A Few Words About A few words about...™ The African Queen -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Mar 20, 2010.

  1. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    If Mark's statement that "a lossless audio format is of no benefit as a compressed format is all that is needed to faithfully reproduce the original sound elements" is true, then no big deal. I've read references that scanning at 4K exceeds film resolution, I think. If the medium and economics permitted scanning at some rate that exceeded the film resolution, would you call for it, just because they can do it? It seems to me you may be asking them to do that for the audio.

    I'll wait for the reviews (wait, this one, isn't it) before I start crying in my beer over no lossless audio. I've watched this movie on a 19" b&w TV and that weren't no lossless audio I was listening to. I suspect the blu ray will do quite nicely.

    There's always this hue and cry on the forum to duplicate as much as possible the theatrical experience. I interpret Mr. Harris's comments to indicate a lossless track would be further from the theatrical experience than the compressed track. At least that's my take on what he meant.
     
  2. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    And, Johnny, that's the point I don't understand and am trying to wrap my head around.

    If the use of lossless audio only serves to present the original film audio as purely as possible, how can it take us further away from the theatrical experience?

    If the audio is only so good to begin with, I can see where maybe a compressed format on the Blu-ray will replicate it adequately. But I don't see how a lossless format would ever hurt or make things worse. I've never heard anyone say that would be true on the video side (keeping in mind we are NOT talking about DNR or any of the other things that can wrongly be used during the transfer process)--just the best resolution possible in reproducing the existing elements.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Whatever optical tracks have survived -- and these may have been converted to mag decades ago -- would now have been dealt with in the digital domain. Whatever problems exist(ed) on those tracks will be far more front and center if played back uncompressed, than with a bit of compression to smooth things out and to help hide problems. Let's return to the 70mm prints of "Vertigo" for a moment. As I mentioned earlier, the analogue mag print sounded far more pleasant than the DTS print. Not because of any deficiencies in the DTS system, but rather because via DTS, the audio was presented too perfectly, and for an old track, in too unforgiving a manner.

    I'm not saying that this is why the track is compressed on AQ, but I would certainly consider this move if it were my project. On my system I feel that the track faithfully reproduces what I recall of the film. As an aside, the original optical format for AQ was variable density, which if well printed and reproduced, can be wonderful.

    As I've said, I trust the people who created this, and I would give them their due, before questioning their technical motives.

    RAH

     
  4. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    Originally Posted by Mike Frezon
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Originally Posted by Robert Harris
     
  6. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    ^ I agree with you there. It's almost as though some are being "apologists" by saying hi-res audio isn't or can't be "prepared" before encoding. And only low-res audio can or is, so that's what we must have for poor sources. I think we *expect* (even demand??) some clean-up or whatever before a hi-def source is sent to BD, both audio and video.

    It should have been lossless audio. The fact it isn't wouldn't stop me from buying, but I'll never say they made the best decision. I wonder what people will say when the next version/format has lossless audio? Call it inferior? If by some chance they couldn't fit lossless audio without degrading the video onto a single BD, and without hurting marketing efforts by keeping it to a single BD, then I can understand that much better.
     
  7. bugsy-pal

    bugsy-pal Stunt Coordinator

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    I think Mark has put it very well. There is absolutely no value in having a lossless audio track when the fidelity of the original recording is so limited. A lossy track will deliver everything that a lossless track could from a subjective point of view.

    And as pointed out, having less disc space taken up with uncompressed audio might mean that you can get better bitrates for the video - and that's always a good thing, because video at HD resolutions can benefit from as much bandwidth as it can get.

    I am a bit of a hifi freak from way back, and I am always a bit puzzled when people jump up and down for lossless audion on every new HD release. We've put up with lossy audio on redbook CDs for close to 30 years, and that's proven to be pretty adequate for even the most state-of-the-art sound recording sessions to this day. While formats like SACD and DVD-Audio are obviously better, they are virtually defunct in the mainstream. But if you are talking about old recordings from the 50s and earlier, before the stereo era, then high resolution audio is overkill - CD quality audio would allow you to hear more than enough of the limitations of old tape, shallac, vinyl or whatever.

     
  8. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    I don't follow the "the guys who made the blu-ray did it that way so it must be right" way of thinking.
    If lossless would reveal flaws in the sound was there no way to clean up the audio first?

