Fall 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 72 of 91

71 FALL 2015 / CINEMONTAGE in Century of Sound is the explanation of push-pull, an optical recording technique used to decrease distortion as well as to increase audio fidelity while reducing noise, before the widespread adoption of magnetic recording. Its rather sweet sonic quality is illustrated by a surviving original music track from Gone with the Wind (1939), quite unlike the restored versions of the film that have screened for decades using soundtracks altered to meet later audiences' demand. The Fantasound roadshow version of Fantasia (1940) is the only known example of push-pull use in exhibition, with sound from a separate dubber interlocked with the projector, requiring Disney technicians to be present in the theatre to make adjustments on the fly. A multi-channel soundtrack was created for this film, in part by the technology-obsessed celebrity conductor Leopold Stokowski, who recorded an optical track for each section of the orchestra, resulting in nine separate soundtracks, which he then mixed into four master optical tracks. Fantasia initially failed at the box office, and "Fantasound" was never recreated. Stereo sound, dating from first two-channel audio experiments in Paris in 1881, came to Hollywood via 20th Century-Fox's development of CinemaScope. The Robe (1953) was the first four-track stereo CinemaScope film to go into production, and the first released (although Fox's How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953, was completed before it). This epic used true stereophonic recording — not only music, but also dialogue. The Robe featured three-channel stereo, plus a fourth mono surround channel for special effects employing multiple-microphone directional sound, such as footsteps of Roman Legions marching from right to left; thunder, wind and rain in the crucifixion scene; and an early use of off-screen voices. Stereo initially failed to transform motion picture soundtracks and, after a spate of films, its use in non-music or non-effect sound virtually disappeared, until the 1975 introduction of Dolby Stereo Optical Sound. CinemaScope too suffered demise, although the anamorphic type lenses that made it possible continue in use today. Most studios provided some music in stereo, but generally recorded voices and effects in mono, creating some unusual sound/screen combinations. One legacy of CinemaScope pictures was the extended 20th Century-Fox musical fanfare. Moviegoers were accustomed to arriving and seeing a curtain closed across the screen. When the film began, the curtain would grandly and slowly sweep open while the studio logo was displayed and its identifying musical accompaniment played. Theatre curtains across the country were automated to be open when a standard Academy ratio picture began, but with the arrival of CinemaScope and its much wider screen, the curtains could not fully open by the time the logo A demonstration from A Century of Sound shows how the sounds recorded by individual microphones on the left, center and right on the set of the 20th Century- Fox film How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) were used in the final film soundtrack. CONTINUED ON PAGE 81

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of CineMontage - Fall 2015