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Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album Print E-mail
Friday, 28 March 2003
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Dark Side SACD Engineer Speaks on Remix of Album
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Saved by the woodstove

That night was cold and dark. The cats and I were camped out in the living room. As any remaining heat in other parts of the house had long since been sucked out. I slept lightly on the couch, getting up every couple of hours to put logs in the woodstove. The house continued to shake throughout the night.

Day two: and the winds were even more serious. One tree was already down in the driveway. I was heating water on the woodstove to make a cup of tea and noticed a slight break in the storm. Digging my way to the shed to retrieve a small generator took a couple of hours but afforded me 3 lights, a small space heater, and my laptop computer.

A little distraction from my growing concern that forward progress on the project had stopped.
I was now on line and searching for a big turbo-diesel generator that could power the entire studio. Available, but delivery and installation would be a problem as no one could get into the area. Most of the roads for about a 30-mile radius were now closed due to the storm. Joel was also without power and unable to travel the six miles to the studio. Not much point either, as we couldn’t work.

Day three: I awoke to a loud bang that rocked the house. Staggering from the couch I set off to investigate. The top 25 feet of a beautiful Pine tree had snapped off in a recorded wind gust of 140mph and, probably traveling in a perfect arc, had plunged straight through the roof of my entrance walkway.
My sense of humour was being tested. The internet informed me that now over a million customers in California and Oregon were without power.

There was little comfort in this statistic. All I could think about was the deadline.

Day four: As a can of tomato soup slowly warmed on the woodstove, I considered my options for breaking the news to EMI that perhaps things were not progressing at quite the intended rate for an 03/03/03 release. I decided to wait another day.

Day five: The power was back! - - - The power was gone!
Then, finally, after a few more attempts, the power was on for good. At last, we were back to work.

We were still missing one or two components. Continued searches at Abbey Road and individual band storage facilities had turned up nothing.

The holiday period also meant that most sane individuals were off relaxing in remote parts of the globe. Not thinking about record company deadlines.

Eventually, with all the elements in place, the mix was in suitable condition for input from the band. I traveled to New York to meet with Roger and then on to London to see David, Rick and Nick.

We did, amazingly, finish in time to make an 03/03/03 release date, but things were ultimately moved closer to the original release of March 24th. Auspicious date for the press launch!

I hope we can look forward to more Floyd releases in this format. Their music is perfect for surround sound. They are, after all, pioneers in the 3-dimensional audio experience, and have been performing live with quad sound for years. In fact, one of the first quad pan pots, called the "Azimuth Coordinator", was developed especially for the band.

It's a natural progression to make 5.1 mixes of their work.

In speaking to numerous people about this project, one recurring question has been, why SACD rather than DVD-A? So I should probably say one or two words about that.

First of all, I support anyone who is trying to bring a high-resolution medium to the public. This has long been a point of contention for me. With the technology that we have available today, the record buying public should be able to experience the same audio quality in their homes that we work with in the studio.

My worry about DVD-A is in the confusion that surrounds it. I've had conversations with many consumers and record company executives about this, and clearly they don't fully understand what it is. The letters DVD should probably not have been used in the title of the audio format.

Many people see a DVD-Audio disc and think: "DVD-A, I have a DVD player, this disc will play in my machine". Of course it will, but they will not be hearing DVD-Audio. They will be listening to the compressed streams of either AC-3 or DTS. As a supposed high-resolution medium, this is self-defeating.

SACD and DVD-A are high-res formats that are about audio quality. Or at least they should be.

If the major labels decide to go with DVD-A based solely on the argument that there are millions of DVD video players already out there that will play the disc, then they are saying that they are quite happy for people to listen to AC-3 or DTS. They are effectively saying that they don't care about quality.

The second issue I had with DVD-A relates to the MLP encoding that apparently has not yet been optimized. Quick-fix high-frequency filters on the final product, also defeats the concept of a high-resolution format.

In favour of the SACD, is the smooth analogue-like sound that DSD produces, and the fact that the disc can't be ripped. That last issue alone seems like something that record companies would jump on.

My thanks go to Joel Plante, who so ably assisted me through this entire process. To Billy Woodman and all at ATC for designing and building such great speakers, which you will hear this evening. To Tim de Paravicini for all of his outstanding studio equipment. To Ed Meitner, who’s A to D converter was used in the transfer to DSD. And to Charlie Bolois, who not only wired and maintains my studio, but who also re-built the two EMT 140 echo plates, so that we would have great analogue echo for this mix.

If this format is going to succeed, it will do so by the labels and outlets pricing these hybrid discs competitively with normal CDs.

Major labels are viewed as being greedy giants by a large portion of the record buying public. This is a great opportunity for the record companies to change their perceived image, and give something back to the fans.

Additionally, if this format can help re-kindle our interest in listening to music, then it is indeed a very powerful medium.

I remember being so impressed when I first heard this album, and I'm still very impressed after 30 years of living with it. The delivery devise for a song is crucial. By that I mean the musical arrangements and the atmospheric production. These elements are a big part of this record and a big part of why a song touches you.

The usual sequence of events for a band making a record are; write the songs, rehearse and arrange the songs, record them, and then go on tour and perform the songs. Very often, the touring experience will cause a band to experiment and change the musical arrangements. In many cases, for the better.

Pink Floyd performed this work (as "Eclipse") many times before entering the studio. Consequently, many of the arrangement issues were worked out well in advance.

I think Dark Side will continue to appeal to people regardless of their generation or background. It endures because it is about something. We identify with the condition.

Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy the mix, and I hope you feel that we have done justice to the work.

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