    Wasn't there a couple people who said the Wizard of Oz shouldn't be on blu -ray because now you can see the wires and other things that couldn't be seen when it was originally shown on a movie screen in 1939.
     
  9. CraigF

    CraigF Cinematographer

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    I always find the lossless audio sounds smoother, even for lousy sources, and thus "better" to me. We're not necessarily talking about revealing MORE of anything with lossless, just presenting what IS as well as possible. A hi-res movie INCLUDES hi-res audio, this should be the mantra. Let's not be dragged down by the mediocrity-hugging masses, we would buy the DVD if that's what we wanted. And I mean "mediocrity" in its strictest dictionary definition. I like my DVDs too.
     
  10. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    I think my analogy applies. the Playboy photographer takes a picture through a gauze filter, intentionally producing what could be considered a a low fidelity photograph. A photograph that has less detail so that the model looks better. The sound recordists on the movie expected the "gauze" of reproducing the sound all the way down to the theater to reduce the actual fidelity of the recording.

    You want to hear what the recordists actually recorded, what they could hear with their state-of-the-art equipment, not what they wanted you to hear. You can argue they could have reduced the fidelity of a lossless track, than what is the point of lossless? Perhaps it was cheaper to go compressed to get what the original recordists wanted?

    There's the possibility that if the original makers of the movie could speak, they might say I'm full of crap. That they've love for us to hear more. We can never know that. Hell, it's even hard to know for sure what the exact theatrical experience was for TAQ's first run.

    Maybe there was space for a lossy and lossless track. Maybe there were financial reasons. Maybe the guy who made the decision had a headache that day. Van Ling went through a whole bunch of reasons in another thread why a blu (T2 I think) couldn't have this or that on it, why things were done the way they were. None of the decisions were made on artistic merit but on the $$.

    It's a 60 year-old movie, I'm not going to sweat the lossless track.
     
  11. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    The comparisons with the visual information I don't feel is a particularly good one. Humans perceeve visual and audio information very differently. It always amazes me how you can take a sound of one thing, say and apple being bit into, and use it for the sound of a vine being pulled on. (the specific example is from Raiders of the Lost Ark) You can get away with so many things in sound that you never could visually. Its one of the reasons you often hear people say, "Do you hear that? What is it?" When if they were looking at it, they would have no problem identifying it.

    Because our perception of sound is rather vague, and very subjective, is one of the reasons that I'm not a stickler for lossless audio. Honestly I just don't hear a major difference between a lossless track, and a well prepared lossy track. After all most of these audio mixes are designed from the start to be listened to in the lossy format that 90% of movie theaters are capable of playing back. A lossy format that is actually inferior to what we have on DVD at home.

    If, and I emphasize If, the lossless track is for some reason bringing out flaws in the analog recording, that were never intended to be heard, or couldn't be heard because of the limitations of the original audio play back equipment, and the lossy track eliminates those flaws, then in my opinion there is no question, use the lossy track.
    Doug
     
  12. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Great review RAH and I can't wait to get this disc tomorrow!!!

    With all due respect RAH, if there's any issue with the sound of the historic recording on modern systems, it's the job of the mastering engineers to produce a PCM master that sounds "correct" to the intentions of the creators. If that means modifying the EQ or what have you to accomodate a modern listening system in order to achieve the proper sound balance, so be it. However, once this *correct* sounding PCM soundtrack master is fashioned, then it's the job of the blu-ray to render it faithfully via lossless encoding.

    Having heard countless lossless soundtracks of vintage films on laserdisc, and heard time and time again how superior they typically sound compared to their DVD counterparts, this low-bit-rate dolby digital encode on this classic blu-ray disc is a shame.

    Create the proper sounding master. That's one step. Then have the blu-ray deliver it with full transparency to the consumer. That's the job of the authored disc.
     
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  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Firstly, there's no proof that the lossy track eliminates any flaws of the original soundtrack in this situation. Without a direct a/b with the PCM master, there's no way that you or I or RAH could know that.

    What can be stated as fact is that a lossless encode would have been identical to the PCM studio master for all listeners.

    What can be stated as an imperative is that it's incumbant upon a competent audio engineer to produce a proper sounding master. It's not the job of the artifacts of lossy compression to somehow "fix" problems that slip through. If the soundtrack needed to be rebalanced for home-theater systems, then the audio engineer should have done that work intentionally and yielded a final PCM master with the results. Then the BD should give you that master with 100% transparency.

