made his Mum cry with happiness!  

The fireworks were stunning. The lighting enhanced the show even more and the event looked fantastic on the BBC TV show ‘New Year Live’, guided by Claire Popplewell as Executive Producer, and Catherine Stirk as Producer.

So here are a few thoughts that have come out of the process which may be useful if you’re embarking on any creative venture with a team of people;
  • Don’t be too protective over your ideas
  • Share everything and welcome all feedback, wherever it’s from
  • Fight for the things you’re passionate about
  • Always look for how something can be subverted or twisted to make it stand out
  • Never settle for ‘average’; aim to make it the best and always improve, improve, improve
You can listen to the soundtrack on its own (without the pictures!) here:

Happy New Year!