Articles
 
 
 
Source:
Sound on Sound
 
Author:
Sam Inglis

Publication Date:
August 2005

 
 
 
Title:
JEFF WAYNE'S MUSICAL VERSION OF THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
5.1 Surround Remix & Remastering Project

 
 
 

Jeff Wayne's classic adaptation of The War of The Worlds was a technical tour de force and an enduring commercial success. A quarter of a century after its release, it has undergone a complete rework for 5.1 surround.

Sam Inglis

On June 9th, 1978, music journalists were invited to the London Planetarium by CBS Records for a lavish album launch. If they knew the name Jeff Wayne already, it was as the producer of teen idol David Essex; yet what they were presented with that day was a million miles from 'Rock On' or 'Hold Me Tight'. Here was a musical, but one that had never been seen on stage. Here were rock stars in abundance, but as well as singing, they were taking parts in a Victorian science fiction drama. And at a time when punk rock ruled, here was a 90-minute concept album fusing lengthy rock instrumentals, classical orchestration, a hint of disco, and the fruity narration of Richard Burton.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of The Worlds, to give it its full title, might not have seemed like an obvious hit. Yet it remained in the British album charts for six years, with the best estimates available putting sales so far at a staggering 13 million. That figure is likely to rise even further this year, thanks to a lavish re-release incorporating both a new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround version. More than two years in the making, the reissue was put together at Wayne's Hertfordshire manor house by engineer Gaëtan Schurrer, and mixed by Schurrer and Gary Langan, engineer and founder member of the Art Of Noise.

"Back in 1978, Jeff was pushing technology to the limit, and he's doing it again now," says Gary, and it's hard to argue with either claim. When it was made, The War of The Worlds was probably the first large-scale project ever to be recorded to 48 tracks, at least in the UK. "At the time I knew that I was doing a 48-track production, I was dead lucky that the studio I was working at [Advision in London] owned a distribution company, and had just taken delivery of this device called the Maglink, which was the first device that linked machines together," explains Jeff. "I knew that I was going to struggle with 24-track, and I didn't quite know how I was going to resolve that. I was doing something that no-one had yet done in production terms. It didn't mean it was going to be a better composition, or a better piece of work, but technically we were pushing the l
imits."

Making Arrangements

By the mid-'70s, Jeff Wayne had his own small studio and was an accomplished synth programmer and engineer, but the music for The War of The Worlds was never demoed "in the sense of a record, where you'd do demos and see how it sounds". Nevertheless, he had undertaken a lengthy and meticulous process of pre-production. "It was scored out at the composition and orchestration stage like I would score a movie, to the fraction of a second, and our scriptwriter had to work to those timings. So not only did she have to be creative, but she had to be a technician to work to a given moment, because you may have songs, or you may have lead instrumental sections, or our journalist telling the story. When does that person enter or leave? So you have all these elements that had to be timed very precisely.

"I was trained to write out everything. Whether I work on an electronic score or an orchestral score or whatever, I compose at an instrument, and when it comes to the arrangement and orchestration, that I do away from any instrument. I find it's more free, but I'm from an era when orchestration was taught to me.

"There was a period of scriptwriting, then I did all my arrangements in readiness for the band sessions, which were the first tranche of recordings, and they were recorded as masters. Because some of these tracks were 10 or 12 minutes long, inevitably, what we played as a band had to be built up upon, and where there was a thematic piece, either I or one of the other musicians would play a guide melody on an instrument, just to show the band where the melodies were going to go. Where there was going to be singing I brought in people who were excellent session singers in their own right, and they sang the songs to give us an idea, and to present to the people who were the potential guest artists.

"Most of what we recorded in the band sessions ultimately became the roots of the entire master recording. It's only recently I've come to realise that most people didn't realise it was a live performance piece. It wasn't built upon one musician at a time playing to a click track, or anything like that. It started with a full band playing it live, and then, yes, I brought in my strings, but they were played on top of a live band performance. The guys who played on it were all pretty guv'nor musicians, and we could all sight-read, so no matter what you'd throw at them, they were there."

