News > New Surround Sound Version of 'A Night At The Opera'

Added on 30-Aug-2001

Work has commenced on transferring 'A Night At The Opera' from its original stereo format to DTS 5.1 Surround Sound.This article is taken from

Queen goes Nuendo

Recently a team of various product specialists and engineers working for the band Queen gathered together at Abbey Road's Studio 3 to supervise the transfer of the original multi-tracks of Queen's seminal Night at the Opera album from 1975 (which includes Bohemian Rhapsody, You're My Best Friend and the epic Prophet Song) into Steinberg Nuendo at 24-bit 96kHz. This was in preparation for Elliot Scheiner's 5.1 Surround Sound Remix for DTS, the people who had previously commissioned him to do the same for Van Morrison's Moondance, The Eagles Hotel California, America's Homecoming (featuring Ventura Highway) and The Doobie Brothers The Captain and I (with both Long Train Running and China Grove)several of which have already been released in their Surround format on DVD-A. The transfers of all these 16track-based projects were effected using an Alesis Hard Disk recorder and Swissonic AD/DA96 converters, but as Night of the Opera was one of the earliest 24-track recordings, Elliot needed to look at a new system which could handle 24 track recording as there is no timecode on the original multi- tracks. He had settled on Nuendo having heard the results on the surround remix of Jackson Browne's Running on Empty. Swissonic supplied an extra two pairs of AD/DA96 to add the extra 6 tracks.

Although the mix itself is being done in Glenn Frey's Hollywood studio facility, the transfers were done in London because Justin Shirley Smith from Queen Productions was extremely worried at the idea of putting the priceless multi-tracks in an aircraft hold. Abbey Road was chosen as the venue for the transfers because of their expertise in handling aging tapes and so Rob Hill from Steinberg North America who will be assisting Elliot Scheiner in the mix and actually operating Nuendo (having used it on the Surround Mix of Jackson Browne's Running on Empty) flew in from LA with his customised Nuendo rack. There he rendezvous'ed with Sam Wetmore of Steinberg UK and Paul Wiffen of Swissonic/Apple who were running a second Nuendo system on 733MHz Mac G4 with Swissonic converters. Both systems were using SCSI Raid arrays to handle the massive data transfer rates, Rob's PC with a 160GB 4 drive system built into the rack, the Mac with a striped dual drive kindly loaned by LaCie's London office for the project. From Queen's side, there was Justin and Chris, the engineer from Brian May's studio. When the multi-tracks were taken out of their boxes and loaded onto the 2" machine, an edit flew apart on the first wind through and then the house engineer, noticed that the tape was shedding oxide quite badly. Taking advice from Kerry in Abbey Road's archiving department that the tapes should be baked at 50degrees for 4 days, they were duly put into the Abbey Road oven. Four days later the team reassembled in Studio 3 and began the process of transferring the 24 track into Nuendo. The baking had successfully dried out the oxide on the tapes and so shedding was no longer a problem. Indeed the transfer of the Bohemian Rhapsody multitrack, done first as it was possibly the most problematic, as there were so many stories about it having numerous edits and having worn so thin you could see daylight through it, was accomplished quickly and with very little fuss. There were no edits or thin tape, so clearly at some point once the basic structure of the song had been edited together, the entire thing had been copied across to a piece of multitrack tape. However, there is no empty space on the tape, as every little space has been filled with additional harmony vocals or guitars, drum ambience or the famous gong. On one track Dolby A needed to be switched in and out during the transfer because it had been used on drums but not on anything else.

The main thing was that everything from the original release was clearly on the tape and in the first playback it sounds remarkably like the mixed single, except for th

Submitted by: Richard Orchard

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