Framing the Games: Networks Score Olympic Sounds

NBC, BBC Prepare Music to Help Tell Athletes' Stories

By Published on .

Whereas human-rights organizations have been working to frame the Olympics in terms of human suffering, and China has been stressing international cooperation, TV networks are most concerned with staging the games as a web of human drama.

Sportscasters will have statistics and researchers to help them out, but this year they'll also have unprecedented access to one of the best storytelling resources in the world: music.

By August, NBC will have at least 30,000 musical cues available on-demand for whatever the situation on the ground calls for. When there's, say, a crushing defeat by a German pole vaulter or a stunning victory by a Vietnamese handball player, all the producers have to do is type in a few keywords -- mood, tempo, culture, decade -- and they'll have an instant soundtrack.

All of these clips are being lovingly compiled by Audiobrain archivist Audrey Arbeeny, who must have a killer iTunes library. Her tunes and fragments thereof will help the Peacock Network tie all the sweat and gold into story lines so viewers can follow what is always a dizzying drama. In past years, this process was clunky and slightly crude, but this year, according to Fast Company, they're picking up their game:
When NBC's producers prepare a segment, they use the database to zero in on the exact tone they're looking to set. Producers can search by artist, album, instrumentation, mood, decade, and culture of origin, so when recapping a Norwegian's javelin victory subsequently overturned by a rules violation, they can utilize key words such as "rousing," "Scandinavian," and "moody" to hone their choices. NBC's editors can tag clips and leave one another tips and suggestions, see when a track last aired, and -- if time is running short -- even press a button requesting help from Arbeeny or Audiobrain cofounder and creative director Michael Sweet, who will be working alternating 12- to 18-hour shifts from NBC's Beijing headquarters. Although NBC's prime-time coverage will mostly be on tape, "Sometimes the clock is ticking down to minutes," Brown says.
Across the pond, the Brits are no less concerned with the aural signature of their Olympic coverage. Damon Albarn -- leader of both Blur and Gorillaz -- will be producing the soundtrack and a two-minute title sequence for BBC Sport's presentation of the games. According to NME, the latter is based on a Chinese folktale called "Journey to the West," which Albarn and comic-book artist Jamie Hewlett staged as an opera last year. For a taste of what to expect, here's the trailer:

[Via Fast Company (via Intentional Audio Blog) and NME]
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