"The way that Jeff tackled it was that he'd have bass, drums, two guitars, a percussionist, Ken Freeman on synths, Jeff sitting at a piano, and a metronome," adds Gary. "And Jeff would have set the metronome and said 'We'll have a go at this tempo.' No clicks or anything. The amount of tempo changes, kids growing up today would cringe. The bpm's all over the place, but because you've got a cohesive bunch of people all moving together, it sounds enormous. And because the chemistry between those people, as somebody starts to pick the tempo up slightly as they move into another part of the arrangement, maybe it's Jeff who starts pushing them, because they're all working together, they'll all move together and it
sounds cohesive."

The Prof

Jeff Wayne, Gary Langan and Gaëtan Schurrer are all effusive in their praise for the musicians who played on The War of The Worlds. From Herbie Flowers's rock-solid bass to the guitar antics of Chris Spedding and Jo Partridge, the performances are all impressive, but the greatest praise is reserved for synth wizard Ken 'Prof' Freeman.

"Ken Freeman was a complete genius," insists Langan, and when you discover exactly how much he contributed to The War of The Worlds, it's impossible to disagree. "There's a lot of orchestration that Jeff wrote for orchestral sounds — brass, horns, flutes, piccolos, oboes — and all of those are synthesizer sounds made by Ken," says Schurrer. "The only real orchestra on there is the strings, and some of the strings are actually string machines.

"He started mainly with a Minimoog and an ARP Odyssey, and then later on in the production when they were nearing completion he got a CS80, and they re-overdubbed a lot of the horns and things. I've actually got the Arturia CS80 plug-in, and tried to emulate some of those sounds that Ken came up with, and I fell well short. I think he had an understanding of real instruments and orchestration that gave him the edge as to how to make the synth respond like an instrument would."

"He could create drum sounds," adds Langan. "In 'The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine', there's the sound of military drums. When you listen to the mixes from 1978 you'd probably swear that it was a military side drum and a military bass drum, but it's not — it's Ken doing jiggery-pokery on his synthesizers."

Beyond Our Ken

The elaborate overdubs included Ken Freeman's multitracked synth parts, the voices of all the actors and singers, a live string section, solo instrumental parts and sound effects. On some of the recordings, Wayne and the band crammed almost 100 different parts onto the 48 tracks available to them.

"From a composing point of view, I was trying to create melodies, hooks and riffs, but from a sound point of view, as orchestrator and producer, I wanted to subtly create this feeling of a ping-pong match," explains Jeff. "When you're hearing the story through the eyes of humanity you hear this big, symphonic string section. When it's Martian and aggressive, it's the electric guitars, it's the synthesizers that create all the atmospheric sounds, and I deliberately kept true to that throughout the whole 95 minutes."

Creating the right sounds for the Martian themes required considerable ingenuity. Much of this, again, came from Ken Freeman. "He was able to take things that were scored out, and put a sound into them just by us talking," says Jeff. "He would take a look at the score, and separate from the notation, I might have a sound on it that says 'A snowflake'. What is a snowflake? Well, we had worked enough together to work out a shorthand where he'd start by trying to interpret it, and this was the era when you were dealing with sound waves — sawtooths, sine waves and square waves — and he would mix them together and create the sound from the synthesizers that he was playing. You couldn't store them in memory, they were monophonic so you had to build them up, and eventually we'd get to the point where we had something we were both very pleased with."

The only challenge Freeman couldn't meet was to interpret the voices of the Martians themselves, and their war cry of 'Ulla'. "The notation was there, the chords were there, but not the actual sound, which I wanted to be unique. It had to be gigantic when the Martians were terrifying the Earth, but at the very end when they're dying, the same vowels, 'ulla', had to sound like the Martians themselves were dying," says Jeff. "I asked Ken Freeman if he could devise a synthesizer that could produce the word 'Ulla' and play it from a keyboard. He was not only a brilliant musician, but a craftsman from the technical side. He came up with this little box that I recall, and it could go 'ooh', but it couldn't get the 'la', so it was just 'oo-ah'."

The box was jettisoned, and instead, guitarist Jo Partridge multitracked the 'Ullas' using a Peter Frampton-style talk box.

