LOS ANGELES — After months of sorting through raw footage, clips and music, SCORE: A Film Music Documentary is pushing a new frontier in the field of sound design and mixing.
Together with Kari Barber, MPSE, sound designer and re-recording mixer Peter Bawiec took on a daunting task: melding together nearly a century of film sound into something easy enough for modern audiences to hear and appreciate.
“Throughout the film, the filmmakers show composers working in their studios, full orchestra recording sessions, and excerpts from the pictures complete with sound design and score," says Bawiec. "We have tracks that were recorded during the actual film production in mono, or sometimes we get lucky and get an XY stereo recording. We might also have soundtracks in a wide range of formats: from mono (old films), stereo, LCR, 5.1 and even 7.1 mixes, as well as original music stems.”
The task before Bawiec has been clear from the start.
“Any audience who watches the movie will ‘feel’ the difference between a mono music track and a rich 7.1 mix. It’s our job to create a seamless viewing experience and blend those formats as much as possible.”
It took some time and testing before Bawiec’s team figured out how to best approach this challenge. Finally they decided that using a wide range of Waves plugins was the way to go.
“We’ve extensively used an array of Waves plugins to bring out depth in the older soundtracks and give them some spatiality," says Bawiec. "For these purposes we specifically used the um226 and S360 Imager, but also Vitamin and others. It’s not always one size fits all. With over 80 cues ranging from 1930’s to 2016, we ended up playing with each cue for some time before we found the appropriate process for it."
Of course, the filmmakers knew they needed a sound pioneer to pull off such an intricate and ambitious task, and it appears that’s what they found in Bawiec.
"Peter found inventive ways to create powerful and immersive experiences. We were astounded when we heard the mix,” says director Matt Schrader, “The film comes to life in ways we thought were impossible.”
And, like all good artists, Bawiec is able to take a step back from the technicalities and see his role fitting into the big picture. As he puts it, “Ultimately it’s about supporting the story.”