“Oh, I forgot how good this is. I forgot how good this is!”
Director Dick Carruthers is playing back Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors Live, his latest concert film, which hits movie theatres March 2.
“It’s brilliant. I tell you what—I have done a lot of concert movies, but the Imagine Dragons one is something special.”
Carruthers isn’t messing around when he says he’s done a lot of concert movies—the director, who spoke with us from his home in the United Kingdom, has more than 60 credits to his name and has worked with acts as varied as Led Zeppelin and Usher. It’s fair to assume he knows a well-done live performance when he sees one.
When pressed for details on what makes this Imagine Dragons performance so special, Carruthers says it starts with the band, and its relationship with its fans.
“First and foremost,” Carruthers said, “they are a terrific live band. Not just musically tight—they’re obviously all virtuoso musicians—but the way that Dan [Reynolds] interacts with the crowd, and the way they interact with each other and they present their music, the way he chats in between the songs—you end up just falling in love with this band.
“You add to that the fact that the show that we shot in Toronto is terrifically well designed, and the light show is so much more of a musical punctuation than a lot of light shows that you would see. It integrates with the video screens—the video screens are all columns that move—and the color palettes of the lighting and the video is all matched beautifully and timed with the music.
“When you see the film—when you see the way that the show works with the lighting and the music that they’re playing, and the way, indeed, that we’ve cut it and made the film off that to present that lighting show, and in turn the light show and the punctuation of it expresses the music and punctuates the music really well—it leaps out at you.”
Carruthers and the team behind Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors Live used every tool at their disposal to bring that Toronto, Ontario tour date to cinemas in a way that Carruthers says doesn’t try to capture the live experience as much as it brings fans who see the movie in cinemas a different angle on the performance. Part of that experience relies on Dolby Atmos® sound, available in select theatres.
“In the cinema, it’s a shared experience,” Carruthers said, “where you’ve got anything from 30 to a few hundred people watching that and appreciating it, probably making noise as opposed to sitting there in silence like you might with a movie. A shared experience is a slightly different one to it being at home. It’s immersive, and the screen is enormous and very bright, so a sound system that does what Dolby Atmos can do, just the fact that Dolby Atmos can do what it does, was fantastic.
“The minute that it was explained to me and I got into the depths of the technology, I thought, ‘This is absolutely brilliant.’”
Carruthers worked with Dolby in the UK to dial in the mix after the film had already been edited. After spending all that time with the movie and the band’s music, Carruthers said he came to Dolby ready to make the Dolby Atmos mix a unique experience.
“I knew the music inside out and back to front, so it was great working with the Dolby engineers to say, ‘Can we put this here? Can we lift that? Can we put that in the back?’ and to push the envelope,” Carruthers said. “I think [the people at Dolby] were initially apprehensive about pushing the envelope too far away from what people are normally used to in their 5.1 or 7.1 environment, but I felt completely the opposite—we needed to really grasp what Dolby Atmos could do a make a point of it.”
The results are everything Carruthers hoped they would be. He called out one of the best-known Imagine Dragons songs as a key example of Dolby Atmos elevating the experience.
“When you listen to the intro to ‘Radioactive’ in a Dolby Atmos cinema, it will blow you away. We just really went after it. We were very, very bold and very ambitious with what we could do, so the sound literally leaps around the cinema,” Carruthers said. “It was a tremendous opportunity to take the live Imagine Dragons sound and do more with it than you ever could, even in a live gig.”
Imagine Dragons fans will have the chance to see and hear the final product in cinemas soon, and if they have as much fun watching it as Carruthers had making it, they’re in for quite a ride.
“We had a terrific amount of fun doing it, and I think the result is brilliant and it speaks for itself—wait ’til you hear it!”
Get your tickets for Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors Live here.