Work on the 5.1 Surround sound mixes for Phil's 'Serious Hits Live' DVD is coming to an end at Sphere Studios in Battersea. These ultra-modern premises were opened a year ago and the first project to see the special room designed for 5.1 Surround sound was the recently released Genesis Way We Walk DVD.
For the past two weeks Nick Davis (who will be well known to all Genesis aficionados for his sterling work on a wide range of projects) has been mixing the soundtrack to the DVD. Today, your webmaster got a sneak preview of the DVD.Tucked away in what estate agents like to call South Chelsea, Sphere is an unassuming building from the outside but once inside, the place takes on the guise of NASA (with a touch of the Tardis - it seems much bigger inside than out). The Surround Sound room is equipped with a huge 72 channel Solid State Logic computerised desk and the imposing Dynaudio Acoustics pyramid speakers give the room a somewhat monumental look. Behind the desk is a huge array of rack mounted effects which flash and blink relentlessly.
Sitting behind the desk Nick and Frank, the studio engineer, control the myriad of dials, pots and switches with seemingly effortless skill. Much of the data about the various mixes of tracks is stored on notebook computers whilst the rest is pulled up from the SSL desk's system. Faders move up and down of their own volition. Jeez, it's a long way from my first Teac 4-track!
Nick explains the structure of the DVD;
"The concert was recorded at the Waldbuehne in Berlin in 1990. Audio is 24-track so we're only using about half of the desk's capacity here for the mix. There are 24 songs on the DVD and running time will be about 2 1/4 hours. The authoring work on the DVD has been started by Ray Shulman (responsible for the Way We Walk). and that should take about 6 weeks. We've been asked by Tony Smith to have this ready for an autumn release and were on target. I've been here for two weeks and today is the last day."
Nick then starts to play 'Hang in Long Enough', the second track in the set. The sound is huge but bright, well defined and clear. Impressive. But, I'm please to say, Nick wants me to experience the music from the heart of the beast. He pulls up 'Colours' and 'In the Air Tonght' and invites me to sit in the Space Commander's seat. 'Colours' builds slowly and emotionally, Phil in superb voice. Then he slips begind the drums for an increasingly frantic drum duet with Chester Thompson. The sound is awesome. Somewhere behind my right shoulder parts of the ecstatic German crowd are going noisily beserk. I almost turn to shout at them to shut up. It is that much like being there.
Then 'In the Air' starts. Phil has a head set mike on and is sitting near his kit, legs swinging to and fro gently as the song builds. Then he moves to the kit, initially leaning on the cymbals before he sits down to play the thunderous drum break that takes the performance into the stratosphere. This is spine tinglingly good. When the songs reaches its climax everyone in the room applauds along with the Berlin audience. Well, you had to be there.
Over cups of tea and coffee talk turns to other possible DVD projects. We lament the problem with the apparently incredible tapes from the Invisible Touch Tour. Recorded on prototype Sony Analogue High Definition equipment there is now no known replay machine in the world capable of making the tapes accessible (so, if you're a Sony engineer who took one of these machines home for the weekend and never returned it we want to hear from you NOW!). Nick gives me Ray Shulman's number so I can ask him for a costing for a straight transfer of the Genesis Tokyo tape with Steve Hackett and then promises me a copy of his complete Genesis video archive. Sounds like fun.
As time moves on and I consider my journey home through the rush hour, Nick treats me to a quick rendition of 'Sussudio'. Phil capers round the stage, enjoying himself hugely whilst the Phenix Horns roar in rampant style. It's a definite foot tapper!
So, it looks like another essential DVD from PC and the talented Mr Davis. Fabulous visuals, incredible sound and an astonishing performance. You gotta see it!
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