Elsewhere, The War of The Worlds was also heavily laden with foley effects, most of them created by Jeff Wayne's wife Geraldine. "In those days you had to go to sound effects libraries, tell them 'I'm looking for this', and they'd give you everything they had,' explains Jeff. "You'd try all the libraries, listen to them all, and pick the best of what you had, and very little manipulation could be done with them. The ones that wound up on the record, with one exception, were made. The one that always comes up is the sound of the cylinder unscrewing [when the Martians emerge from their spaceship]. The truth of is that it is me with two kitchen saucepans, turning them and scraping them together. Our engineer Jeff Young heard the idea, amplified what was on microphone, and there's this giant sound. He put it into stereo so it could really move around, because he knew the idea I was trying to create, and what the script said. There I am on acoustic saucepan!"

Although the lengthy pieces on The War of The Worlds were all performed in their entirety, there was also a lot of editing before, during and after the original mix. "They mixed it in sections," says Gary. "You couldn't mix it from one end to the other, it was impossible. They probably mixed 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, whatever that bit required, and there would've been two or three of them. Which is how I started — as an assistant you were given the not important faders, and as you got better and better, if you were really good you got the drums."

"The original work that I recorded was just over two hours, so there was a lot of editing and restructuring to get it down to what it became," says Jeff. "It had to fit on four sides of black vinyl, but also to not bore everybody, because it was just too long at that length."

The Eve Of The War

Jeff Wayne comes from a musical family, and the War Of The Worlds project owes much to his father Jerry. "My Dad kept saying 'You set out to be a composer who arranged and produced,' and I was on a long run of producing artists and doing shorter pieces, like film scores and TV themes and music for advertising. I said 'Let's have a go at finding a story that could, from a composing point of view, challenge me.' And that's really how it started. We read lots of different books, and it came down to a few that I remember — The Day of The Triffids, by John Wyndham, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and HG Wells's The War of The Worlds. But with The War of The Worlds, I can always remember, I could hear sound on one read-through. It wasn't a very long book, about 150 pages or so, and maybe that's why it was easy to hear. It turned out there was an agent who represented the estate of HG Wells, and we convinced the estate that we wanted to be true to the story in creating this musical interpretation, and we did a deal. That was 1975, and the whole writing, orchestration, scriptwriting, paintings, recording sessions, everything to do with it, took the better part of two and a half years, between early '75 and June '78.
 
"I still have the original book with all my underlinings and scribbles about things that motivated me to compose something or to chat to the guys that were the lyricists, or our scriptwriter. The truth of it was that I somehow thought I was going to do an instrumental album, no guest artists, no roles being played, virtually all instrumental, no paintings, no script, and a budget that was in one ballpark. And it turned out to be quite the opposite.
 
"By the time we started approaching the artists, the characters themselves had built up. Almost all of them really emanated from the HG Wells novel, so by the time I turned it into a musical piece, I knew of the type of vocal sound that I wanted. It was a British work, and I always wanted it to stay British in that sense."
The most important vocal part was that of the journalist who narrates the story. More in hope than expectation, the Waynes approached Richard Burton, who was at the time appearing in a play in New York. "People say 'How did you choose so and so?', but the truth is you don't choose people of that stature. You hope that they're going to be attracted to work on your project. That's how it came about with Richard. We did have a list of people on the expectation that Richard was going to say no, and we expected that somewhere down the bottom somebody would say yes. To our great surprise, Richard was attracted to it, and we were thrilled, because his voice was magnificent. He liked the script, liked the idea of it and said yes immediately."

Forward In Time

A quarter of a century later, when Sony approached Jeff Wayne and his team with the idea of reissuing and remixing The War of The Worlds, the scale of the project quickly became apparent: they opened the tape archive to discover no fewer than 75 two-inch, 24-track masters and a staggering 372 quarter-inch masters. These had to be transferred to a digital format, before Gaëtan Schurrer could begin the painstaking process of identifying takes, sync'ing slave and master reels and reconstructing track sheets (see 'The Big Jigsaw' box). This, in turn, necessitated a comprehensive refit of Wayne's studio, involving the installation of a top-of-the-range Pro Tools HD rig and an M&K surround monitoring system (see 'High Density' box). Once the multitracks had been pieced together as Pro Tools Sessions, Gary Langan was brought in for the mixing stage. Langan and Schurrer's job was, first, to recreate the original stereo mix for release in high-quality SACD format, and second, to reinterpret Wayne's original vision in 5.1 surround.

