LOS ANGELES, CA – Eric Boulanger, founder and principal mastering engineer at The Bakery, has gained a reputation for several different aspects of his talent – his ears, his technical proficiency, his sense of composition and musicianship, his skill as an instrumentalist and last but not least, his expediency in completing projects under an extremely tight turnaround time. This last skill was put to the test for both the soundtrack and score albums for Cars 3, which were recently mastered by Boulanger and Jett Galindo at The Bakery.
The latest Pixar smash again featured a top-notch score from the legendary Randy Newman in addition to a various-artists soundtrack of new material spanning indie rock, country, pop and more. Newman’s score was recorded on the Barbra Streisand Stage (formerly the MGM Stage) at Sony Pictures Studios (also the site of The Bakery) in Culver City, CA. Multi-GRAMMY® Award winner and longtime Newman collaborator David Boucher recorded and mixed the orchestra (conducted by Randy himself). Revisions continued until literally the last possible minute, so the mixing and subsequent mastering process needed to happen as quickly and efficiently as possible – an assignment that Boulanger was happy to complete with speed and professionalism.
“Basically the moment I finished mixing, Eric had to start mastering,” recalls Boucher. “We had recorded at the Sony Pictures Lot, at the MGM Stage, but I was mixing up in Burbank at the Eastwood Stage at Warner Bros. Studios. I finished the mix, sent the tracks to Eric, and hurried back down to The Bakery in Culver City where Eric already had a great start on things. We are talking about both a score and soundtrack – a very wide range of styles, from Randy Newman’s orchestral cues with as much dynamic range as possible all the way to Dan Auerbach’s “Run That Race,” which is more in-your-face and compressed. The mastering process is the last chance for achieving a unity of sound across all of the film’s music, and Eric knows exactly what to do and how to approach that. I have grown very comfortable with Eric. I think different mastering engineers bring different skills and ears to different genres, and I love Eric’s ear for mastering orchestral music, which I can only guess is informed by his background in classical violin. More recently it became clear to me how broad his talent is in regards to genre and when this Cars 3 project came about with all the different styles happening and the fast turnaround, going with Eric was a clear choice. Furthermore, Eric’s monitoring/playback system is definitely in tune with what we use at the studio, so the mixes I bring sound very familiar – which adds to my confidence that Eric and I are hearing the same thing. I don’t necessarily always attend a mastering session, but I love sitting in the room with Eric. You can really hear his attention to detail. It’s a great way to work, and very successful for this project.”
Boulanger notes, “I love working with David too. Aside from the Cars 3 material, we did a John Legend single a few months back that was premiered at the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards, and he brought the new Randy Newman studio album Dark Matter to cut to vinyl from a great Bob Ludwig master. This one was obviously very quick, and by the following day, Randy Newman had approved it. I consider that a huge success.”
Boulanger put to use some more recent favorites from his gear arsenal. He recalls, “Two products I used on the orchestral score were the Manley Massive Passive EQ and the Universal Audio UAD Massenburg EQ – the sound of an orchestra recorded in a Sony stage is huge and resolute, so you need to have tools that are just as resolute when you want to gently steer things in a certain direction, and those two products have become my go-to. On some of the other products I use, I generally have my presets saved as a starting point, but on those two products I prefer to start flat and adjust the knobs until things click into place. I use them for things that I consider very gentle and specific, so you could say they’re subtle or out-of-the-way, but they make all the difference in the world to my ears.”
Photo caption: Pictured L-R: engineer/mixer David Boucher and mastering engineer Eric Boulanger, pictured near the entrance to Sony Pictures Studios.