Chace Productions Makes Spinal Tap the Loudest Band in Rock and Roll; Soundtrack to Rob Reiner Rockumentary Re-Mastered Into 5.1 for Forthcoming MGM DVD Release.

Chace Productions Makes Spinal Tap the Loudest Band in Rock and Roll; Soundtrack to Rob Reiner Rockumentary Re-Mastered Into 5.1 forForthcoming MGM DVD Release.
 Wednesday, May 24, 2000  
Chace Productions Makes Spinal Tap the Loudest Band in Rock and Roll; Soundtrack to Rob Reiner Rockumentary Re-Mastered Into 5.1 forForthcoming MGM DVD Release.
The LOUDEST band in rock and roll? Aluminum foil wrapped cucumbers? Spontaneously combusting drummers? These seemingly unrelated anomalies can only be attributed to one film – This is Spinal Tap, Director Rob Reiner’s 1984 cult hit comic “rockumentary” about the last hurrah of a has-been British heavy metal band, trying to pull it all together one last time. Aside from its comedic songs, the film is notable for its marvelous depiction of nearly every rock and roll clich� thinkable – and a few that probably were never even imagined (for good reason).

The “band” consisted of actor/musicians Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, with a support cast of composed of the likes of Fran Drescher, Anjelica Huston, Billy Crystal, Paul Schaffer and Dana Carvey. After a successful initial release and a healthy sixteen-year run as a staple in midnight movie houses, MGM has finally prepared This is Spinal Tap for release onto DVD. Burbank CA-based Chace Productions was commissioned to transform the sound of the loudest band in rock and roll into blistering 5.1 multi-channel stereo.

For the Spinal Tap project, MGM delivered to Chace a 16-track, 2″ stereo master that contained left, center, right and surround (LCRS) music and effects and a mono dialog stem. Using a combination of proprietary technology and the noted Rick Chace Theater, Chace transformed these elements into a 5.1 multi-channel stereo surround soundtrack for the DVD release.

“The Spinal Tap project was a very straightforward, but very fun experience,” explains Chace digital stereo product specialist John Blum. “Initially we took the sound elements to our NoNoise(r) suite for a quick clean up. Since the tracks were already in good condition, they did not require extensive work.” Following the NoNoise step, This is Spinal Tap was transformed into 5.1 stereo using Chace’s proprietary Chace Digital Stereo(tm) (CDS) processor. This was not a difficult task because the music to Spinal Tap already existed in stereo. However, the CDS process was critical because it was during this step that the spatial ambiance of the music and effects were heightened and fine tuned to give the entire soundtrack audio directionality.

Additional magic occurred when the soundtrack was mixed in Chace’s Rick Chace Theater. Explains Blum, “Music is obviously a huge element to Spinal Tap. The 5.1 format lends itself very well to music presentation, and our goal during the final mixing phase was to ‘punch up’ the live footage of the band and really make Spinal Tap sound like the loudest band in rock and roll.” An added surprise occurred when Michael McKean and Harry Shearer came down to Chace Productions to supervise the re-mastering activities.

“It was great to meet both of them,” comments Blum. “They’re both musicians and are very aware of the mastering process and of technical aspects involved with mixing rock and roll. Michael played the singer of Spinal Tap and much of the comedy in the film is embedded in his lyrics. It was critical that the mix blend all of the musical elements in such a way that the lyrics still be intelligible in the new 5.1 format. Michael and Harry, along with guitarist Christopher Guest, also wrote most of material and having their input was extremely valuable.” Blum adds, “I’m a huge fan of the film and having the opportunity to meet and work with them was a real dream come true for me.”

One aspect that is noticeably enhanced by the 5.1 format is the LFE (Low Frequency Effects) track. The 5.1 format separates the LFE information and routes it to a separate subwoofer. The new technology made a noticeable difference with one Spinal Tap song in particular. Blum recalls, “You can really feel the bass response in the track ‘Big Bottom,’ which, in the movie, features three bass guitars and bass synthesizers. Michael and Harry were very impressed with what 5.1 did for that song. At one point, I asked Harry what he thought about the bass levels for ‘Big Bottom.’ I knew we got it right when he enthusiastically responded, ‘Lard it on!’ The viewer is really going to hear the big bottom on this one.”

For more information, contact Chace Productions at 818-842-8346.

Surround Professional Magazine