"You've really got to understand the work of music that you're dealing with," explains Gary, "and the best way for me was to mix it in an environment that I knew and understood, and where it originally came from. So the mixing of the stereo was a learning curve for me. It was a way of getting myself into the album. A project like this is a bit like running a marathon — you've got to go through the pain barrier. It's an hour and a half long, you've got to be able to listen to it three or four times and be able to concentrate the whole time that you're listening to it. Mixing the stereo enabled me to go through that pain barrier, so when I got round to the real crux of why I was here — to mix the 5.1 — I knew every overdub, I knew how absolutely everything worked, how it was constructed, Jeff's thinking behind the overdubs, why this is this and that's that, which is so important.

"The stereo mix had to be a faithful reproduction of what they did in 1978, but using today's tools. So I limited myself to two reverb plates, one delay, a Harmonizer, a phaser, and that would have been about all they had during the '70s. Advision, I think, had two EMT plates, and you would have had one long and one short. You would have had a Revox or another stereo machine that would have given you delays by using the repro head and creating a delayed plate, and that would have been it."

Gary and Gaëtan were able to reproduce nearly all of these effects to their satisfaction using plug-ins within Pro Tools; likewise, the EQ that would originally have been applied at Advision's API console.

"We found a lot of the analogue hardware emulations in plug-ins, like all the Bomb Factory stuff, really useful," says Gaëtan. "When we first started working on Richard Burton's voice we made an effects chain using the original hardware Urei compressor and the Pultec programme EQ, and then we recreated the same thing in Pro Tools using the plug-ins, and it really was very close. There was just a little bit of extra 'oomph' using the hardware that wasn't there using the plug-ins, but we found that by putting a Mic Modeler plug-in on the voice before them, and using a little bit of that valve saturation parameter that it's got, it just gave it the oomph that was missing. That's how we went with most of it, but there were just a few synth sounds where we couldn't get the EQ that we wanted out of any of the plug-ins that we have — and we've got a lot of them. We couldn't get a certain sheen that we were looking for, and we ended up getting that from a little rack of original Amek EQs. We also used the old Dbx compressor on some of the bass lines; it just sounded right, so we used that and printed it. In both the stereo and 5.1 mixes we used an SSL compressor quite a lot as well. In the stereo, it was mainly over the whole mix, and in the 5.1 mixes we used it quite a bit as well, but mostly on the drum master — we'd have a group for all the drums, and we found the SSL compressor very useful for getting them to sit right in the mix. Other than that, it's all plug-ins."

The Big Jigsaw
 
Before any thought could be given to creating a 5.1 mix of The War of The Worlds, the multitracks had to be transferred from two-inch tape and assembled in Pro Tools, a job which was, in itself, pretty daunting. "The multitracks were pretty well conserved, " says Gaëtan Schurrer. "They had been in secure archives for many years, and stored up here on Jeff's grounds. We decided to have them baked anyway, so FX Rentals baked them all and transferred them at 96k, 24-bit into a Pro Tools system. We ended up with eight Firewire drives, 120GB each, full of the multitracks.
 
"I needed to make decisions as to storage, because you can't chain eight Firewire drives and work from them — I think the limit is currently five. I worked out that about a Terabyte would be enough, so I bought three Lacie 320GB drives and chained them over Firewire, and then I started copying all the relevant takes to the Firewire drives I was going to use for the project. I actually split them into 16 tracks, so I would have tracks 1-16 of the master multitrack on the first drive, tracks 17-24 of the master multitrack on the second drive, tracks 1-8 of the slave multitrack also on the second drive, and tracks 9-24 of the slave on the third drive. So when I ran 48 tracks I knew that there were, at most, 16 tracks running from each drive. It's worked really well. We haven't had one problem to do with the disks not being able to cope.
 
"Greg Brooks, who's the War Of The Worlds archivist, listened through all 75 multitracks with me. We made track sheets, because there were none in existence any more, and from them we started deducing which we thought were the masters and slaves. Because it was a 48-track production, we had to find out which tapes were the masters and which tapes were the slaves, and which tapes were actually relevant to the double album and which weren't, because there was all sorts — there were out-takes, there were foreign-language versions, there was everything in those 75 multitracks.
 
