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Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album Print E-mail
Friday, 28 March 2003
Article Index
Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album
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Trial and error

We just had to go through a painstaking process of synchronizing the tapes.

This process involved learning the combined speed error, and compensating for it whilst striping new time code. You only have to get the correction right once, but that procedure can take a day or more for each song. Another incompatibility with our proposed release date.

Offsets were then required to make sure the tapes were absolutely synchronized. No margin for error is tolerable, as the musical feel would change.


To further keep us on our toes. The master tapes contained no alignment tones. In the early 70s, Abbey Road felt that tapes would never leave their studio. Why print tones? Future concerns of hitting the Dolbys at the right level, or correct azimuth adjustment were just not considered.
I managed to make contact with Brian Gibson who had been the chief technician at Abbey Road in 1973. Brian was able to shed a good deal of light on the alignment issues. Further conversations with Doug Sax and Jay McKnight at MRL revealed that there was a discrepancy between European and American test tapes. We compensated, and eventually got to the bottom of the alignment procedure.


With most of the technical issues out of the way, we could concentrate on the creative aspects of mixing for 5.1.

For me, the approach to a 5.1 mix should be the same as a stereo mix. That is, to try and create a dynamic, musical mix that best serves the song.

The biggest issue is; have you retained the emotional impact of the music? If that objective is achieved, then dynamic differences making use of a larger soundstage are perfectly acceptable.

The original stereo mix contains the detail and the emotion of the songs, so I used that as my reference.
As with any project, the multitrack tapes contain elements that were not used on the final mix. I felt that the musical content of the 5.1 mix should be consistent with the original, so we took a lot of care to use the same elements. The exception is a very small guitar bit in On The Run, which I liked and put in. The band agreed.

Power struggle

We were underway but the deadline was already looming. The mixing was going smoothly, but the preparation time for each song seemed to be growing. The storm outside had also grown and was rapidly becoming a blizzard.

The house shuddered under violent gusts of wind. Horizontal snow flashed past the windows and the previous day’s snowfall was busy forming into large drifts.

Finally, late afternoon and mid mix, the power flashed once and went off. Joel and I speculated that a half-hour or so should see us back up and running. No worries, really. The power company had always been very efficient at dealing with situations like this.
Just an enforced, early dinner break.


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