Grateful Dead Sunshine Daydream

On August 1st moviegoers will be able to see a film that Grateful Dead fans have been eagerly awaiting for decades. Though it’s long-circulated as a bootleg, Sunshine Daydream is finally getting the official release it deserves. The film is a documentary of a Grateful Dead concert from August 27, 1972 that was a benefit for the Springfield Creamery in western Oregon. The event was organized by Ken Kesey – his brother ran the creamery – and the Merry Pranksters. It was shot on 16mm film and the audio was recorded on 16 track tape (the same machine used on the Europe ’72 tour). I mastered the stereo and surround audio for the film at Airshow earlier this year.

For this release the film was transferred to HD video. The 16 track audio recordings were transferred with wow and flutter and speed correction by Plangent Processes, and mixed in stereo and 5.1 surround by Jeffrey Norman at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios. TRI has a fantastic API Vision console. Jeffrey flew out to Boulder and we spent a week in mastering. We were joined by the film’s producer Sam Field for a clandestine screening at the Dairy Center for the Arts’ Boedecker Theater to check our surround audio. Thank you to theater manager Glenn Webb! It was a great luxury to have this amount of time to fine-tune a project.

Surround mastering has the same goal as mastering stereo for CDs: to present the music in the best possible way. However, surround has so many more variables and technical challenges:

  • the studio must be designed for surround monitoring
  • the console must be surround capable (6 channels vs 2 for stereo)
  • much more outboard processing equipment is needed
  • multichannel converters and metering are required.

Airshow’s Studio C (designed by Sam Berkow)–where I do all my work–meets these requirements in spades.

Some of the things I listen for when working in surround: the integration of the front LCR (left-center-right) and rear Ls/Rs speakers–we want to present an enveloping soundfield without calling attention to the individual speakers. The LFE (low-frequency effects) feed to the subwoofers has to meld smoothly with the main channels, and for smaller speaker systems (click here to see some), the audio has to sound correct with bass management. Dynamic processing across 6 channels can be tricky, so the compressor side chain is carefully adjusted for each channel group. My Maselec console has a very flexible transfer section so we can insert gear such as equalizers & compressors across all 6 channels, or on just the channel groups that need it. For most video soundtracks, a wide, natural dynamic range is the goal – you can really hear that in this movie during the lovely “Sing Me Back Home” which begins quietly and builds to a dramatic climax. It’s a highlight of the movie for me.

Sunshine Daydream was mastered in the analog domain using Prism converters, our full-range Dunlavy monitoring system, Maselec MTC-6 console, multiple Pultec EQP-1A3 and API 550 equalizers, SSL 5.1 compressor, and Z-Systems and tc 6000 digital gear. We used ProTools 10 and soundBlade 2.0 workstations.

Screening Thursday, August 1 at 7:30pm
Locations & Tickets at

Enjoy the show!