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Archive for: soundtracks

The Human Experience Soundtrack

Today I thought I’d write about an exciting mastering project I completed last week with some talented filmmakers: the soundtrack to the documentary The Human Experience.

It’s a wonderful film. Instead of trying to sum up what it’s about, I’ll just quote what the filmmakers say about it themselves:

In a world fraught with hostility and violence, an altruistic group of young men endeavor to understand the true essence of the human spirit by visiting forgotten souls such as homeless New Yorkers, Peruvian orphans and isolated Ghanaian lepers. By spotlighting heartwarming stories from around the world, this uplifting documentary shows viewers that every single person, no matter his or her lot in life, is beautiful. Gorgeously filmed and masterfully narrated, THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE explores with depth and compassion what it means to be a human being.

The soundtrack is stylistically very diverse. There’s a beautiful orchestral score by Thomas J. Bergersen, some indie rock, African pop, traditional/tribal music from Africa, and a a variety of world music that stretches from avant-garde electronica influences to ska.

This kind of variety presents some interesting challenges in mastering. Basically, you start with material that is very different sonically and level-wise, and you have to make it into a “whole.” My goal was to stay true to the individual artist’s vision of their song while having the soundtrack as a whole transition and gel together seamlessly. There are also dialog interludes between some of the tracks which make for nice transitions.

In addition to my mastering work I’ve done dialog editing for films (I have quite a bit of film experience — more on that in a future post). So I’m accustomed to some of the problems that can come up. Frequently when dialog is exposed, you’ll hear clicks, pops or crackles. There was a bit of restoration involved in cleaning the dialog for this soundtrack. I have access to some great mastering tools that can work miracles in removing extraneous noises from music and dialog tracks. It’s always exciting to see clients’ reactions when restoring a portion of their track that they thought was irreparable.

Another thing that was different about this job compared to a music-only project was that mastering decisions were made based on the flow of the film. The goal was to have the soundtrack follow the movie closely, but with the complete songs, of course. An idea not that much different from a concept album where the spacing and pacing of the album is critical to the listening experience.

The DVD was just released this past Tuesday — you can watch a trailer at iTunes, or head over to Amazon for more info.

The soundtrack is only available through iTunes at the moment. Have a listen here.

Thanks for reading!