Michael Phillips Keeley Utilized NUGEN Plug-Ins to Perfect the Sound for SpaceX Documentary and Other Video Elements That Aired Prior to Launch
LOS ANGELES – Discovery Network’s Journey to the Future, produced by Storied Media, is a documentary focused on the behind-the-scenes lead-up to America’s historic SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. Several packages were also produced for use throughout the live broadcasts. Among the professionals who worked tirelessly on these projects was Re-Recording Mixer Michael Phillips Keeley, CAS; he called on NUGEN Audio to help create the perfect soundscape.
Included among the many NUGEN plug-ins that Keeley uses are Halo Downmix and Halo Upmix, which he says played a vital role in mixing the project. “Even though the documentary aired in stereo, I mixed the entire project immersively in Atmos; so Halo Upmix and Downmix were both essential,” he explains. “I used Halo Upmix to turn the stereo tracks into Atmos-caliber audio. I later used Downmix for the final deliverables. My feeling is that I get better mixes with that workflow – mixing it immersively and then downmixing it to stereo.”
Keeley also incorporates his tried and trusted NUGEN LM-Correct plug-in into his workflow.
“I love LM-Correct; it has really saved me on a couple projects,” he says. “The analyze function enables me to see if something is out of spec. This allows me to quickly process the fix. Having this function in a digital interface has been a huge help. When loudness control was first being implemented, we used hardware and physically watched the levels go up or down. With the LM-Correct ‘Analyze’ feature, it’s so much easier to see even the smallest areas that need finessing. I never have to worry about the project getting kicked back from a station’s Quality Control due to levels being out of spec.”
In addition to the documentary portion, Keeley also sound designed and mixed the behind-the-scenes packages that aired throughout the live broadcasts. “We were given all the production elements one week before the initial launch date,” he adds. “Having worked on TV projects for 20 years, I’m used to being one of the last in the signal chain and working within very tight turnaround schedules.”
“As with every television production, NUGEN’s plug-ins afford me the ability to produce high-quality projects in short time spans, which has proven invaluable.”
Working from his home-based studio, Sound Striker Post, due to California’s “Safer at Home” orders, Keeley collaborated remotely with his team. This included editors, sound designers and the client. “With ‘Journey to the Future,’ I did a live mix review through Source Connect Live,” he says. This allowed me to send the audio signal directly to the client’s TVs without any degradation of the audio. They could hear ahead of time exactly what it was going to sound like when it aired.”
“The Discovery project was an awesome experience,” continues Keeley. “There’s a great feeling of magic that comes from combining picture with sound into a final production; especially now with immersive audio. When I was working on the shuttle sequences in the documentary, it brought back memories of watching shuttle launches during my childhood. I loved being able to share that with the world.”
With Florida’s unpredictable weather causing a last-minute postponement of the Falcon 9 launch, Journey to the Future aired more frequently than originally planned. “The delay turned out to be a great promotion for the event,” explains Keeley. “The new date set for a Saturday and everyone was home under social distancing orders. So, the launch ended up being Discovery’s highest rated daytime broadcast, ever.”
In addition to the Journey to the Future project, Keeley has also been working with Media City Sound this past year on a new immersive show; the project is for Griffith Observatory’s Samuel Oschin Planetarium called Signs of Life.
Set to be released in 2021, the project recently won the FullDome Award for Best Feature Film at the 14th Jena FullDome Festival. “We did all the pre-mixing here in my Dolby Atmos room, which is set up in 9.1.4,” he explains. “The Samuel Oschin Planetarium has a 28.1 speaker set up. So, we utilized NUGEN Halo to upmix the stereo music, ambiences and sound effects. Halo was a huge help in immersifying these stereo elements.”
Keeley also recently worked on trailer music with Tool drummer Danny Carey, which he produced in a similar fashion to the SpaceX project. “I mixed the tracks utilizing Halo to upmix the instruments, then created a stereo binaural downmix,” explains Keeley. “This provides more depth and surround in the headphones, giving listeners a more immersive experience. For any of my projects, I like to utilize the Halo Upmix for spreading out the music and ambiences. I use the LM-Correct ‘Analyze’ feature to inspect the stems. Being able to take a stereo mix and make it immersive, while also having the control in the plug-in to mute certain speakers, has been a great feature.”
A trained drummer and composer, Keeley studied music at The Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles, during which time he also produced bands. It was this experience that led him into post-production for 1000s of episodes of TV shows. He does this simultaneous to composing for music libraries and other albums. He works from his Dolby Atmos mix stage, built in 2015, for his company Sound Striker Post. “I believe immersive audio is the future of sound, and it is great to have tools like NUGEN to help elevate this platform,” he concludes.