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Part I: All About The Making of a DVD-Audio Disc Print E-mail
Friday, 01 October 2004
Article Index
Part I: All About The Making of a DVD-Audio Disc
Page 2
Page 3

The first and most common way to encode a disc is to identify and locate an archival analog tape and recast it as a “high-resolution” DVD-Audio or SACD. Ideally, the right multi-track master and accompanying documentation can be found and then used by the original engineer/producer/artist to create a proper 5.1 mix. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. The master tapes may be difficult to find, poorly documented and the original participants unavailable. The big companies have done a pretty good job of producing new mixes of these catalog albums by hiring experienced engineers and involving the artists in the process. The fidelity of the original analog master, however, is never eclipsed when starting from existing tapes. Consumers do get the sound of the studio master, an experience that they’ve never had at home before, but ultimately the quality of the sound is established at the time the musicians sit in front of the microphones.

The second option is to take tracks that have been recently recorded in a low-resolution digital format, for example 48 kHz/24-bits or even 16-bits, and upsample them to a higher sampling rate. There are some very expensive processors that do this sort of work, but the results are rather vaporous and unconvincing. With the arrival of Pro Tools and other digital workstation environments, this method has become common as well. Believe it or not, my production studio has actually taken a manufactured CD and created a 5.1 channel, “advanced resolution” 96 kHz/24-bit audio master for another label to release on the DVD-Audio format. Seems a bit misleading to me, but take a listen and you be the judge.

Finally, there’s the approach that I decided to take with our productions. Start from scratch. Since my label is a completely new company, we don’t have an archive to dip into in order to make DVD-Audio titles, nor do I endorse the limitations on fidelity that come from starting in the analog or low-resolution domain. My opinion is that in order to launch an exciting new format, you have to fully exploit the benefits of that format. In the case of DVD-Audio and high-resolution audio, it seems obvious that making new recordings with live musicians is the most reasonable choice when producing new titles. After all, the music exists in the air only at the time of the recording, not from an analog capture of it using technology that in some cases is 30 years old. It makes a difference.

In part two, we’ll talk about the planning of the bonus features that can accompany a disc. In the meantime, if you have never heard a DVD-Audio disc, try ordering one from Amazon and play it back in your DVD player. Even DVD-Video players can get you some exciting audio results. Other than my own discs, I like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Vince Gill’s High Lonesome Sound, America’s Homecoming, and REM’s Best of disc. There are over 750 amazing titles out there on most major and many smaller labels. Hopefully, you will get as hooked on this new audio format as I have.

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