MPSE Wavelength

Spring 2021

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M OT I O N P I CTU R E S O U N D E D I TO R S I 23 since the focus was on saving the audio, I was forced to stick to the mission at hand. Not long after I had left the company and it was purchased by another, I learned that the original tapes had been disposed of. Luckily, I was able to rescue a few for the Museum. Tapes are one thing … mag fi lm is another matter altogether. Generally, to create a fi lm soundtrack "back in the day" ... sound effects were created or pulled from a library, and then transferred to magnetic fi lm for editinge. These elements were broken down into many little rolls of fi lm, each containing a specifi c sound. An editor could have dozens—if not hundreds of pieces of mag on his editing bench. And then using a Moviola or a fl atbed editor such as a Kem, the editors would edit the sounds in-sync to a reel of picture. Hundreds of sound reels could conceivably be generated for each reel of a feature fi lm. It was quite a sight, seeing them in the hallway— in stacks, or in racks—waiting to go to the dub stage. There they were all loaded onto playback machines (called "dubbers") that were connected to the console where the mixers adjusted all the levels to create the fi nal soundtrack. After a mix, all these reels of audio created by the sound editors were generally vaulted away by the studio. Obviously, a reel of magnetic sound fi lm takes up a LOT more space than a reel of quarter-inch tape … and since the studios are mostly interested in archiving only the fi nished stems (fi nal mixes of the separate dialog, music, and effects) and the fi nal mix ... many of the original 35mm sound reels are now lost as well. A good part of the Kay Rose Sound Effects Library, which was given to the Museum by her daughter Vickie Sampson, was on 35mm mag. Vickie had offered the reels to USC—the institution that is the home of "The Kay Rose Endowed Chair in the Art of Sound and Dialog Editing"— but they didn't want to set aside the space to store it. That portion of Kay's library was transferred digitally … and is now part of the museum's collection (including several of the original reels). Of course, it's very expensive to save all this material. Having recently become the custodian of several very large analog collections of sound, we're well aware of this. Since digital media has all but replaced analog recording—maybe not completely yet, but almost—the case can be made that it is even more important to save and protect the original magnetic master recordings as best we can. The sounds, the media they're on, and the story of their creation are all a part of the story of our craft. The Hollywood Sound Museum is dedicated to saving as much of it as we can. And even if we can't rescue all of the tapes … we'll certainly do our best to preserve its history. Keep listening. Stephen Flick editing with mag, 1987. Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Sound Museum. Learn more about the museum and make a donation to their preservation efforts by visiting Sound effects on mag. Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Sound Museum.

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