When it comes to films on Blu-ray, the picture quality is only half the story. Blu-ray disc is capable of lossless sound formats, meaning the audio on the disc sounds identical in quality to its source.
To take on the task of remixing The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 7.1 surround, 20th Century Fox recruited Post Haste Sound, Inc. Founded in January 2003, Post Haste Sound specializes in post production sound for feature films. Randall Smith of Post Haste was in charge of the RHPS project, and the Official Fan Club was granted an interview to find out just what goes into creating such a mix.
When it came to elements used on the project, Chace Audio had already created a 5.1 mix in 2000 for the DVD release (click here for details on the 5.1 mix). "When Fox came to us, to ask us to do the 7.1 mix," Smith explains, "I had a really good idea of what the 5.1 audio's shape was in, how it was made, and also the elements that were used to create it."
For the dialog and sound effects, very little restoration work was done, as the mix and restoration work in 2000 was sufficient. To create a new mix, post production companies sometimes work with many different elements to create a new mix. In the case of Rocky Horror, however, the project was "an odd beast, it's kind of sewn together from a few different things. We used a good portion of the existing 5.1 for the scenes that didn't have music. We did change the panning in a couple of scenes."
Smith and crew also went back to the original master tapes to get the highest quality music for many of the songs in the film. "I knew that there were a few sets of 24-track 2-inch analog tapes of the original studio recordings for the music for the show, so we had Fox track those down. We then transferred those at one of the highest rates we could, 24-bit/96kHz sampling rate, conformed them to match a number of music cues in the show, then worked with that. For a number of the big musical numbers, we started from scratch. I tried to match, as best I could, the level and tonality of the 5.1, because that had already been approved by Lou Adler and his people. To an extent, I tried to match the front positioning of instruments."
From there, Smith created a new 7.1 surround mix using these re-done musical elements. Work was done to make the mix more robust, dynamic, and to literally surround the listener with the songs. "Once we felt we were pretty close to where the original was," Smith says, "we took some liberties with where the stuff was placed in terms of the soundfield. One of the things I found when reading reviews of the original 5.1 DVD releases, and what I felt listening to the original 5.1, is that it was very front-heavy, there wasn't a lot of activity going on in the back. This is one of those rare kinds of fun musical events that really cries out for just being fully surrounded by this music. Not only is the music just a lot of fun to listen to, but you look at some of the people who were performing when this thing was recorded, and you've got some really talented, well-known studio musicians of the day who were working on these tracks."
Smith explains further about how the new mix will sound: "I was very influenced with some of the more robust surround music DVDs that I'd heard. For instance, Science Fiction/Double Feature is one of the tracks that we re-did from scratch. It starts off with the organ and the singing up front, then in the side speakers, the harmonium builds up, and then the choir comes in... it's a lot of fun. Obviously, in big numbers like Hot Patootie and The Time Warp, it gets much bigger and much more full, and in my opinion, it's a lot more fun. You feel like you're in the middle of the music as opposed to just watching it passively. If you were set with loving the way the panning and instrumental placement was in the 5.1, the 7.1 is going to be a bit of a shock in some areas. And the original mono track is also on there, so you have that as well."
For the remainder of the songs, those taken from the 5.1 mix, great care was taken to match the dynamics of the newly remixed songs. "We were the first ones to use a piece of software called the DTS Neural Surround UpMix plugin, that spread that around in a way that matched what we were doing with the other songs much better."
As far as maintaing the integrity of the original vocals in the songs, Smith explains, "We found the original dialog stem, and we ended up using that as our main vocals take for all of the songs that we re-did. It was paranoia on my part."
For Randall Smith, a chance to create a new take on a much-loved cult classic like RHPS can be fun, challenging, and exciting. "I really appreciate the opportunity I was given to work on this. This is one of the 'holy grails' of remastering projects, being able to go so completely over-the-top in these music sections, and just have a good time, that I really hope people enjoy it."