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Technicolor PostWorks Blends Art and Technology in Delivering PBS’s “Soundbreaking”

Facility handles sound and picture post for acclaimed 8-part documentary on the history of recorded music.

Recently posted at Technicolor PostWorks New York, the new 8-part PBS documentary, Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music provides a fascinating portrait of the melding of art and technology in the development of popular music.

Produced by Show of Force and directed by Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre, the series reaches back to the 1920s, when music was first committed to vinyl, but focuses in particular on the period from the 1960s to the present and the revolution that was set in motion by the late Sir George Martin and the Beatles through their innovative use of multi-tracking.

For Technicolor PostWorks’ post-production team (who worked under the direction of series Post Producer Daniel Gilbert), finalizing sound and picture required considerable time and ingenuity. The series draws on incredibly rich and diverse source material, from newly-captured interviews with more than 150 luminaries of the music world to thousands of bits of archival media—behind-the-scenes clips; broadcast, documentary and concert footage; music videos, and much more—as well as hundreds of classic music recordings. All of that needed to be knitted into a story that looks and sounds seamless.

“It was a challenge, because we were working with elements from all over the world,” recalls Colorist and Online Editor Mike Nuget. “We had video from Europe that had to be converted to an American standard, and film-original material from the 20s and 30s, through today, that needed clean-up. Formatting, frame sizes and overall quality were things we had to deal with daily.  It was like taking a visual journey through time, decade by decade, through the eyes of video and film equipment.”

Re-recording mixers Martin Czembor and Paul Furedi faced similar challenges in bringing consistency to the soundtrack. “We might have a Madonna track from the 80s,” notes Czembor. “If you listened to it when it was originally recorded, you got a full experience, but, now, if we set it next to a Kanye West track, it can sound lacking because sonically so much has changed. Our role was to bring sounds from different eras together in a way that is smooth and coherent in order to show how they connect.”

Not surprisingly, sound plays an integral role in telling the story. In the soundtrack, elements are often woven together to illustrate the creative process. “There is a section where George Martin’s son is talking about how some of the Beatles’ songs were built, and he throws up a few faders so that you can hear how the parts come together,” Czembor says. “We go from the individual tracks and build into the whole song. It’s fascinating.

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