SO BASICALLY HE MIXED THE VIDEO WITH THE ALBUM VERSION. SO TO SOME OF US...ITS GONNA SOUND SO DIFFERENT. FOR ME WILL BE THE DANCE SEGMENT SOUND EFFECTS.
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When Thriller's videoclip debuted at the Avco Theater in Los Angeles in 1983, he filled the room three weeks in a row.*Now, 35 years later, he debuted at the Venice Film Festival with audio mixed in Dolby Atmos surround sound.*
The sound engineer in charge?*The eight-time Grammy nominee Martin Nessi (Nessi has worked with artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Ariana Grande).*We talked to him about mixing 3D audio and using RX to restore the original Thriller's audio.*
How did you get the opportunity to work on the engineering and mixing of Thriller in 3D?
Michael Jackson Estate contacted one of Sony's executives and asked him who they thought was the right person to work on the new Thriller mix to update a 3D version for the video and Dolby Atmos for the Audio.*The executive recommended the producer and engineer Humberto Gatica.*
At the time, he was one of Thriller's engineers with Bruce Swedien.*They recommended him and he called me to work together.*
How would you explain in a simple way how it mixes in Atmos and how it differs from other types of sound?
In the surround sound we have 5.1, which is center, left, right and then two surround speakers plus a subwoofer.*Then there is the 7.1, which is left, center, right, surround left, surround right, surround left rear, and surround back right.*
Now there's Dolby Atmos.*Dolby Atmos is basically atmospheric audio with*
3D sound.*They want to make you feel inside the sound.*
The main audio arrives in 7.1, as I explained.*It also has audio objects, which come from other speakers placed on the ceiling and walls.*Basically you need to have a minimum of four speakers to be considered Dolby Atmos, but if you go to Hollywood Dolby Cinema, I think they have about 120 speakers or more.
For those objects, there is a Dolby Atmos plugin in Pro Tools that is like a 3D panelado.*Basically you move the panel where you want to place the objects to put them in 3D space.*
Mixing Thriller in Atmos, what could you achieve for the viewer that has not been heard before in environments such as 5.1 or 7.1?*
There are many things that are not "heard" in the stereo version of the song.*You feel them, but you can not hear 100% of them clearly.*Now in 7.1, you can listen to each completely separate component in the listening field.*
Then you have to add all the other things that are playing in the video, like sound effects and zombies.*A lot of work has also been done on the video itself.*It's Thriller on steroids.
What were the biggest challenges when it came to restoring the audio of the project?*
The people of Sony sent us what they thought was the digital multitrack of Thriller from many years ago.*Basically they had taken all the tapes (masters and copies), and had passed them to Pro Tools.*Most of the sessions of all those artists of the time are already passed to Pro Tools for their file.*
They sent us a session, which is what they thought was the master used to mix Thriller.*When he opened it, I realized that there were elements that did not make sense when playing together.*For example, all the batteries were in a stereo track, etc.*I realized that they were not the masters used for the final mix.
What's more, I confirmed it with Humberto, who had worked on the original project.*I showed him the Pro Tools session and confirmed that it was not the multitrack master that was used for the mix.*
Suddenly I remembered that several years ago I had read in a magazine that Mick Guzauski said that he had mixed the Thriller album in 5.1, when Michael was still alive.*I suggested that they contact him to see if he knew where to get it.*The next day they sent it to us from Sony.
It is important to clarify that I speak of the multitrack of the song, not the video.*I knew I had to create a video multitrack because if I mixed the song as it was, it would not work, I had to start editing each track so that it would occupy the entire duration of the video.*I had to synchronize it with the images.*The problem is that when you automate it to the visual, you have to be able to do it looking at the images, so I decided to create a multitrack of the video using the multitrack of the song.*
I started creating that multitrack, but if you remember, the video is not lyrics, lyrics, chorus, lyrics.*They are three parts of the lyrics and then an interlude and then the part of James Earl Jones * saying "The Thriller ..." and then the chorus repeated a couple of times.*
[* Translator's note: Nessi is confused with Vincent Price]
What I discovered when I started working on it is that the speed of the multitrack was different from the speed of the song in the video.*That could happen for two reasons.*One is that the song could have been accelerated during the mastering.*When a production is done and the producer has already finished his work, he might have thought, "Wow, this could go a little faster."*Instead of redoing everything, they finish the production and when mastering it they speed up the final mix a bit so nobody would have known it, but the multitracks are different, usually slower.