"The slaves were actually quite easy to identify, because I only found one multitrack for each that was obviously the slave — it had the timecode on it, and the strings were only recorded on slaves, so I could always tell. With the masters, on the other hand, there were always two, three, four, five tapes that could be the master, different tapes that seemed to have all the parts. Some of them were copies, some of them were earlier, some of them were later, and it was trying to find the one. The only way to do this was to listen to every track, listen to every part and compare it to the original album. It was a big puzzle, and it took me a few months until I had the masters and the slaves for every track.
 
"We wanted to have a full Session in Pro Tools for each major piece, ready to mix. The album plays continuously, but it's 13 different tracks in terms of multitrack space. In the day, they'd only mixed in small sections — everything was mixed in two-minute sections and edited on quarter-inch and put together that way. What was on the multitrack was what had been written originally, but by the end everything got chopped up and edited, so on multitrack, the structure didn't always reflect what's on the album.
 
"Even before I could do the structural editing, I had to resync the multitracks together. They were sync'ed with Maglink code, which was the first timecode available. It wasn't very accurate, and there is no machine that exists today that can read the timecode. Jeff actually bought a Maglink machine at an auction for 50p, but we couldn't make it work. So having found the right master and the right slave, I had to put them in time, and invariably I found that the slave was always drifting later and later. Then I found that by looking at the timecode on the waveform display in Pro Tools, the timecode actually had a shape, which looked a bit like Morse code. It had all these little blips in it — there'd be one, then four, then two, then five — and you could actually match the tape between the master and the slave. So I created two groups of 24 tracks, one for the all the master tracks and one for all the slave tracks, then soloed the timecodes, found roughly the place where they started, lined them up together, and then by listening to it I could hear when it was going in and out of phase as it was going in and out of time. I went through every multitrack like this, doing a cut every three or four seconds so it would get in phase, then it would start to drift out, then I'd do a cut and move the slave back by about 100 to 150 samples — bearing in mind that we're working at 96kHz, so there's 96,000 samples a second. Then it would come back into phase, start to drift again, then I'd cut again — and I did that for the whole album.
 
"On the multitrack there was also a lot of stuff that never made it to the album, which they'd just muted at the time they were mixing. But I had everything there, and by listening to the original album and comparing to the multitrack, I had to decide what used to be in and what wasn't. Sometimes it was really obvious, but other times you can't tell, especially because they used to double and triple and quadruple-track a lot of stuff. A lot of the synth sounds, for example, were made with monosynths, so every time they wanted a big sound, they would play the same part again and again and track it five or six times, and then bounce that as the sound. Some of the tracks only had the one track of the bounce, and that was it, but on some of the others there'd be five or six tracks of it, and it would be like 'Did they use all five, or only two or three?' There was also one part in the third track, a sort of voice-box guitar, that was recorded right through the multitrack, yet listening to the album I found that it was only actually used twice — once for about 16 bars and towards the end for another four bars."

Spreading Out

The task of recreating the original stereo mix left little room for experiment, but the same was not true of the surround version. Many classic albums have had the surround treatment in recent years, but The War of The Worlds provided more options than most. This was partly because it had originally been recorded to 48 tracks rather than eight or 16, and also because of the dense, cinematic nature of the music itself. Gary Langan and Gaëtan Schurrer approached the job with one eye on the creative possibilities offered by the 5.1 medium, but without losing sight of the principles that had guided the original mix.

"One of Jeff's theories is that as one instrument leaves, the incoming one must be slightly more powerful, to take over from the one that's going," says Gary. "It didn't matter whether it was Richard's voice, a piece of narration that was leaving you and a guitar line that was coming in, or whether it was a vocal line that was going and a bass line that was coming in, they always had to take the same place, so that there was always this role of a lead going throughout the whole project. It was slightly more difficult [in 5.1] because I've got three times as much space, and although it's a great album to mix in the surround environment, there were occasions when there wasn't the support from the musical production.

