POP Sound, based in Santa Monica, Calif., created sound design and performed a 5.1 surround mix for a new theatrical and high-definition television spot for Coca-Cola that takes audiences along on a magical ride with a boy on a bike. The studio’s Peter Rincon helmed the mix for the spot, conceived by Wieden & Kennedy (of Portland, Ore. and Amsterdam) as part of its ambitious “Coke Side of Life” initiative.
In the spot, a boy rides his bicycle through a quiet city neighborhood, takes a sip of Coke Classic and suddenly finds himself in the midst of a parade, complete with marching bands, circus performers and eager crowds. The boy appears to travel cross country, passing through a variety of urban and rural locales, but when he finishes his soft drink, it all disappears, leaving him alone again on the street where he began. Furthering its dreamlike sensibility, the spot has no dialog or voice-over. Rather, it is driven by a hypnotic, minimalist music score and subtle sound design (created by Rincon) that sets the scene at the beginning and end. The sound elements have their greatest impact in the 5.1 mixes that Rincon prepared for the theatrical and HD versions of the spot.
“The music has a contemplative feel. It is a very spare piece that never modulates into a melody. It’s an interesting approach that contributes to the slow-motion, suspended-reality quality of the spot,” Rincon says. “The score also leant itself very well to 5.1 and I tried to capitalize on it by using the environment to the fullest extent. I wanted the music to wrap around the heads of the audience.”
The sound design at the opening of the spot helps to establish its reality and includes the sounds of the boy’s bike and the ambience of his neighborhood. The sound design also plays a crucial role in the spot’s shift to fantasy. “There’s a moment when the boy first encounters a marching band and that’s when we make the switch,” Rincon says. “At that moment, the soundtrack goes from real to unreal. There is a transitional sound that we manufactured for the moment when the drum major’s baton drops—it’s the audio equivalent of a wipe. The audio changes from bicycles and horn honks to the boy’s fantasy world where he doesn’t hear anything.”
Rincon also prepared a stereo mix for a version of the spot that will air on standard definition television. That version may have been the most challenging, as he worked to preserve the magical quality of the soundtrack. “The cinema version relies so much on the music’s bass line,” he explains. “But when it’s brought down to a stereo playback on a small television you could lose that heartbeat. We had to redo the dynamics of the music track to get that to come through on small speakers.”