Somebody Let Them Know It's Not Quite Set Yet . . .

In anticipation of the upcoming 1.0 DVD-Audio specification (see previous article), Sonic Solutions and Warner Music Group wasted no time in announcing their intent to collaborate in creating new multichannel high-density recordings to showcase the new format. Warner was one of the first major labels to deliver music via CD, and Warner's video division has never been shy in their support of Open-DVD for video. So it comes as no surprise that they're one of the first major music houses out of the gate for the audio version of DVD.

What is surprising, however, is that Warners decided not to wait until the final 1.0 spec was actually sealed before beginning their campaign. Both the Warner Music Group and Sonic are voting members of the DVD Forum and members of Working Group Four (WG-4), the committee created to formulate specifications for the DVD-Audio format. As a supplier of professional audio premastering and DVD premastering tools, Sonic has been active in helping define and develop tools required to create DVD-Audio content.

According to Sonic, Warner is using Sonic's DVD audio production tools to demonstrate the potential of DVD-Audio. They plan to record new DVD-Audio material, as well as remix classics such as the unreleased 1974 recording of Frank Sinatra Live at Carnegie Hall.

"We searched our catalog for good material to showcase the DVD-Audio format," explained Ed Outwater, vice president of Technical and Engineering Services of the Warner Music Group, "and we selected the Sinatra recording at Carnegie Hall. The program had never been released; it was a great audience, and you can't find a better-sounding hall than Carnegie.

"Al McPherson and I had the original 24-track 30ips analog masters pulled from the vault, and brought in Lee Herschberg, a 30-year recording and mastering veteran at Warner who had recorded the original Sinatra concert at Carnegie," said Outwater. "Lee mixed down to six tracks and sampled them as a 24-bit/96kHz digital recording. In order to play back the multichannel recording within the DVD-Audio player spec, the rear channels were downsampled to 16-bit/48kHz. Through the 'Smart Content' feature---a DVD-Audio innovation developed by the Warner team---a two-track version was also derived from the high-density multichannel mix."

Because DVD-Audio players do not yet exist, the Warner team took a SonicStudio system on the road to demonstrate the capabilities of the new format to major studios and labels around the world. "Sonic's collaboration with us and their development of DVD-Audio tools allowed us to demonstrate DVD-Audio first-hand to the 'golden ears' of our industry," said Outwater.

"The reaction has been overwhelming. The Sinatra concert sounds great---the quality of the original master was exceptional ---and our colleagues in the industry were astounded that such great sound could be achieved from a +20-year-old analog recording. The imaging was so good you could hear Sinatra changing position on stage."

Since the completion of the Sinatra project, Warner has undertaken other DVD-Audio projects, including the Jazz at the Movies sampler, remixed with Jac Holzman, Enya's "Caribbean Blue," and Fleetwood Mac's "Silver Spring."

Warner has also announced that, in September, in conjunction with Sonic Solutions and Teldec Classics in Germany, they will be recording a series of Strauss waltzes performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. "These will be the first multichannel DVD-Audio recordings made in Europe," added Outwater.

Warner hopes to demonstrate the Berlin recordings at the upcoming AES show in San Francisco in September. "We're delighted at the results of the work we've undertaken with our friends at the Warner Music Group," said Mary Sauer, SVP of Business Development at Sonic Solutions. "DVD-Audio will dramatically enhance the consumer listening experience through multichannel sound, increased dynamic range, lower distortion, interactivity, and options for video, along with the audio tracks. Our work with Warner has helped us to develop powerful DVD-Audio-based tools that will prepare our customers to produce DVD-Audio content almost as soon as the format is finalized."