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The Game DVD-A
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Mixdown

The mixes were recorded on a Studer A827 tape machine fitted with a JRF Magnetics Ultimate Analogue 2" 8-track Headstack. This was the same head-block Elliot Scheiner used for ANATO - we were so impressed we had it shipped to the UK for GVH1 and The Game (and subsequently bought our own one for GVH2). The ANATO mixes were recorded at 15 ips with Dolby SR but we chose to use 30 ips with no noise reduction for The Game. The tape was EMTEC 'Studio Master 900'. We only used six tracks for the mixes but there is a ninth track on this format specifically for timecode, so we were able to sync the mixes to the Pro-tools session, for instance, when checking the recalled mixes in January.

We normally use 1/2" two track machines for stereo mixes now and the 2" eight track gives us the same 1/4" per track with similar properties. Many original Queen mixes are very loud on the tape and part of the distinctive sound comes from the resulting tape compression. We wanted to use this effect and, in the end, I found it worked best without any other mix compression added.

On February 19th and 20th I attended the mastering session for the project with Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine. Bob has an awesome reputation as a Mastering Engineer so I was prepared to be impressed, but he really is inspiring. His understanding of the technology seems to be complete all the way from the implications of different vintage analogue tape formulations to the latest developments in the various new high-resolution digital formats and software. His mastering room has incredibly even sound distribution at all frequencies, and speakers that are both revealing and a pleasure to listen to - quite an achievement in itself.

Day one was spent mastering the new 5.1 mixes directly from the 2" analogue. On day two Bob mastered the stereo soundtrack from the original 1/4" master that I had brought with me. His job was to make final adjustments in EQ and compression so that the mixes sound fabulous on every different system they will get played on. The 6 channels in 5.1 mixes can be tweaked individually allowing a large scope for improvement. All this Bob did with the apparent ease of a master.

Soon after arriving I played the ANATO DVD-A and GVH1 DVD to hear the room and so Bob could hear what we had released so far. When, later, we came to master the new 5.1 mix of AOBTD he said he wanted to hear the GVH1 version again - it transpired he preferred the vocal balance of the older mix but thought the new mix was perhaps more punchy so we mastered both versions. It should be obvious from this that, if Bob Ludwig entertains the idea of using one mix with no centre channel over another mix with centre, you can be confident that, in a 5.1 mix, a silent centre channel is not an issue to be worried about. In future Queen surround mixes, I expect there to be examples of all these panning schemes plus a few more! We have subsequently decided to use the new mix of AOBTD since Brian and Roger had already approved it and the other one is already available on GVH1.

Gateway Mastering sent me some approval discs with the MLP and DTS 96/24 5.1 soundtracks plus the PCM 96/24 stereo. The MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) is 96kHz 24-bit resolution and offers the most faithful reproduction of the mix but can only be heard using a DVD-A player.

The DTS 96/24 allows you to hear the same surround mix using a normal DVD player coupled with a DTS decoder. If the player and decoder are 96/24 capable you get this advantage in the sound quality - otherwise you get 48/24 resolution - still very good. This arrangement allows most people with surround systems to play these mixes since most systems have some form of DTS decoding.

Another compatibility issue is the TV standard. I understand 95% of DVD players in Europe are NTSC capable and that is why the ANATO DVD-A was only released as a NTSC version. Assuming the same thing happens for The Game DVD-A, it is worth making sure your player is NTSC capable before buying this new release.

The PCM 96/24 stereo soundtrack is much better quality than CD but, again, the output resolution will only be as good as your system's capability.

I have spent the last month going over artwork, credits and menu and lyric screens etc with Richard Gray and the guys at DTS and we are finally done. It all looks fab.

I should mention here that Rory Kaplan has held this whole DVD project together and has been right with us, from start to finish, in terms of maintaining the quality, attention to detail and making it happen.

When I listened through to all these soundtracks to approve them I really enjoyed the stereo version - it becomes very clear; the great album Freddie, Brian, John, Roger and Mack made. I saved the MLP till last and enjoyed that even more - I really think we have added some depth of field and scale to this album and I hope people will like it.

Justin Shirley-Smith - 27 March 2003

 

 
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