I’m working getting a new Christmas release ready for iTrax. Scott Wilkinson, the Home Theater Geek who is a brass player himself, suggested that Jim Self contact me about making a high-resolution version of his, “‘Tis a Season Tuba Jolly” CD. As the name indicates, the project is a collection of Christmas tunes played by the lower members of the brass family. This includes tubas and euphoniums along with a drummer and percussion. Jim Self is probably THE “go to” guy when it comes to tuba players. He was the studio musician that played the very famous tuba solo at the end of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.”.
So we chatted on the phone the other day about his project. He was unable to find a home for the high-resolution stereo and surround mixes that he and his engineer Shawn Murphy (a very well-know scoring mixer here in Los Angeles) produced over the past few years. I invited him over to the studio so that I could take a look at what he has, audition the surround mixes, and make a plan for moving the project forward. After wading through a bunch of folders on his hard drives, we were able to find the mastered 5.1 surround mixes of his 20 tunes.
Each song consisted of 6 individual WAV files at 96 kHz/24-bits. There was one for each of the channels in the surround speaker arrangement. Jingle_Bells_C, Jingle_Bell_LF, Jingle_Bells_LFE etc. Having discrete files is great for archiving purposes and for working in a DAW environment but they don’t work in my Oppo or any other consumer MCH music player that I know about. I had no problem pulling each of the files into a blank Pro Tools session and sending them to the appropriate output, but that not what consumers need or want.
Figure 1 – The Pro Tools session showing each of the discrete WAV files of the multichannel mix. [Click to enlarge]
I had to convert or “bounce out” each of the tunes to an interleaved multichannel WAV file. An interleaved file includes all of the individual channels interspersed with each other. The digital information contains a small “packet” of the Left Front channel, then a bit of the Right Front channel and so on until all of the channels have been touched and it goes around again. When you transfer the resultant file to a USB stick, it is now one file that is 6 times larger than the individual WAV files that you started with. But if you plug it into the front of your Oppo player and navigate to the interleaved file, it is playable as a fully immersive surround music file. The packets of individual channel data are collected in a data buffer and then synchronously output via the 6 DACs.
Unfortunately, it was a real time process to convert all of the discrete files to interleaved versions. But I QC’d the tunes as they were being converted and I enjoyed listening to some really terrific playing, interesting arrangements, and spirited music. This is very fun record. I should have it ready for downloading in about a week. I’ll check with Jim about putting up a couple of sample tracks on the FTP site.
Figure 2 – A photo of the recording session for “‘Tis the Season Tuba Jolly”. [Click to enlarge]
Then there was the question of the stereo mixes. Shawn and the mastering engineer knew that the first released version of the record was going to be a CD. That meant converting the original 96 kHz sampling rate to 88.2 and then ultimately to 44.1 with 16-bits during the mastering process. That meant that I didn’t have a high-resolution mastered version of the project. It’s time to think outside of the box.
I’ll talk about the solution…downmixing…tomorrow.