October 07, 19

Nick Summer Image

The always ambitious folks at Nickelodeon approached McM's JD McMillin about creating the sound for their new summer graphics and ID package. Custom sound design, fresh compositions of their classic mnemonic and the "sounds of summer" was the direction for the project. That left the table wide open for JD to create some really fun stuff that was heard across all Nick channels throughout the summer. A total of 40 different IDs were created, some promoting specific shows that required elements of the property theme music to be incorporated in the composition. Read on to hear JD take you through his process.

The first thing I like to do when starting a large sound design project is open up a v-synth and just start messing around. I'll load up some of the rough references I've been sent and start adding sound design to the motion graphics. The sounds I come up with during this part of process usually inspire the rest of the soundscape, including the composition.

One of the biggest challenges in creating custom sound design is making sure the elements remain fun and engaging even after hearing them over and over again. I find that synths are the most creative tools for adding sound design to motion graphics, as you have complete control of every parameter of the sound. Luckily, I had just gotten my hands on UVI's Falcon synth right before this project began. It's always great to dive into a project with a brand new tool.

Nick also really wanted this project to have an organic element that tied everything back to the "sounds of summer." Kids playing outside, swimming, fishing, etc...things that remind you of summer. This was the perfect opportunity for me to crack open one of my favorite sound design tools - iZotope's Iris. Iris lets you load up your own samples, manipulate them, add effects and then record it back into your timeline as a performance using a MIDI controller. This allowed me to create some really nice sounds that didn't just seem like I threw in ambience recordings.

Once I had a pretty solid bank of custom SFX, it was time to start laying down some music ideas. Being a drummer, I always start my composition ideas with drums. I need to get the rhythm that is in my head down on my timeline before I can move on to melody. With all of the custom sounds I had created right there in my timeline, inspiration for music started to take shape. Using similar sounds to create the music allowed me to blend the lines of music and sound design.

Because the music was inspired by the sound design, putting all the elements together went pretty smoothly. Since I made all of the sound effects myself, it was easy to go back and change the pitch or speed to match a new composition.

The next challenge was creating the property specific IDs. The task was to work in elements of each show's theme music to the classic Nick mnemonic. This is one of my favorite things to do in audio...the mashup. Throw some things into your timeline, and make them work together. It's smash and grab audio, and it's the most fun I can have in a session (also can be the most frustrating). My favorite way to do this is just get down and dirty with pitch shifting and time stretching. The process is really difficult to describe as it is mostly trial and error until I find something that works.

This Loud House ID was one of my favorites to come out of this project. The theme has a lot of big guitars and loud drums. It was super fun (and challenging) to morph some of the sounds into the Nickelodeon mnemonic.

Lastly, to make everything cross channel ready, we branded each ID with the proper logos and tweaked the design slightly to match.

The project was supremely fun, and it resulted in a cohesive sound for the channel to lean on all season long.