Three-Time Oscar Winner Chris Jenkins Discusses 'Pavarotti' and the Recording Industry's Movement Toward Immersive Sound

"We are trying to make the Atmos music projects stand alone and not be dependent on people going to a theater," says Jenkins, who is also an exec vp at Universal Music Group.
CBS FIlms; Inset: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
'Pavarotti' (Inset: Chris Jenkins)

Three time Oscar-winning rerecording mixer Chris Jenkins, who also serves as executive vp digital studio at Universal Music Group, offers insight into his emotive mix of Ron Howard's new documentary Pavarotti, as well as how immersive sound could impact the recording industry and consumer experience, in a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter's Behind the Screen podcast series.

Jenkins — who won Oscars for Out of Africa, The Last of the Mohicans and Mad Max: Fury Road — sat down for this conversation with THR tech editor Carolyn Giardina at the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood.

Pavarotti was mixed at London's Abbey Road Studios in immersive Dolby Atmos, which included the use of vast amounts of archival material featuring the legendary performer that ranged from intimate videotaped interviews to a performance of Miss Sarajevo with U2. It also puts viewers onstage in Rome for the history-making debut of the Three Tenors in 1990.

The ambitious film was produced by Imagine Entertainment, White Horse Pictures, Universal Music Group’s Polygram Entertainment and CBS Films. Tied to the film’s release, Universal Music Group’s Decca Records released the original soundtrack as well as a collection titled Pavarotti: The Greatest Hits. Both include previously unreleased music and duets with the likes of Bono and Elton John.

Speaking separately of his role at Universal Music Group, Jenkins says he's been working "to help bring a filmmaking sensibility to a company that's extremely rooted in musical storytelling ... so much content now has picture attached to it."

For instance, Jenkins notes that Dolby Atmos sound has been "almost considered a high-end format" in cinemas, but UMG is taking steps to democratize it in the recording industry. "Over the last two years, we started doing more [Atmos music] mixes," he explains, "but we haven't had an outlet for them yet. We think this year there's going to be [new Atmos-supported consumer sound technology] coming out on the market. We are trying to make the Atmos music projects stand alone and not be dependent on people going to a theater."

Jenkins actually got his start in Hollywood by mixing rock and roll for movie soundtracks (he's worked with the likes of The Grateful Dead, Steely Dan and Led Zeppelin), and later remastered The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in Dolby Atmos.

Hosted by Giardina, Behind the Screen features interviews with the talent behind the making of motion pictures, including cinematographers, editors, production designers and sound professionals.

Hear it all below on Behind the Screen — and be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an exciting episode.