The Beatles are the most famous band in history, so it’s no surprise that the new documentary about them is now on everyone’s lips.
The documentary, called The Beatles: Get Back, is directed by Peter Jackson – who was behind the trilogy The lord of the rings– and uses archival footage recorded in January 1969 by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. These show behind the scenes at the recording sessions of the band’s latest album, Let It Be, and his last concert, on the roof of Savile Row in London.
The record has fascinated fans, and of course, if it offers a passionate and immersive look at the creative process of the band. Likewise, it is one of the most relevant digital content of the year, with three extensive chapters available on the platform of streaming Disney Plus.
However, this has not been the easiest project to bring to the screen. When dealing with images from more than 50 years ago, it was expected that the original video and audio quality would have been much lower than what we are used to now.
But if you watched the documentary, you will have noticed that the content sounds and looks spectacular, and that’s because Jackson and the production team had to do several touch-ups to the 150 hours of audio and 60 hours of old footage to restore. the documentary and leave it in its current state.
Once he decided which footage and audio to include, Jackson had to take the next difficult step: cleaning and restoring it so fans could see and hear The Beatles like never before.
The audio recordings Jackson had to work with were in mono. Therefore, together with his team, he had to develop a system so that the tracks contained in the recordings, which corresponded to different instruments, could be isolated and mixed separately. In this behind-the-scenes video of Get back, Jackson shows how they isolated each track while the Beatles recorded.
“For me, restoring the sound is the most exciting thing. We made great strides in audio. We developed a machine learning system to which we teach you how a guitar sounds, how a bass sounds, what a voice sounds like. In fact, we teach the computer what John (Lennon) sounds like and what Paul (McCartney) sounds like, “said Jackson.
“So we can take these mono tracks and split all the instruments: we can just hear the vocals, or just the guitars. You see Ringo playing drums in the background, but you don’t hear the drums at all. That allows us to remix everything really cleanly, “he added.
For Jackson, the big breakthrough was not restoring the images (though that may be the most remarkable thing), but fixing the sound, the way they managed to “separate the mono recordings into the moldable tracks.”
Once each track was isolated, the sound mixers could adjust the volume levels individually to help with sound quality and clarity. Isolated tracks also make it easy to remove noise from audio tracks, such as background sounds or electronic hum from older recording equipment.
This ability to adjust every aspect of the audio allowed Jackson to make The Beatles sound like they were hanging out in his living room. Although this is even more impressive in the live recording of the rooftop concert, which feels like that is the actual sound of the footage.
On the other hand, the band members tried to hide behind switched-on amplifiers and atonally strummed guitars so as not to be heard, but machine learning allowed Jackson to reveal private conversations.
“What John (Lennon) and George (Harrison) used to do is, if they were in the middle of a conversation, they would turn up the volume on their amps and play the guitar. They were just strumming, they weren’t playing anything, not even a tune, just [hace un sonido de guitarra]. So all Michael’s mics were recording was this loud guitar, but you would see the Beatles talking, having a private chat, “said Jackson.
However, with AI-based technology they were able to remove the guitars and expose the conversations they were having. “So much of our movie, or certainly some key parts of it, feature private conversations that they tried to disguise or cover up at the time they were being shot. But we were able to get rid of those guitars, which is a bit naughty! ”Confessed the director.
Although the most impressive thing about the documentary is the recovery of the audio tracks, the visual part does not stop attracting attention, despite Jackson lowering his profile.
This passed the grainy and desaturated images through a computer algorithm, and as a result, they began to be brightly colored and sharp, so much so that it looks like they were filmed this year, not 1969.
“In 1969 that film had a very thick, grainy, desaturated look. One of the purposes was to try to restore it to make it look as natural as possible. Suddenly the colors were just amazing. People say, ‘How did you make all those colors?’ And I say, ‘We didn’t make the colors, they were there,’ ”Jackson said.
Originally, the band allowed Lindsay-Hogg and her team to record them with the understanding that the material would be used for a television special. The team filmed for 21 days and part of the footage was published in the documentary Let it be 1970. However, as we have seen in the new documentary, most of it was saved for years.
Nobody imagined that someone would rescue those long hours of footage decades later and transform them into a high-level work, especially coming from a film director as renowned as Peter Jackson. Either way, fans of the band are most grateful to have the opportunity to see Paul, John, George, and Ringo together one last time.