    I'm not suggesting that every HTF member needs to make lossless audio their one and only priority or that anyone should avoid buying this BD. What I am suggesting is that Paramount made a mistake by omitting lossless sound, and hopefully their future classic catalog titles will be improved even further by its inclusion.
     
  14. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Douglas:

    I'm afraid I think your argument is full of holes. Audio is equally as important to film as video. And, because you feel that audio "tricks" can be played with sfx is no reason to base a judgment that audio is less important. i could just as easily say many people's visual senses are tricked by the many uses of CGI in current films or matte paintings in older films and draw an erroneous conclusion that integrity to the original video source is not important.

    When you say, "You can get away with so many things in sound that you never could visually." it's just not true. Maybe you've never seen the con game with the pea under three nut shells.

    David Boulet: What you're saying is what has appeared evident to me from the beginning. There is no reason that the best audio treatment possible wouldn't benefit the audio from the original elements of TAQ. It seems to me that the restorative efforts done to the visual aspects of the film could just as easily be done to the audio elements and should be presented with the same excellence in quality. But even in the absence of an audio restoration, it seems that there wouldn't ever hurt a soundtrack to give it a lossless encode.

    As I said earlier, I've never heard anyone argue that we should be satisfied with a DVD version of a film simply because it's visual elements weren't up to par. Why should do the same with the audio elements of a film? It doesn't make sense.
     
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  15. Nelson Au

    Nelson Au Executive Producer

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    Sounds like a discussion for a dedicated thread on lossy verse lossless encode audio tracks.

    Tomorrow I'm sure well start to see posts on how the disc is.
     
  16. Jack Theakston

    Jack Theakston Supporting Actor

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    I haven't waded through the entire discussion here, so forgive me if what I say has already been retreaded.

    Regarding optical audio, it's a usual but annoying misconception that optical tracks from that era carry no fidelity. They carry great fidelity-- those who don't believe this haven't heard a good optical track presented properly. If you feed a distorted signal in, there's no use arguing if it's lossless or compressed; it's still going to be distorted. If the track for AQ was mastered from a negative, you can pretty much forget any chances of it sounding good. There is an amount that you can get away with in compression of audio, because most consumers have never heard good optical or mag sound, particularly on these older pictures, and therefore have no point of reference. It's "old" so it must be "bad."

    Mr. Harris is correct that in SOME venues, usually neighborhood houses, older audio equipment was used. But between the mid 1940s up until the late 1960s, some of the best audio equipment was found in movie theaters. By 1951, most major chains were keeping up with the times, and acoustic re-modelings coupled with equipment such as Altec pre-amps and Voice of the Theater speakers compare quite favorably with sound systems today and are highly sought after by audio engineers and enthusiasts.

    I've seen quite a number of original prints of AFRICAN QUEEN. The color on the Blu-Ray is on the money.

    PS. The Trans-Lux re-issue opening titles were white, too. The yellow-tinted titles may have been from some foreign or TV version.
     
  17. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    I never said that audio wasn't at least as important as the visual. In fact I'll go farther and say its MORE important than the visual. As someone who makes movies I'll say that it is the sound that sells the visuals. A good sound effect will make you buy a mediocre special effect shot.

    All things being equal yes a lossless track should be reproducing the analog audio accurately, but thats the problem, often all things are not equal. Mr. Harris' story about the audio for Vertigo is a perfect illustration of that. There are just times when a particular process brings out things that you never intended to be heard or seen. Now I'm not saying this is the case with African Queen, because I don't know. It could very well be a simple matter of it was cheaper to go with DD and the producers felt it would make no difference to have a lossless audio track. But it is possible that the lossy track simply sounded better.

    Doug
     
  18. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    I agree that particularly by the late 40s and into the 50's they really figured out how to squeeze every last drop out of the limitations of optical sound. Add to that the theaters sound systems were designed to play to the strengths of that optical track.

    In fact the movement toward Hi-Fi in the 50's was a direct response to the quality of audio being heard in movie theaters, particularly those showing films in Cinerama.

    Doug
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    That's very true, right now, we're only guessing as to the reasoning behind not having a lossless audio track for this release.

    Anyhow, I'm going to hold off any further comments regarding this audio topic until I actually view the disc which should be today.






    Crawdaddy
     
  20. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    LUCKY!
     

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