"It was an over-produced stereo production, so when you listen to it in stereo there's always something going on, there's never one second where you're left alone. But then you spread that out into six speakers, and sometimes it's a bit of a desert, so I'd employ some tricks to make something faux 5.1 as if I'd recorded it in a 5.1 environment. Like the 'Ulla', which is the sound of the fighting machines — I turned that into what they call a faux 5.1 so it always comes at you from four speakers, but I've employed delays to give it a big spread. I've had to employ tricks like that where the reinforcement isn't quite there.

"I use mainly surround reverbs, but for special effects I might let something have its own discrete reverb, say something like the Heat Ray [the Martian weapon, represented by Jo Partridge's distorted guitar]. For the most part of the album, while they're conquering the Earth, they live in the back speakers with their own reverb and their own delay. And then, when the Martians have conquered the world, at that point, as a triumphant signal they all move to the front speakers, and again, they come with their own reverbs and their own delays, rather than sharing the 5.1 reverbs that might be going on the drums or the strings."

High Density
 
The War of The Worlds was a groundbreaking recording project in 1978, and even in 2005, running a 48-track mix at 24-bit, 96kHz required cutting-edge equipment. "Our setup is actually the biggest setup you can get from Digidesign at the moment," explains Gaëtan Schurrer. "We've got a Pro Tools HD rig with seven HD Accel cards, which is the current limit. We already had Pro Control with three fader packs, so we got a G5 and a new expansion chassis, got an HD Core card and seven Accel cards, and added an Edit Pack to the Pro Control to do the 5.1. We got four 192 I/O interfaces and fitted them all with the extra eight analogue inputs, so we would have all the analogue I/O we needed for the outboard. So we've got a system with something like 64 analogue inputs and 32 analogue outputs, and a Sync I/O looks after the whole thing.
 
"In terms of plug-ins, we got pretty much everything that Digidesign distribute, we bought the Waves Platinum Bundle and Surround Tools, and we've also upgraded quite a few other plug-ins that we've had over the years, like all the Sound Toys stuff, which has always been one of our staples. The original Timeblender and Pitchblender was in every mix we've ever done here, because there's nothing else that really does what that does. Then they came up with these new ones called Phase Mistress, Tremolator and Filter Freak. They're unbelievable. The other thing that I've always really loved is GRM Tools, which do a bunch of things that no-one else does. I realised a bit too late that GRM Tools TDM only supported up to 48kHz, which was a big problem, and the only way it would support up to 192 was RTAS, and I really didn't want to use any RTAS plug-in if I could help it, because I didn't want to put any load onto the computer other than what was needed. We did use quite a bit of the GRM Doppler, which has a 5.1 version. It's really amazing — you can put a mono or stereo sound in it, and it'll spin it at weird rates around all six speakers, it's a great effect. We did actually manage to use it on a few of the songs, and then we were getting all these strange crashes. We were thinking 'What is going on?' and obviously we'd forgotten the fact that that thing was not compatible — yet it still worked, so what we ended up doing was we managed to print those great effects and then we just used them as an audio track and disabled the plug-ins and moved on.
 
"While we were doing the project we went from Pro Tools 6.1 to 6.4 to 6.7, and each time there were really incredible additions that helped us out. The Revibe plug-in appeared early in the project, and that's a fantastic reverb plug-in that we've used throughout. In the stereo mix we used mainly Revibe, and a bit of Realverb and a bit of TC Reverb, and a few D-Verbs as well, because that's still a great old favourite for certain effects. But in the 5.1 mix we found that it's been a combination of the Waves 360 reverb and Revibe. The combination of the two gave us a slight difference in flavour that we needed. The Impact compressor came out, which is very much like the SSL compressor, and we ended up using that over the master for all the 5.1 mixes. We used a lot of the Focusrite suite of plug-ins, and Smack! is a really good compressor.
"Another plug-in we really liked for many years was Metric Halo's Channel Strip, and we bought that because they brought it out for OS X, only to find that it wasn't Accel-compatible. Same thing with Mic Modeler from Antares, and Auto-Tune. Unfortunately we used Mic Modeler and Channel Strip quite a lot, especially in the stereo mix, and when we went to 5.1 we realised that it was nothing but problems because they would only instantiate on the HD Core card. We would find we had loads of DSP left, yet it was telling us that we didn't, and it was because those plug-ins couldn't go on the right DSP.
 
