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The Game DVD-A

Surround Mixing

The surround mixing took place at Sphere Studios London for ten days in November 2002 and another seven days in January 2003. By the end of the November session we had mixed the whole album and had it DTS encoded onto a DVD-R, so that everyone could listen to it at home and work out what changes, if any, should be made in the January session. The second session was also when Brian and Roger added the majority of their input, so they didn't have to sit around waiting for me to do the initial mixing.

One of the attractions of Sphere Studios was that all three control-rooms were designed for 5.1 from the ground up, so there are no compromises in the monitoring and acoustics. We were in studio 1 which has a built in 5.1 monitoring system but we also set-up our own Genelec 1031A/1094A self powered speaker system - I used the latter most of the time. A great deal of attention is placed on this set-up; the precise listening centre-point has to be confirmed; the distance from the centre-point to each speaker has to be equal (this distance being dictated by the left and right speakers because they sit on the console meter bridge); the left and right speakers need to be 30 each side of the centre speaker; the surround speakers need to be 120 each side of the centre speaker; they all need to be pointing directly at the centre-point and at an equal height. The sub is put behind the desk in the middle. Finally each speaker volume is set to 85dB and the sub to 60dB using pink noise and a sound pressure meter. (Most people's living rooms won't allow this but it might be useful to know the ideal when setting up a home system. Additionally I would recommend double checking all speakers are wired correctly with regard to polarity (or +/-) at both ends of each speaker cable - one mistake in this area can make the whole mix sound very odd!)

Sphere studio 1 is graced with a brand new Neve 88R 72 channel console with excellent surround facilities. It has a very flexible routing matrix so I could set up the pans to work exactly as I liked. The EQ's and dynamics are also an improvement on the previous models but I did use additional out-board gear in the mixes, such as Pultec, GML, Focusrite and Manley EQ's and Fairchild, Neve, Urei, Tubetech and Summit compressors.

When beginning to construct these mixes, I always kept a close ear to the original mix because I wanted the sounds to be familiar. This applies to EQ and compression obviously but also reverbs and effects. We used a real EMT reverb plate some of the time but I saw no reason to restrict myself exclusively to vintage equipment, so I also used the usual Lexicon, TC, Eventide and AMS's etc to get the various effects. We also used the occasional plug-in (within Pro-Tools) when it seemed appropriate.

I have to say, many of these recordings sound wonderful and were a joy to work with - hats off to Mack (it's gotta be Mack!).

In Dragon Attack, large sections of the song are made up of only a single stereo loop including drums, bass and rhythm and lead guitars. There are whole instrumental sections where that is all there is. I think the song came out of a combination of a jam and the trend of experimenting with loops in the studio. This was one of the times I used the TC 6000 'unwrap' setting. This is a clever program that can turn a stereo mix into a 5.1 mix, like a really brilliant version of what most domestic AV amps can do. We used it for Spread Your Wings on GVH1 and the entire Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert DVD, but we would normally prefer to remix properly from the multi-tracks when possible. Returning to Dragon Attack, we unwrapped the loop and mixed in the vocals, percussion and extra guitar and bass overdubs and ended up with a kind of hybrid mix. I also used unwrap on some stereo backing vocal or guitar harmony bounces that we wanted to make more 3D, such as the big backing vocal section in Dragon Attack.

On the end of Rock It there is an effect on Roger's voice (on the word "down") that took a little time to recreate. We copied the word onto an analogue machine and then recorded various experiments stopping and slowing it down until we got something that sounded right before placing it back into the song session in Pro-Tools.


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