Tom Hanks' writing and directorial debut, That Thing You Do! (1996), captured the innocence of the early '60s pop scene with a story about a young band (The Wonders) that wins a talent contest, scores a hit single then breaks up, all during one summer. With a 10-year anniversary DVD of the film due soon, producer and musician Neil Citron (pictured) recently used his Metric Halo Mobile I/O to transfer nearly three-dozen of the original title song contenders for inclusion on the special-edition disc.
As much as That Thing You Do! is about The Wonders, it's also about that title song, written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, which plays repeatedly throughout the movie and will be the featured highlight of the upcoming DVD. “They had a cattle call for the song,” explains Citron, who also taught the actors in the film to play their guitar parts convincingly. “Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Mark Wolfson and the staff at Playtone sifted through about 100 songs.” Many of the film’s other songs were written by Hanks, Goetzman and Mike Piccirillo.
Many original demo songs, as well the title track in various guises and other songs from the film, have been transferred by Citron for the anniversary DVD. "Mark Wolfson, who works for Tom's company and is a producer that I do a lot of work with, had those on DA-88 and DAT tapes. We had to pull them off tape and, of course, I wanted to go digitally."
Looking for a mobile interface that included an AES/EBU digital output instead of the more common unbalanced S/PDIF RCA connectors, Citron happened on the Metric Halo Mobile I/O. "When I talked to the guys at Metric Halo I was looking at SpectraFoo. They said you have to have a good piece to run the software with. So we talked about the MIO and this project came up as we were having the discussion. It was good timing."
Citron began with the DAT tapes. "I had the analog output of the DAT machine and the MIO both coming up in the mixing board so I could A/B what I was hearing. The MIO was better. In theory it shouldn't have been any different, but it was extremely different. Everybody was happy and they loved it."
Citron says he could not very well have used his usual system on the DVD project. "I've used other products where—even at 96k, trying to do eight tracks at once—it crashes. That gets old. I have certain loyalties but I can't go to Tom and say, 'I'm sorry it keeps crashing.' I needed the thing that was going to work best for the situation I was in."