"The way we went from stereo to 5.1 was we used the stereo mix as a base, so we could use all our edits and our original plug-ins, and that's where we had trouble: once we'd started doing the reassignment of the outputs, it started using a lot more DSP. The 5.1 mixer uses a lot more DSP, and also, on the stereo mix I was using the long delay-compensation engine, which is 8200 samples per channel, and that obviously uses quite a lot of DSP too. We found that in 5.1 it just wasn't going to do it, so we reverted back to the short delay-compensation engine, and then our troubles were over. I really like the way the plug-in delay compensation is organised in Pro Tools, because you can manually bypass it per individual track. So on Richard Burton, we found we had to use the Nonoise plug-in because some of his takes were really noisy from all the original comping and recomping, and Nonoise introduces a huge latency which can't be compensated by the auto compensation. But it's so easy — you just disable the compensation for this track and shift the whole track by the right amount of samples, and there it is, back in time and denoised. I think that's one of the most efficient ways of implementing delay compensation that I've seen."

Journey To The Centre Of The Mix

Langan has a few theories of his own, including a controversial view about the role of the rear speakers in surround mixing. "When you mix stereo, where do your drums and bass go? They sit in the middle. You don't put them to the left or the right. So when you're mixing 5.1, they go in the middle. I think this is a mistake that some people make when they're mixing 5.1. They think 'I've got the centre speaker, so I've got three speakers at the front and two at the back, so therefore I must have a front-to-back picture.' And I don't think you should at all. I think you should have a picture such that wherever you turn in that environment, you have the core instruments with you at all times — which is what happens in stereo. When you listen to a stereo mix, if you go over to the right-hand side, you might get more of the high backing vocal than on the left-hand side, but you're going to get the same amount of bass, drums and core rhythm instruments, because they've been mixed to the centre, so they're always going to travel with you. And that theory I think should be applied to 5.1. So in my mixing, the bass, the drums and anything that I call core rhythm instruments, driving instruments, support, stay in the centre of the quad. If I put the drums down in the front and you're standing at the back of the room it's going to sound awful for you, because you're not going to have any drums. They're going to be swamped by what's coming out of the rears. But if you put it all in the centre, it doesn't matter whether you go and stand at the back, it doesn't matter whether you go and hang out at the side."

His use of the word 'quad' is no accident, since the surround mix of The War of The Worlds is almost entirely a four-speaker affair. "In music production, I don't think you should use the centre channel. It's designed for cinema and it's designed to carry speech. The reason it's there is to help you hear the dialogue in a movie. It's so that the dubbing editor can turn up the dialogue over and above the underscore. Now that scenario doesn't exist in a record. OK, The War of The Worlds is slightly different because it's got a narration, but that aside, it's a work of music. When you set up your home theatre sound, you have the choice of turning up or down that centre speaker, and people do, because they can. So somebody might like the centre channel of their home system really loud. Now if I put Richard's voice solely on that centre channel, when you play the mix at home, because of how you like it, it's not how it should be. And also, it means that Richard Burton ends up being bare-arse naked, because if you switch off all the other channels, which you can do, you can just listen to the centre channel, and you can have Richard Burton or your singer or whoever, just there in the centre channel. He won't have any reverb because the reverb is on your phantom centre, so it just sounds awful.

"I think there's about 18 percent of Richard's vocal goes to the centre speaker, just so that there's something there, and then I put reverb there too, so that if you do happen to switch everything else off, what you're going to hear in my mix is a quiet bit of Richard with lots of reverb. It's mainly to keep the mastering people happy, because if I turn in the files and there's nothing on the centre channel, they'll 'phone up and say 'You haven't sent us all the information.'"

The Martians Are Coming

The new surround version is indeed impressive, and the time put into its creation shows in the finished results. It was originally intended to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The War of The Worlds's release, but the sheer scale of the project has but it back by two years. "We've created the first ever 27th anniversary edition," laughs Jeff. As it turned out, the timing has been perfect; through pure chance, the reissue will hit record shops just as an unrelated but massively hyped film of the HG Wells novel arrives in the cinemas. Wayne also has his own plans for a CGI animated movie, not to mention an ambitious theme-park attraction and a West End stage show. It seems we're not going to be able to get that infamous 'Da-da-daaaa!' out of our heads just yet...


 
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