Music: 'Michael Jackson's This Is It'

Dec 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Blair Jackson

DETECTIVE WORKS PAYS OFF IN NEW DOCUMENTARY

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Three members of the audio post crew (from left): re-recording mixer Paul Massey, tour audio supervisor Michael Prince and effects mixer David Giammarco

Three members of the audio post crew (from left): re-recording mixer Paul Massey, tour audio supervisor Michael Prince and effects mixer David Giammarco

The fruits of Prince and Sheppell's sleuthing, editing and mixing — with co-supervising music editors Scott Stambler and Ryan Rubin — were up to 64 tracks of material per song (some brought down from 90 by Sheppell), which were then delivered to Oscar-winning re-recording mixer Paul Massey who, with FX mixer Dave Giammarco, mixed the audio to picture in 5.1 on a Harrison MPC in Sony's Cary Grant Theatre.

The mixers, too, were challenged by disparities in the audio material. “It is what it is,” Massey comments good-naturedly. “It's not all beautiful multitrack audio. But it's documentary, so one of the big mandates on this film was that there could be no ADR and no musical overdubs and such. Everything came from the rehearsals musically. There's one song, ‘I Just Can't Stop Loving You,’ which is this fantastic performance where Michael is singing with Judith Hill, one of the background singers. Well, there was no multitrack of it — we had a little bit of a 2-track front-of-house mix that Bill had done that was really just a guide, so he wasn't closely monitoring it, and the rest is kind of camera 2-track and whatever ambient mics there may have been to pick up various parts of different rehearsals. But it's still great because the performance is just awesome. In that situation, the performance — I hope — takes the audience away from the fact that it wasn't a multitrack recording.”

Then there are songs like “Human Nature,” which starts out as 2-track camera audio but then moves to gloriously full multitrack as the picture changes from one rehearsal to another. “We've tried to even it all out with some EQ and compression,” Massey comments of the format variations. “I think people will understand what we were working with and appreciate it for what it is. I'm really proud of the end result, and I'm happy to have been involved. It's a great tribute to Michael Jackson.”

Michael Prince agrees, but is perhaps a bit more wistful — after all, he worked closely with Jackson for so many years. “I'm blown away by what we were able to achieve, from an audio standpoint, with this film, but I'm also still really sorry that people never got to see and hear those concerts. They were really going to be amazing.”






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