Las Vegas (July 29, 2005)–To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland, Walt Disney Records released a limited edition boxed set compiled from music from rides in the park, speeches, music, and natural sounds. Walt Disney Records recently 5,000 numbered copies in a package that included a special edition gold vinyl “Walt Disney Takes You To Disneyland” record, as well as a 50th anniversary single by LeAnn Rimes. The producer/engineers on the project faced an interesting challenge in remastering material, some of which was 50 years old, and found a solution in the Z-Systems z-K6 processor.
Jeff Sheridan, the remastering engineer for the project, was faced with archived audio as much as 50 years old, including music, vocals, sound effects from rides, as well as incidental sounds from the park, such as the Monorail and Autopia. According to Sheridan, “Walt Disney Imagineering archives all material in the digital domain. The files were for use in the park, so they’re not mixed. As you go by a character on a ride, the sound for it is on a chip. As you pass, the chip loops in time with the music. So we received all these completely separate elements, which we had to assemble into a listening experience. The idea was to create a Disney experience, but to include many rides that are no longer in the park, such as the ‘Carousel of Progress’ and ‘America Sings.'”
As Sheridan and producer Randy Thornton began working with the materials, they faced an interesting challenge. “Over time, much of the audio material, especially the early material, was mono,” Sheridan relates. “So it had no spatial existence. It really had no separation.” This was due to the way the various elements were played as park visitors passed through rides. “In most cases, there was no reason to record in stereo, because it wouldn’t be heard that way. When you’re in a ride, stereo is difficult to achieve. Somebody decided how loud each element would play, but nothing was ever actually ‘mixed’ because there was no need.”
A solution was found in the form of the Z-Systems z-K6 processor, a multi-channel processor intended for repurposing, or “up-mixing” stereo source material for surround sound release. After discovering the K6, Sheridan was faced with getting approval to use it. “It was something I needed to get past the producers. I called Randy Thornton and asked him to bring over some mono stuff to listen to through it. At first we were impressed and thought we could use it. But we didn’t realize how much we would end up using it. The fact that we could run all the separate elements through it to achieve the effects that they got in the park by placing something somewhere physically–it became a wonderful tool in the process.”
Even though the z-K6 is a multichannel processor, Sheridan didn’t use it for surround. “As this project is ‘stereo,’ we didn’t use the K6 for its surround processing capabilities. We’re releasing this CD in stereo only and I really like the K6’s ability to manipulate the image. We used a lot of what Z-Systems calls their ‘ambience.’ It allowed me to tailor the incoming mono signal to approximate as close as I could the stereo image that I wanted to achieve.”
Maintaining a consistent stereo image from track to track was a challenge, given the varied source material. “I was able to incorporate tracks that were recorded in mono and give them a stereo ambience so that the tracks flowed well,” said Sheridan. “On ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ for example, we ran the music through to give a stereo image to the underbed. Then that allowed us to place the voices where we wanted. The K6 was a great help because it didn’t squeeze the image, which would have been a problem as we went from track to track.”
Best of all, using the z-K6’s patent-pending processing, the final results remained completely mono-compatible. “The other thing that was absolutely awesome about the K6 was the ability for the audio to remain mono-compatible,” enthused Sheridan. “I didn’t want someone to listen in mono, and have something disappear because we were using some sort of phase-inducing process like some other products I won’t name. That was incredibly important to us. It had to be mono-compatible or we wouldn’t have been able to use it.”
“We were very, very happy with the results,” concluded Sheridan. “We’re all so pleased to be part of this. I don’t think a project of this magnitude will come up again while I’m still young enough to be a part of it. I just had a great time doing it.”
TransAudio Group, founded by Brad Lunde, is a premier U.S. importer/distributor for high-end audio, and in addition to Z-Systems, distributes product lines including AEA ribbon microphones, ATC Loudspeakers, Brauner, Drawmer, Geoffrey Daking & Co., George Massenburg Labs (GML), Soundelux, and SoundField.