Tudum or Ta-dum, the story behind Netflix's audio logo

The 20th Century Fox fanfare, MGM's Leo the Lion or the THX deep note are emblematic sounds that are part of the cinema brand image.

Netflix's "ta-dum" audio logo quickly became a recognizable, memorable and identifying intro. But by what magic has the team managed to renew the genre?

Something that screams Netflix!

In 2015, Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin was on the hunt for "something that screams Netflix". Yellin is a former filmmaker with an affinity for sound design and led the creative process for ta-dum.

He knew that Netflix users had no patience for a long intro. So the idea was to look for something that consisted of short sound effects.

Voltage release

Yellin wanted a sound that would make viewers think:

"Wow, I'm about to indulge, I'm about to have an amazing story."

Despite the fact that Netflix is in the technology and entertainment industry, the audio logo couldn't be too electronic, like Xbox sound or Mac startup chime. And it had to make the audience think "Netflix" without actually saying the company name (like the PlayStation sound signature).

Several key words that conceptualize this sound were brought in: tension, release, eccentric, and others. The main wish was to have the sensation of something that would increase tension and release it.

How many proposals did you say?

After numerous unsuccessful attempts for such a major commission, Yellin called on sound editor and Oscar-winning sound designer Lon Bender (Braveheart, The Revenant, Drive, Hunger Games).

Bender tried out a bunch of sounds: those based on music boxes, those expressing the passage of time, doors opening, using strange instruments and real cinema sounds. It was from 20 or 30 proposals that Yellin and Netflix brand design manager Tanya Kumar had to make their choice.

Bender's top 3 suggestions include the sound of a goat, a sparkling sound "from the depths of the ocean" and the "ta-dum" produced from a wedding ring sound.

Yellin declared:

"I liked the sound of a goat. It was funny. It was original. It was our version of Leo the Lion. "

Yellin felt the pressure to choose the right option: "The sound we were going to choose was going to get millions, hundreds of millions, billions of impressions!" One day after work, Yellin played the sounds to her daughter, then aged 10. For her, there was one clear option, and it was the "ta-dum" wedding ring sound that caught her attention. A working group associated the first draft of the ta-dum with a "beginning", "dramatic", "interesting" and even a "movie".

Sound designer Bender describes how he produced the 2 percussion sounds:

"It's a combination of music and sound effects of these blows, which are my wedding ring, that I wear, hitting the side of a piece of furniture in our bedroom. In order to add different qualities to it, I softened it with other things."

Bender added a deeper anvil sound and a few muffled hits. But he wasn't entirely satisfied. The sound still needed something else to create a sense of "tilt", something that became the signature final tonal swell, which he calls the "flower". This sound comes from his colleague, Charlie Campagna (sound designer of "Blade Runner 2049"), who took the "flower" from a longer recording he made in the 1990s. The sound comes from a 30-second guitar phrase that has been digitized and reversed. "I always had it because it was so beautiful, but I could never use it," says Campagna. The idea is to create "the blossoming sound" that introduces the film or program viewers are about to watch.

All in all, it took a year to create the ta-dum we know today.

Bringing the audio logo to life

Netflix also has a second sound logo, a longer one based on the "ta-dum" that is played before the streamer's films when they are shown in cinemas. This longer sound was composed by legendary composer Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Gladiator, Interstellar, The Crown, ...).

The result is a 16-second orchestral version, a kind of dazzling, spectacular build-up, punctuated by the signature "Ta-Dum" in a lower, heartbeat-like version.

The Netflix audio logo has become memorable not only for its careful design, but also for its strong repetition.

Should all brands sound like this?

Not every brand can afford to invest as much as Netflix in its audio logo. But isn't the most important thing to leave a strong, memorable emotional imprint through the use of music and sound?

What we can learn from Netflix's audio logo creation workflow:

  1. Defining how your business communicates with sound and music
  2. Choose as many key words and concepts as possible on which to base your sound design.
  3. Experiment, experiment and experiment some more

Do you remember what you thought the first time you saw and heard the netflix logo: "how original!" Yes, it's different, but it retains the codes of the film industry. Audiobranding professionals will agree thatan audio logo that works is a logo that :

  • creates asurprise effect
  • easily recognizable
  • provokes an emotion
  • conveys the fundamental and unique character of the brand
  • only works in the long term

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