Sound Supervision

American Epic 

Stay tuned for this upcoming multi-part PBS/BBC series: May 16, May 27, May 30, and June 6....   

Case Studies

Major Studio Films


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My Fair Lady

Most major films have had their sound preserved and restored one or more times already over the last couple decades.  However, it is amazingly common that the best master sound elements were not preserved or used for restoration because at the time they sounded worse than later copies.  This is because deterioration can result in poor frequency response, wow, and other anomalies when played on conventional equipment.  However, with the sophisticated cleaning equipment and transfer equipment at Endpoint Audio Labs, it is now possible to bring back to life most of these deteriorated elements to the point where they sound as good as when they were made.  

My Fair Lady is a good example of a project where the sophisticated playback equipment at Endpoint Audio allowed transfer of the master 6-track element that had originally been passed over in all previous restorations due to its poor condition.  Additionally, the Endpoint transfer of this previously inferior element was essentially free of deterioration anomalies, and as a result, the only restoration needed down the line was tightening up the original production audio anomalies for modern audiences.    

This project was also included the most thorough transfer QC ever encountered with restoration supervisor Robert Harris personally listening to each digitized audio track separately in real-time.  In other words, 18 hours of QC of the raw 6-track audio capture for a movie less than 3hrs in length.  In the end, no deterioration issues were found in the Endpoint transfer of an element that was previously thought to be unusable. 

Unfortunately, this example of original masters not being used is fairly common since original master elements can be difficult to transfer, and occasionally even difficult to identify.   Similar un-utilized masters were saved at Endpoint Audio for Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, Butch Casidy and the Sundance Kid, and many others.

 
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Titanic (1997)

It is common to think of the 1990s as an era of digital audio masters, but in motion picture work, it was not until the very end of the decade that digital masters were commonplace.  Titanic is a good example of late analog film masters that, although simpler to deal with than early deteriorating film, still deserve the highest quality equipment and care to ensure every last ounce of sound detail is captured.   Endpoint was chosen by 20th Century Fox to re-transfer the master audio elements to be used for the Titanic 3D theatrical re-release.   After going back to the earliest analog master stems and transferring with a level of equipment quality rarely used for motion picture projects, there was a whole new layer of sonic clarity and emotional power never heard originally.  As with all good sound, though, these sonic improvements are not designed to be blatantly obvious to the audience, but instead help to increase their engagement with the story and overall experience.     Great sound can grab you and pull you into an experience in the same way that a great visual shot can.  The Titanic 3D re-release went on to gross almost a billion dollars worldwide.  

 

 

More Film Projects


Examples of studio films from the Library of Congress National Film Registry that we’ve helped preserve:

ALIEN (1979)
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
ALL THAT JAZZ (1979)
THE BIG TRAIL (1930)
BUTCH CASSIDY SUNDANCE KID (1969)
CARMEN JONES (1954)
M*A*S*H (1970)
PATTON (1970)
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967)
ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
NORMA RAE (1979)
BOYZ IN THE HOOD (1991)
MIRACLE ON 34TH STEET (1947)
WILD RIVER (1960)
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
OKLAHOMA! (1955)
 

Other films include:

PATHER PANCHALI (1955) aka"The Apu Trilogy Part 1"
APUR SANSAR (1959) aka "The Apu Trilogy Part 3"
BAKUMATSU TAIYODEN (1957)
INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)
TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970)
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS (1953)
HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953)
HELLO DOLLY (1969)
FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965)
ALIENS (1986)
WALL STREET (1987)
ABYSS (1987)
COCOON (1985)
BIG (1988)
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)
THE KING OF COMEDY (1982)
HOME ALONE (1990)
DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967)
THIN RED LINE (1998)
FIGHT CLUB (1999)
VANISHING POINT (1971)
and many more...

Indie and Experimental Films

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Tale of Old Whiff - (Smell-O-Vision)

The 6-track stereo audio masters used for 70mm prints were always 35mm 6-track fullcoat mags, and these masters are always the best to use for restoration work.  Unfortunately, there are times when the 35mm masters have been lost or destroyed, and in these cases the sound must be carefully taken off the thin magnetic stripes on the 70mm release print.  One example of this was the “lost” animated short TALE OF OLD WHIFF.   This project was supervised by Dave Strohmaier and utilized a 70mm print saved by the Motion Picture Academy Archive.    Images courtesy of Dave Strohmaier. 

The audio for this title was unique since along with the six tracks of standard 70mm theatrical audio, the surround track contained two different types of control tones.  First was the occasional 12kHz tone to initiate the relay to trigger the smell dispenser in the theater.  By using 12kHz, they were able to repurpose the relay hardware initially designed to turn on the surround speaker for LCRS Cinemascope releases.  The second sets of controls tones allowed panning of the mono surround track into three surround speakers.  This was possible by repurposing the Perspecta sound system invented in the early 1950s for panning mono optical audio into stereo.     

 

Night of the Living Dead

In major studio motion picture work, there are fairly standardized workflows and element sets that are typical for each era.  When elements are missing labels or mixed up, this predictability in studio workflow simplifies the evaluation and organization process.  However, in independent film work, these conventions and workflows do not always exists, and almost anything is possible when films were made with limited resources.

Night of the Living Dead is a good example where good sound required decoding the unique and atypical post-production workflow used by the filmmakers.  The final Endpoint transfers for the MOMA restoration ended up coming from a combination of Fairchild 14kHz AM sync tape masters and 16mm master mags with vinegar syndrome and hundreds of splices.

 

More Independent Film Projects

SUSPIRIA (1977)
By Dario Argento
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SPIDER BABY OR, THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD (1967)
By Jack Hill
Examples of independent films from the Library of Congress National Film Registry that we’ve helped preserve:

A MOVIE (1958) by Bruce Conner
EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE, ZOOPRAXOGRAPHER (1974) by Thom Andersen
FAKE FRUIT FACTORY (1986) By Chick Strand
FRANK FILM (1973) By Frank and Caroline Mouris
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) By George A. Romero
SALESMAN (1969) By Albert Maysles and David Maysles

Other independent films we’ve helped preserve include projects by:
Stan Brackage, Tacita Dean, Pat O’Neill, Bill Viola, and Gus Van Sant.