The other option is that it would have been accelerated for the video.*For me, it does not make sense to accelerate it for the video because if people watched the video and had already listened to the song on the radio, they would think "How? This rhythm is not the same".*I think they accelerated when mastering.*When I saw it I thought, "Wow, this is going to be interesting" because I had to synchronize the multitrack to a video that had a faster version of Thriller.*
Basically I had to map the tempo of the multitrack beat by beat from start to finish and then map the tempo of the video.*After doing it in the video, I started creating the multitrack.*
The moment I began to place the elements in the video's tempo mapping, at whatever speed, it was automatically adjusted to the tempo map.*That was the first forensic difficulty.
When you start looking at the tracks, you could see that they had the typical hiss of the tapes.*The editions were not precise in some aspects because they are parts that were not going to sound loud or you literally had to cut the tape.*There was no "undo" function in those times.*
Sometimes you saw that a part had been cut off from the tape, so I started to clean those parts, and then on many different tracks you could hear the audio from the background headphones, that's when the iZotope RX came into play.
I started using it a lot to fix almost all the problems, because I knew that, when the time came to make it sound in Dolby Atmos, with so many speakers, there would be a lot of possibilities for sounds and other non-musical artifacts to sound.*I had to make sure that each track was 100% perfect, because when you start to make everything bigger in the place where it will sound and each track is more exposed, each of the elements would be more nude, as if we saw it with a magnifying glass , and that includes those unnecessary noises or artifacts.*This was the biggest challenge from the forensic point of view, and would have been impossible without using RX.*
You mention hiss and tape cuts.*Does the RX have modules that you find especially useful for that particular job?
I used most of the modules, to be honest.*A lot of Spectral Repair as well as De-Noise and De-Click.*It depends on what needs to be done, but I usually find solutions in RX.*
Anything else you want to mention about the repair or mixing of Thriller 3D?*
We started mixing in stereo because we were not going to present ourselves in a Dolby Atmos studio to get sounds or things like equalization, compression, reverberations, delays, etc ... We did the mixture of Atmos in Dennis Sands' studio.*He mixes soundtracks.*He works with Danny Elfman, has been nominated for the Oscars, and has a private studio of Dolby Atmos in Santa Barbara.
First we mix in stereo using an analog console, as well as with a lot of different plugins.*I used Nectar for one of the reverberations of the voice.*I tried to use reproductions of the same reverberations that Bruce Swedien should have used, but I could not make them sound the same.*Finally I got it with a modified Nectar patch.
After mixing in stereo, I created component house tracks.*For some tracks I had to make more than one shot.*For example, for the main voice, I had to do it in several.*One for the voice as such and one for the reverberations.*Maybe I divided those reverberations into one or two more shots to have more control.*The delays also had their clue.*When we arrived at the Dolby Atmos stage with Dennis, we could have control over where to place each element of the mix and change the volumes of the effects, because it is important.*When mixing in stereo, the reverberation and delays are hidden behind the other elements of the mix, but when you put it in Dolby Atmos, suddenly the listening field is "ten times" larger and everything is more open and exposed, including the effects.
The mix did not change much from the stereo to Dolby Atmos, but you have to have that flexibility because if not, you end up with a mix that does not represent your original vision.*It also allows you to take your vision further, without worrying about basic sounds and balances.*You are creative when it comes to placing the musical components of the song (...) After mixing in Dolby Atmos we went to a Universal Pictures venue to work with the team.*Specifically with Jon Taylor.*I was there for a couple of days to make sure that the mix we made was transferred properly to the video.*After the balances were not lost by other sound elements of the video.*And many more things.*In Universal everything was greater and, therefore, more exposed.*During the process we had to use the RX a couple of times more.*