Kicking Music Up to "Stupidly Loud" On Corridor Digital's MINECRAFT JOHN CENA Video
It got loud in the studio for Corridor Digital's latest release. The project we previously worked on together is currently their 8th most popular video (out of 110+) with almost 11 million views. Wanting to push that success further, we teamed up to score their latest short - a video mixing Minecraft and JOHN CEENAAAAAAAA craziness.
Composer Daniel Ciurlizza writes about pushing sounds beyond their limit, steps for breaking down a story, and making ridiculously loud music for Minecraft John Cena.
WOW TURN THAT Mess DOWN Right Now
The origin of the "And His Name is John Cena" meme comes from wrestler John Cena's WWE introduction and this prank call. The tendency with generally mundane or just-kind-of-funny content on the internet is to make it hilarious - which results in unexpected (Drake's Hotline Bling), crazy (Kazoo Kid), 10-hour-long (Epic Sax Guy), and ridiculous derivations from the originals.
DISSECTING THE JOKE
A lot of filmmaking - in this case, film scoring - involves digging into the psychology behind a film's story and characters. Questions we ask:
- What are our characters thinking?
- What's the meaning behind each scene and setting?
- What overall purpose does this film serve for its viewers?
So when Corridor Digital wants to make a John Cena video, it's our job to research what makes the John Cena meme so funny. I know you're not supposed to explain and dissect jokes... but here's what we found:
- SETUP - Every "And His Name is John Cena" video starts off quiet and shows content unrelated to Cena or wrestling in any way.
- ACTION - Then it drastically rips you away from that. It takes you by surprise, you get an overwhelming explosion of volume. So much so that...
- REACTION - You spring towards your volume settings to turn it down. I think the magic in it is that it's more interactive for the viewer than regular sit-and-watch videos. The abrupt volume change and the jarring WOW-TURN-THAT-DOWN-ness of it violently chisels a lasting impression of the event onto your brain.
That reaction became the goal for this score, and the explosiveness was the theme. This is how we further analyzed the video-to-be, and what else we needed to focus on...
VISUAL FOCUS | MINECRAFT
Minecraft is a highly stylized game. It arguably became well known for it's visual style.
- Corridor Digital was working on solidly establishing the mood of Minecraft in the rough cut.
AUDITORY FOCUS | JOHN CENA
- This dank meme, when done right, is an aural explosion. It always makes you jump from your seat and want to turn that mess down.
- Corridor Digital built a Minecraft-esque John Cena cardboard costume, which was properly ridiculous in it's own way. But we were missing the loud - almost obnoxiously - jarring music and announcement.
Getting the Right People To Contribute To the Madness
To achieve everything we wanted to do on the score, we needed three things:
- Live trumpet recording for authenticity
- An extra enthusiastic announcer for replicate the famous "JAWHN SEENUHHH" scream.
- Turn it all up to "stupidly loud" - especially the moment Minecraft Cena arrives.
Live Trumpet Parts
We have certain go-to musicians when we want live music. Dan Wendelken, who lives in New York, is the #1 trumpeter on our list because he diligently gets us exactly what we need, has a healthy sense of urgency (the kind it takes to live in this sort of filmmaking career), and has a solidly great trumpeting style.
Despite Dan living in New York and the Outlier team working in California, we've worked together a whole lot before, which has allowed us to refine our recording process.
Dan got word from us and quickly contacted trusted audio engineer, Michael Tietjen, to record his trumpet parts.
They sent us 6 files in different ranges (low, mid, high trumpets) so we could achieve a full sound:
After some time studying the instrument balancing on The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia (the original sample on John Cena's intro music), we figured out a good way to mix trumpets so they could stand up to the massive drums we were making:
While Dan and Michael recorded trumpet in New York, I was working with our....
Ultra Caffeinated John Cena Announcer
I contacted one of my oldest and closest friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dominic Beard, to help me out with the over the top "John Cena" announcement. Dominic's a mechanical engineer by trade, but any time a project needs an old-fashioned voice (e.g. radio announcer, soldiers in battle, voice overs, etc.), he's the guy I bring into the studio.
It was a little after lunch and as a general rule, we try not to record exciting parts after lunch. To remedy this, the first thing we did was make a pot of coffee and drink it all up. You could really feel the lift in energy with every sip of coffee - and I think it shows in the final recording:
Dom did an excellent job, but I still felt we needed to stay true to the over-the-top methods of the meme. So after adding some FX and pitching him down a bit, we were ready for implementation:
Kicking Everything Up to "Stupidly Loud"
To further enhance the ridiculous bigness of this video, I pumped the drums up to a point where they sounded like they were hitting an auditory ceiling - which is generally bad mixing practice - but you know... we don't want very loud, we want STUPIDLY loud. You can hear that "ceiling" when the cymbals hit - nasty over-compression:
Taking things even further, I wanted to add trumpets so the intense cinematic intro would connect with Dan's parts. What you're hearing here is live trumpet - very poorly played by me - cut up and mixed together:
The most exciting part of experimental production is making the poorest performances, sounds, or recordings, flourish and perfectly fit into a score. Here's what the above trumpet parts sound like after giving it the John Cena treatment - messy, gritty, distorted, etc.
The Final Music Mix
And finally, mix all that together, kick it up a few more notches, and you get this (also posted above):
Granted, the "Soundtrack Suite" version was made for listening (no loud surprises), whereas the original synchronized-to-film music was seriously loud. If you're curious to know how loud, check out this private track - be warned it gets crazy at around 42 seconds: