METALLICA: THROUGH THE NEVER
About the Production
For over three decades, Metallica has been a dominant force in rock 'n' roll, constantly challenging expectations with singular live performances, groundbreaking albums and iconic visuals. From the Southern California garage where they got their start to the largest stadiums and arenas in the world, never content to be just another heavy metal band, Metallica has continually pushed the envelope to create mind-blowing musical experiences for their legions of loyal fans.
With nine bestselling studio albums, including "Metallica" (aka, "The Black Album"), the top-selling North American album of the last 22 years, multiple gold and platinum certifications in over forty countries, dozens of awards, a touring schedule that is one of the most grueling and successful in the music business and even an acclaimed documentary chronicling their successful effort to resolve internal strife, where was this pioneering band to go next?
"After 30 years in the business, the most important thing for us is always making sure that our work remains as varied as possible," says Lars Ulrich, Metallica's drummer and, with lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield, co-founder of the band. "We never want to rely on the same things. We had been interested in the idea of another movie for a while, but we felt we had already explored the documentary format in Some Kind of Monster. We wanted something that felt fresh and different."
In search of a vehicle that would showcase Metallica's unique talents and ambitions, their longtime managers at Q Prime, music industry powerhouses Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein, along with Q Prime's Tony DiCioccio and Marc Reiter, proposed an unprecedented expansion into a new sphere with a movie unlike any the world had seen before.
To meet Metallica's exacting expectations, the show had to be bigger than anything they had ever done before -- preferably bigger than anything anyone had ever done before. So an all-new performance was created especially for the film, featuring some of the most elaborate and original stage elements the band had incorporated into its shows over the years. "We worked backwards," Hetfield says. "Usually you tour a show, get good at it and film it at the end. We thought, why don't we do it the other way around? We would have a controlled environment to film it in the best way possible. We'd never seen that done before."
"It's not one of those situations where we brought in 10 cameras to film the last five shows of a tour," adds Ulrich. "There was no tour. It was developed first and foremost with the film in mind. We tried to put together the best, most dynamic set list we could, balancing between songs people would know, fan favorites and deeper album tracks."
Recent advances in 3-D filmmaking inspired the team to re-envision the movie as a fully immersive, one-of-a kind experience. "The 3-D element is not so much about old school gimmicks like guitar necks coming out into the audience or flying drumsticks," says Ulrich. "It's more about giving what happens on stage a sense of depth. This film is shot in large part from the band's point of view. The audience is onstage rather than looking at the stage. 3-D brings more realism to the experience."
To oversee the filming, Metallica brought in producer Charlotte Huggins, a long-time specialist in creating 3-D extravaganzas for the movie industry. Since serving as special effects producer for the 1993 short, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, Huggins has worked exclusively in 3-D, most recently as producer of the feature films Journey to the Center of the Earth and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
"When Charlotte came along we didn't have a director or a crew," says Reiter. "We just had an idea and a band. We thought we had a budget, but it was very incomplete. She brought us together and told us what we needed to do. She connected us with James Cameron and Vince Pace, who hooked us up with the very best camera equipment and technology. It's not an exaggeration to say we wouldn't have a movie if she hadn't come on board."
At the outset, Huggins knew very little about Metallica. "I knew the name, of course, but not the music," she says. "I wasn't familiar with their fan base or how the organization worked. I called my husband and asked him if he knew anything about them. He is very precise and not prone to exaggeration. He said, they are America's greatest band. In 25 years of marriage, I'd never heard him speak that way."
Now, Huggins too counts herself a huge fan. "After going to many performances, I am a convert," she says. "I'm the mother of two teenagers and I have become the coolest mom in town. I hang out with rock stars, who are also really amazing guys. It's been a real journey for me."
The producer recognized the groundbreaking nature of Metallica Through the Never. "I was interested in this because it is a unique narrative format," Huggins explains. "Trip, played by Dane DeHaan, is a runner for the band who goes out into the city. The events that happen in the arena affect events in the city, which affects the performance. Also, Metallica created a stage show expressly for purposes of filming and I believe it may be the first time that's ever happened in a feature-length movie."
As their concept continued to evolve, Metallica launched a search for a filmmaker who could handle both the technical and creative demands of the project. "We knew we needed a real partner," says Ulrich. "There wasn't even a script at the time. Most of the people I spoke to looked at me like I was from another planet when I explained what we wanted to do. "
The name at the top of Huggins' list of potential writer-directors was Nimrod Antal, who was honored at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for his debut feature film Kontroll. "We could not just make a good movie," says Huggins. "Our job was to make an incredible movie. Nimrod has that Metallica thing about him -- it's not enough to do a great job. He always goes one step beyond."
Antal was invited to meet with the team and share his ideas for an original story that would showcase the band in an innovative new way. "Nimrod had this mad, crazy look in his eyes and he instantly got it," Ulrich remembers. "The way he talked about Metallica's role in his life when he grew up in Hungary, we knew he was crazy enough to go on this adventure with us. Nimrod invented this metropolis and the whole nightmarish journey that plays out in it."
Antal served as Metallica's guide through another brave new world -- the movie business. "We've got carte blanche in the music world and we rarely hear the word 'no' when we want to try some new adventure," says Hetfield. "We took that attitude into the movie world where it was greeted with some enthusiasm, but also a few reality checks. Nimrod never said no, but he had to deal with management on one hand, which is about money mainly, and the band on the other, which is all about the creative process and didn't care much about money. He had to provide the balance."
The band members, management team and director participated in hours of meetings to discuss ideas and fine-tune the storyline. "It was mostly a matter of trying to figure out the right balance between performance and narrative, as well as where it should be filmed and the more practical stuff," says Ulrich. "With Nimrod and Charlotte in place, the band could concentrate on the part we know best -- what was going to happen onstage."
Antal presented the band with an extensive storyboard version of the narrative, as well as a look book of unique elements. "His initial idea for the story was the thing that grabbed us," says Hetfield. "When you hire an artist, it's because you like what he's done, not what you're going to tell him to do."
The director says he appreciated the respect the band showed for his vision. "At one point, James said, 'we're all going to be throwing out ideas, but you have to take the ones you think are the best.' They understood that for a filmmaker to embrace the project, he or she has to own it. People often make a mistake of micromanaging, but they were able to let the reins go a little bit. It is first and foremost a Metallica film, but it's also a film I consider very much my own."
After growing up listening to Metallica's music, Antal says working with them has only increased his admiration for the band. "A friend turned me on to them at the end of junior high school, so I was a pure fan before I was ever hired," he says. "You can't say they're just a metal band. They transcend genre and the proof is in their longevity. I had the pleasure of seeing them sell out 22,000 seats every night for eight straight nights in Mexico City. It was a religious experience!
"Their energy, showmanship and power, as well as the love they put into what they do, is inspiring," he adds. "I hope that when I've been doing what I do for 30 years I can still bring the intensity and passion to it that these guys do. It's no small thing."
Antal was also excited to make his first foray into both IMAX and 3-D filmmaking. "IMAX is an all-encompassing format that will take something that's already really cool and up the level a few notches," he says. "3-D is a wonderful tool for emotional enhancement. It gives you an opportunity to see things and feel things in a way that you might not otherwise. It elevates the film's emotional content, and adds to the fun of it."
According to Hetfield, 3-D can even make the filmed experience more exhilarating than the live one. "While we were shooting, I was checking out one of the video screens with the 3-D glasses on while Kirk Hammett was on stage playing," he says. "I was looking at Kirk through the naked eye and then at the screen. It looked better on the screen! The 3-D puts you right in the middle of the insanity on stage. It brings out the intensity of the narrative as well, with the chaos of the street surrounding you."
Part of Antal's inspiration for the story came directly from Metallica's unique culture. "I met with Dan Braun, the band's production coordinator and the guy who makes everything happen," the director says. "The love and passion he has for what he does is inspiring. How many guys give their all for something like this? He inspired the concept of a runner for the band who finds he has to go to hell and back to do his job. I thought that was inspiring and beautiful."
He also turned to a favorite book, Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist, for inspiration. Says the director, "It's about a boy who sets out in search of treasure, only to find the treasure he was looking for was where he started. That kind of circular narrative has always appealed to me."
As the band rocks the auditorium, the lyrics of the songs link them to what's going on in the streets in Trip's adventure. "I don't want to reveal too much detail, but the audience will discover a lot of connections," Antal says. "I listened to the music over and over again. Certain songs inspired certain scenes and part of the enjoyment of watching the film will be seeing those connections."
Antal introduced two of the film's most unforgettable original images: The Little Man, a sinister totem that accompanies Trip on his journey, and The Death Dealer, a mounted executioner who becomes Trip's ultimate nemesis in the story. "Nimrod felt it was important that Trip have some kind of talisman, an object that means something to him," says Huggins. "And The Death Dealer represents hate, hostility and everything that is wrong with the world. He is something only innocence can defeat."
Trip, the roadie played by Dane DeHaan, is an iconic Every Dude who has to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to fulfill his quest. The up-and-coming actor was cast before he became the talk of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival with his electrifying breakthrough performance in Kill Your Darlings or captured the role of Harry Osborn (The Green Goblin) in The Amazing Spiderman 2, but the filmmakers were already enthralled by his nascent talent.
"We never in our wildest dreams thought we would have Dane in the cast," says Reiter. "Everybody in our camp was a fan of his from the television show 'In Treatment,' so when Charlotte mentioned there was a chance, we just pinched ourselves."
"This guy has an incredible face and aura," adds Ulrich. "Everyone knew he was the guy and we weren't going to take no for an answer. He's acting with almost no dialogue, but he manages to be so expressive with his face and body language. He did an amazing job."
In the movie, Trip is meant to stand in for Metallica's famously devoted fans. "That made the casting really sensitive," says Huggins. "When we met Dane for the first time, it was director-actor love. Because the role is near silent, we were looking for an actor who showed his emotions with his eyes. Dane was everything Nimrod wanted."
As with most films, casting the right actor was half the battle, according to Antal. "We were looking for a guy in his early 20s who was able to react to these difficult situations in a very grounded manner," he notes. "Trip will overcome whatever is set before him. The problem was that most young guys don't have much life experience and I wanted the audience to feel like the character had gone through a lot before they see him for the first time. We needed someone you truly believed had gone through a lot of tough times. He is in a situation that is inhumane and very dark. A privileged, spoiled kid couldn't have pulled it off."
Although Antal was not familiar with DeHaan's previous work, he was immediately convinced he had found the right actor for the part. "Dane simply outshined everybody else," he says. "His performance is so powerful. He brought the grit and darkness we really needed. Metallica is a tough band and you can believe he is a part of that."
Once the filmmakers set their sights on DeHaan, they pulled out all the stops to get him on board. "Lars even called Dane personally," says Reiter. "It turned out he is a fan of the band. Through a confluence of good karma and coincidence, it all came together. It certainly isn't your everyday acting job. It's never been done before, so we couldn't say it's going to be a lot like another film. But he seems happy with the result."
DeHaan describes his character as the kind of roadie who eats, sleeps and breathes Metallica, "He'll do anything for them. He finds his place in the world when he's listening to their music."
The project was an unexpected professional twist for DeHaan. "My agent sent over a script for what is basically a silent movie in which so much crazy stuff happens. I'd never seen anything like it. I sat down with Nimrod and he explained how the story sits with him on a very deep, passionate level. I knew I had to grab this amazing opportunity."
The challenge of working without dialogue was one of the elements that attracted the emerging star to the role. "The acting work is the same," he says. "I'm still just trying to live in that world, and if I can do that, the performance will shine through. I won't need to say anything."
The intense physical requirements of the role were also a first for DeHaan. "It was pretty demanding, especially since we shot it really fast. I never expected to do this kind of action in my career but I've really got into it. The little kid in me was really proud that I was able to do those stunts."
Although he was introduced to Metallica just a year before he was cast in the film, DeHaan has become a full-fledged fan. "I actually wasn't allowed to listen to Metallica when I was a kid," the actor explains. "My parents screened my music and they were off limits. I started listening to them when I was making The Place Beyond the Pines, and the director gave me Master of Puppets, as an example of the he kind of stuff my character listened to. I've really gotten into them since then."
The experience of making Metallica Into the Never is one he knows he will never forget. "Having the band in some scenes with me made it a little surreal," says DeHaan. "Turning to see James Hetfield in one of his hotrods with flames spitting out of the tailpipe was pretty amazing. The movie is non-stop action and fun. It was chaos at times with hundreds of extras, fires everywhere and even a public hanging!"
Throughout their career, Metallica has created intense, powerful and often shocking concert experiences with the use of surreal and outrageous images drawn from the darkest parts of the subconscious. Their album-cover and poster art is legendary, including collaborations with such cutting-edge contemporary artists as Andres Serrano and Pushead, and innovative graphic designers like Turner Duckworth. An integral part of the band's legacy, their unique iconography even inspired a 2011 exhibit of original art called Obey Your Master.
To live up to their history as pioneering stage performers and visual style-makers, Metallica turned to a longtime collaborator, British concert production designer Mark Fisher, who also provided concert designs for Pink Floyd's "The Wall," the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, U2 and Lady Gaga. With more than 30 years of rich imagery to draw from, Fisher worked with the band's production manager Dan Braun, to develop a proposal for the most ambitious and complex indoor concert set ever built.
Fisher collected the most outstanding symbols and set pieces from Metallica's previous shows and rebuilt them on an epic scale using state-of-the-art technology. "Some of the more theatrical elements really lent themselves to being done in bigger and more efficient ways," says Ulrich. "Recreating those moments 2012-style gives our younger fans, some of whom weren't even born when we first did them in the '80s, a chance to experience them live."
Instead of simply pulling together the band's greatest hits, they assembled what they call "the greatest bits" -- and created a few new ones. "We have the imploding stage from the 1996-98 Reload tour, the snake pit from the Black Album tour, Lady Justice from the Justice for All tour and the coffins from their most recent studio album, Death Magnetic," says Reiter. "The biggest challenge was to build a stage that could encompass it all."
The completed stage is 200 feet long and 60 feet wide, equipped with an astonishing array of pneumatics, hydraulics, lasers, trap doors, projection LEDs, pyrotechnics and more. Transporting it takes 37 trucks, more than double the amount required for most large stadium shows. Construction was overseen by CEO and president of TAIT Towers, James "Winky" Fairorth, and Adam Davis, partner in TAIT Towers. The company, which specializes in set construction for some of the world's biggest touring acts, including Madonna's recent MDNA tour, and created the world's largest landscape video display at the 2012 London Olympics, has worked with Metallica for over 20 years.
Fairorth took part in the initial creative meeting with the band, the principals from Q Prime and designer Mark Fisher in Belfast in 2011. "Mark Fisher worked from the conversations we had in those meetings," explains Fairorth. "Everybody wanted to do something new, something spectacular. It wasn't enough to have a stage floor that was built entirely out of LED screens. It had to have fire shooting out of it.
"We took a look at all their live shows and iconic gags, made them even more theatrical and redesigned them to be shot in 3-D," he adds. "It's the first time a band has designed a show specifically to be shot in 3-D. We started building even before the film had a producer or director, or we wouldn't have been able to finish in time."
"This is the most sophisticated show that has ever been put in an arena," says Davis. "Putting it together was a real convergence of art and science. The amount of high technology equipment is unprecedented, even for us. There are a ton of design and construction elements that have never been done before."
"It's an extremely well-thought-out, tightly scripted show," continues Fairorth,. "The stage is packed with mechanical equipment. There's no room to put a Q-tip anywhere it doesn't belong. There's probably 185,000 pounds of equipment, including coffins suspended from the ceiling that weigh 5,000 pounds each. Distributing the weight was difficult. The sound department built new cabinets that saved us 40,000 pounds. Lighting had to make adjustments. There wasn't anything in the ceiling not worked out to the millionth of a pound."
The staggering amount of equipment required re-engineering each of the spaces in which Metallica performed. "We had to create a mother grid that gave us placement for the entire show," says Davis. "It had to have space for lighting, follow-spot operators, a mechanical fabric garage to lower into a gigantic toilet, an automatic crane system to build the statue, Tesla equipment to fire off, dropping trusses for destruction and then flying coffins. Every square inch was taken up by one effect or another."
It took an army of scenic artists, architects, electrical engineers and software designers all working together for two years to create the elements seen on screen. "It was an amazing blend of different disciplines," says Davis. "You need to understand physics to carve a 30-foot statue or make a floor turn into a video screen. There's a tremendous amount of technology: lighting, video, stage automation, pyrotechnics, all communicating with one another. In terms of stage automation alone, we have in the neighborhood of 200 computers integrated into the design. Every lighting instrument has a computer in it. One of the real challenges was getting it all cued up and programmed."
The final design includes not just coffins filled with live actors, but a dozen crosses that emerge from the stage, an oversized toilet that Hetfield personally emblazoned "Metal Up Yer Ass" (the name of one of Metallica's early demo tapes), four hydraulically driven lighting towers that come crashing to the ground in simulated mayhem, and 5,000 maggots specially bred for their unique color. Gigantic fireballs echo the images of the flaming streets outside the concert halls, and what appears to be a sea of blood oozes across the 144 LED screens that make up the floor of the massive stage.
"It's got everything," says Hetfield. "It's the Swiss Army knife of stages. There is so much going on underneath that if you're under there at the wrong time you can be cut in half."
"Hands down, it's the coolest stage that we've ever been on," adds guitarist Kirk Hammett.
According to Reiter, it is the largest stage ever constructed for an indoor production, taking up nearly the entire area dedicated to a hockey rink. "We hung more gear from the roof of the arena than has ever been hung for an indoor show," he says. "It won't play in roughly 60 percent of arenas. It is just too big, too heavy and covers too much floor and roof space. It's like playing on the deck of an aircraft carrier."
Rehearsals began a year before filming in a vast airplane hangar on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay, as well the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, giving the director the opportunity to observe and plan the performance footage. "We did a few 3-D test shoots," says Fairorth. "Then we had the luxury of going back to the drawing board. Anything that didn't work on camera got rebuilt."
The band and crew ran through the show on the stage for several weeks. "With a stage that big, there was also a conditioning factor," says Trujillo. "At times the stage was bouncing, so we also used the time to work out the safety issues."
During the course of the filmed show, the band reinvents classic Metallica iconography and takes it to unparalleled new heights. "Back in the day, the props were a lot smaller," Hetfield says. "This time we went as big as possible. A lot of time, thought and money was put into the stage. But we said, if we're going to redo anything, it's got to be on another level."
All of that effort has created a unique and amazing spectacle, according to Huggins. "The stage is rich with media and we had to do a lot of testing to make sure it would work smoothly. We even have the ability to follow the performers with rings of fire as they traverse the stage. We are the first people to use that technology live."
The smoke and flames that engulf the stage are impressive, but the design team pulled out all the stops to devise effects that go beyond pyrotechnics. "Dan Braun came up with the idea of using the electric chair from the Ride the Lightning album," says manager Peter Mensch. "We always knew it was a great visual and we hadn't really used it before."
The image dates back to 1984 and Metallica's second studio album. It refers to a song written from the perspective of a prisoner on death row anticipating death by electrocution. The scale of the band's stage sets has increased exponentially since then, according to Hetfield, who adds, "I think the only stage effect we had during that tour was a backdrop with the electric chair and lightning on it and the Metallica logo."
A quartet of Tesla coils figures prominently in the design, which the team believes is a first in this kind of production. One of famed physicist Nikola Tesla's most recognizable inventions, the Tesla coil is an air-core transformer that steps up ordinary electrical output to an extremely high voltage, discharging electrical arcs -- essentially creating lightning.
"We kept hearing it couldn't be done," says Hetfield. "They said it was too dangerous."
"But we felt we needed the Tesla coils -- and not the small ones that you can buy at the store," says Hammett. "I went to a science fair once and saw gigantic coils, so I knew they were out there. Winky tracked down a company run by people who are total followers of Tesla and they made coils that generate huge, spectacular bolts of lightning."
In fact, the Tesla coils are capable of sending out 15-foot-long bolts, each generating a charge of 10,000 volts. Total voltage for each of the coils is 1,000,000 with peak arc power of 1.4 million watts.
"It looks great, but it caused some problems with the rest of the electronics in the show," says Mensch. "No one figured it would fry the equipment, but it does. Everything went berserk the second it went on."
So the production team conducted a series of live tests to determine how the Tesla coil could co-exist with the rest of the show's sophisticated equipment. "We figured out what would work, what had to be shut down and what might blow up by trial and error," says Davis. "We damaged a tremendous amount of equipment before we got it down."
But it wasn't just the stage gear that was potentially at risk from the powerful prop. The crew referred to the area surrounding the coils as "the sphere of death," and it was, in fact, a potential kill zone in which the unwary might be zapped like a fly. One crewmember was assigned to turn the coils on, while two were on call to override him if there was a problem at any time.
Metallica fans will recognize another spectacular set piece in Damaged Justice, a monumental statue that is both assembled and destroyed over the course of two songs. Doris, as the band calls her, made her first appearance on the cover of the And Justice for All album and toured with the band the same year. One of the first effects ever created for a Metallica tour, she was originally a relatively crudely built ten-foot statue that collapsed as she was manipulated by stagehands with ropes.
Since everyone agreed bigger was better this time around, Doris was reinvented as a 35-foot tall monolith. Her nightly destruction was one of the show's most unpredictable aspects. Held together with a combination of magnets and interior pins, the controlled chaos of the statue's demise sent everyone on stage scrambling to avoid the falling debris.
"Chunks of her ended up in the audience some nights," says Trujillo. "A couple of pieces almost took out my basses."
Everyone on stage took the danger with good humor. "I have a little list and someone reminds me where I need to be or not be at certain moments," says Hetfield. "I just want to know where the flames are going to be, so I don't catch fire."
At the film's climax, the destruction that surrounds the stadium in the streets and chaos of the city, finally inserts itself directly into the performance. "It is a poke at ourselves," explains Hetfield. "We've got all this fancy equipment and it starts to break down. At the end of the day, it's like we're back in the garage where we got started and it's all about the music and the feeling you get when you play together.
"Ultimately, that feeling is what the fans connect with," he continues. "The big spectacle is very cool, but it's really about us being together and playing together. In the end, we're playing with like two lights on and it's all tied into the narrative."
After a brief test run for fans in Mexico City, Metallica Through the Never was shot for five nights in Canada -- three in Vancouver and two in Edmonton. The finished film draws from over 60 hours of footage shot with 24 cameras, which Antal was able to place wherever he needed to get the most dynamic shots.
Along with director of photography Gyula Pados, who worked with Antal on his previous films Predator and Kontrol, the director mapped out his cameras on an overhead schematic of the stadium. "The stage was a character in itself -- a character capable of spitting fire and smoke and lasers," he says. "We saturated the arena with as many cameras as possible. It afforded us the opportunity to stick a camera anywhere and get an interesting composition. Directly overhead, we can see the amazing LED screen on the floor."
"My job was to capture the show they had created in the most cinematic way I could," he continues. "There were always certain givens. We knew it was going to be in the round, so we had to have double coverage in case they had their backs to us. We also wanted to capture the crowd to create interesting compositions for the camera. Moviegoers will see the band in a way the average concertgoer can't."
Concert lighting designer John Broderick has worked with the band for 25 years, as well as with other clients ranging from Madonna and Annie Lenox to Tim McGraw and Stars on Ice. "We're used to doing big shows, but this was the biggest," Broderick says. "It was an evolutionary process and it took an army to get it together. Working with Metallica is always a major collaboration and most of the ideas start with the artists. They're very clear about what they want."
Broderick says his greatest challenge was creating a design that properly illuminated the performance for both the live audience and the filmmakers. "Film and video cameras are so much more sophisticated these days," he notes. "The challenge used to be making sure there was enough light for the cameras, but the equipment has become so much more sensitive that the problem can be too much light. We didn't want this to look like a game show or a news broadcast."
The 3-D aspect of the film added additional lighting requirements, says Broderick. "Because the onscreen image in 3-D is formed by shapes in the foreground, middle and background, those objects need to be lit from all dimensions," he says. "I had to make sure set pieces were lit on all four sides with different colors and different intensities, so they had well-defined shapes. I also had to make sure that the performers were lit that way, even when they were in silhouette."
The final step in the filmmaking process was marrying the performance footage with the narrative, which happened in the editing room. "It was more difficult than you might think," says Hetfield. "We wanted people to experience the immediacy and power of the performance, but also invest emotionally in riding with Trip and feel what he is going through. It all has to work together. To get to that point, we had to experiment a lot. When you're in the recording studio, you can try 50 different things and get results right away. With movie editing, it can take a week to see what works and what doesn't. We had to rely a lot on Nimrod to figure that out."
For a music-driven film like Metallica Through the Never, spectacular sound quality is every bit as important as the visuals. It fell to sound designer Mark Mangini, whose credits includes films as diverse as Jack the Giant Killer, Warrior and Star Trek, to ensure that dialogue, music and sound effects came together into a unified whole. "There is music in every second of this movie and we had to make that work with all the other elements," says Mangini. "Much of the work took place in post production, but a great deal of forethought was put into recording of the sound."
Part of the challenge was finding ways to aurally connect the narrative and the concert so it feels as though both are taking place at the same time, in the same city. "We overlap the sound of those worlds in some places, which creates intentional confusion for the viewer," he explains. "Are we in the concert or the narrative? Is that the audience in the arena or the mob on the street? The overarching concern was to place the film in a reality that is believable. We want that you-are-there feeling."
According to Mangini, the band maintained a high level of commitment from concept to conclusion. "They gave us the resources to put together an exceptional soundtrack. We had a phenomenal volume of material to work with -- multiple terabytes of audio that took two full weeks to listen to and clean up. Aligning them to match the visuals took another two weeks. Those were all things I had never done before."
Antal calls the editing process the most difficult one he has ever participated in. "We were doing something that didn't have a lot of precedent. Usually you have a frame of reference. This film is pretty unconventional, so we had to figure things out as we went along, like how long we could stay with the performance before going back to narrative. It was a struggle sometimes, but, at the end of the day, I think the result is phenomenal."
Metallica Through the Never combines the over-the-top production values of a world-class stadium experience with a thrilling quest through a burning metropolis, as the action unfolds backstage, onstage, in the audience and on the streets, bringing together the four band members, their huge crew, hundreds of extras and thousands of screaming fans as it builds to its explosive final moments.
The film is a culmination of a 30-year legacy, as well as the next step in Metallica's journey, according to Reiter. "It draws from the visuals and audio of the past albums," he says. "There's something from nearly every album they've ever recorded. We used unique visuals from all their headlining tours and even from back before they were headlining arenas. We created great visual tools from the early albums too. Their entire career is represented in this movie."
Hetfield sees the movie as the logical next step for a band that has made its mark by constantly taking on new challenges. "I think we've done something really special," says the guitarist and band co-founder. "Who else is doing anything like this? Hopefully this will reveal another dimension to Metallica that broadens the fan base and takes us into another realm. We're all adventurists, so we're not happy if we are not going forward. It's an expensive gamble, but it's a chance to make this experience live on forever."
"When we make music together in a small room, it's not complicated," adds Ulrich. "Making movies is very different experience from making records, but Metallica likes going into uncharted territory. This has been way above and beyond anything this band has ever dealt with before. It's exciting, it's intimidating and sometimes a little bewildering. It can seem like a wild beast running rampant, but in order to be the best at what we do, we have to throw ourselves out there and be vulnerable. Pushing ourselves past what we know well is, to me, the Metallica way."
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