Warner Bros.: MGM Musical Multi-Tracks

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Edward Weinman, Jul 2, 2007.

  1. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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    Pardon if this has been discussed before...

    I don't understand why the MGM musicals are being processed without utilizing the multi-track musical recordings...

    If WB has access to these tracks, why not make use of them (besides the element of cost involved) for the "greater good" of these unique films?

    An excellent example of the laser disc days was the boxed set of MGM Composers Series in which "Deep In My Heart" had the tracks in question used to great effect. The orchestra, the orchestrations, and...oh, those performances...were so much more alive and clear.

    It would be a shame if these tracks languished and (hopefully not) faded away.

    ...just an opinion...
     
  2. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Are you suggesting the films be remixed to stereo from these multi-angle recordings? Because I believe they have been doing that for the films for which elements exist (MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, SHOW BOAT, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, etc.). However, I don't think they are going to put perhaps a few musical numbers into stereo and leave the rest of the film in mono. The difference would be jarring to say the least. Also, these pre-recordings have routinely found their way onto many DVD relases in a "jukebox" section, and some are on commercially released CD's as well.
     
  3. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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    Chuck,

    I believe that the entire orchestral tracks were preserved in multi-track fashion so that, by using them, there should be no "jarring" effect on the listening audience.

    The "Deep In My Heart" mix is a perfect example of how a film, evidently not released theatrically, in "stereo", was re-mixed by George Feltenstein using the orchestral multi-track stems for the laser disc release.

    The result is wonderful. The intent, as I understand it, was to allow the fullness of the multi-track field to spread out in stereo fashion giving not only the orchestral background a stereo effect but, more importantly, the musical numbers a more realistic sound.

    It was wonderfully used in the DVD restoration of "The Band Wagon" and should be continued for all these films. (In "The Band Wagon"'s case, the original multi-tracks were erased but, with a big, big thanks to Mr. Feltenstein, reconstructed to the point that WB was able to issue this great movie in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as the original mono track.)
     
  4. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    No, not all of the orchestral tracks have survived in mutli-track fashion. George Feltenstein states that in the liner notes of one of the MGM box sets or CD releases. There would always be an asterix next to selections that were remixed to stereo because the elements HAD survived and could be used.

    If the proper elements don't exist, I'd rather have the original mono than a reverb-laden, gimmicky fake 5.1 soundtrack.
     
  5. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    For EVERY MGM musical?
     
  6. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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    Sorry...didn't mean to imply that every musical had multi-track elements preserved...I don't know...it was my understanding that, after a certain year, studio recordings were done multi-track and preserved.

    I totally agree that I would also not want gimmicky fake soundtracks if the proper elements don't exist. I just appreciate the opportunity to hear that great orchestra and those remarkable soloists in as dementional a sound-setting as possible.
     
  7. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    There are different ways to do these formerly mono films in stereo.

    The earlier films that have tracks in multichannel sound - Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, Show Boat - don't have a normal stereo layout - you know, strings on the left, woodwinds in the middle, horns on the right.
    Mostly orchestra is kep with closely miked orchestra on one channel and another channel wiht a mike far away to give it depth. This was also done to lower the volume of sound on the sensitive optical tracks so it would not go into distortion.
    Sometimes these multitracks can not be used for dvds as MGM generally kept only one take per song and the preserved take is NOT necesarily the one thats in the film. Most of the takes for stereo from Harvey Girls don't actually match the takes in the final film.

    When studios, including MGM wnet from optical sound to magnetic mono sound, multrick was not needed for the orchestra, as the magnetic track would not overload when recorded.
    For instantance, the magnetic mono tracks for Singin in the Rain and the Band wagon are generally single mono orchestra tracks with separate tracks for the vocal and the chorus.
    For these films, the single orchestra track can be artificially spread out an the single tracks for chorus can also be spread out and the solo vocals can be left in mono in the middle channel. this can give a convincing stereo spread.
    Later MGM musicals were recorded in three track stereo for the orchestra and these can be used, as in deep in My Heart. MGM also has steroe music tracks for Athene, I would love to see remixed for a stereo DVD.
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    MGM/Warner's current issue of the 1951 SHOW BOAT on DVD has only a mono track. THE COMPLETE SHOW BOAT laserdisc box, of course, does have a stereo surround track for the 1951 film.

    I am keeping my fingers crossed that when Warners does their complete SHOW BOAT DVD set, we'll get that surround track for the 1951 movie.
     
  9. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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    I wonder if it is possible for "An American In Paris" to have any multi-track elements? It would be wonderful to hear, and see, the ballet as well as all the other numbers in that fashion.

    By the way, Joe, I read in a digitally obsessed.com interview with George Feltenstein that "The Band Wagon" was recorded in 3-track stereo which, sadly, was distroyed by some enterprising employee at the studio but resurected by GF himself. While listening to the "Dancing In The Dark" number on his car radio, he noticed that certain instruments were more previlent than others when compared to another version of the same recording session. As a result of his manipulating the sound, he established an elementary stereo track which was then utilized to obtain the final 5.1 DVD result.
     
  10. Drew Salzan

    Drew Salzan Second Unit

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    This topic has always fascinated me. Those Rhino soundtracks are terrific. I have that Composer's laserdisc box set with Deep in My Heart remixed in 5.1. It sounds amazing. I wonder why Rhino never released a CD? The lasersdisc also has the raw stereo sessions on the alternate analog tracks. Great stuff.
     
  11. John Skoda

    John Skoda Stunt Coordinator

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    They have, but unfortunately it's an iTunes-only release.
     
  12. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    IF American in Paris had any multitracks left, they would have been on the Rhino soundtrack album which was all mono.
    A later compilation had Ill Build a Stairway to Paradise in multitrack stereo.
    I believe the Rhino notes said the ballet was recorded only in singly track form anyway. (this was at the time that mgm was switching from optical recording to Mag - wonder if the ballet was recorded in mag mono).
     
  13. Drew Salzan

    Drew Salzan Second Unit

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    New tracks come up from time to time. The original Rhino soundtrack for Easter Parade was taken from surviving playback discs and sounded awful. Later, a superior multitrack version of Steppin' Out With My Baby was found and included on the Irving Berlin in Hollywood collection. Too bad the entire soundtrack couldn't be redone this way.
     
  14. Edward Weinman

    Edward Weinman Stunt Coordinator

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  15. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Screenwriter

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    With today's technology it is possible to create a stereo soundtrack from separate mono sources (vocals, string and horn overdubs, piano track). Back in the 30s and 40s, some pieces of music would be recorded separately and then added onto the film's soundtrack as overdubs- of course the final film would be mono, as stereo as we know it wasn't really perfected until the 1950s (with Disney's "Fantasound" for 1940's Fantasia as an exception).

    I think it's all a matter of finding what's in the vaults and seeing if there are elements that will enable a multitrack recording from separate mono tracks. Some films in the MGM vaults have been fully remixed, like Ziegfeld Follies, while others so far only exist in its final mono mix (Summer Stock, but I still hold out hope that somewhere there multitracks to at least the iconic "Get Happy" number!).
     
  16. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Am I alone in my enjoyment of "Happy Harvest" from SUMMER STOCK? It's interesting that the soundtrack has a chorus at the end of that song while the film only has Judy, front and center. It sounds like they used both versions on the Rhino CD so that the chorus is behind you - a stereophonic spread just for the end. Still, I prefer the version in the film with no chorus at all.
     
  17. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    The Summer Stock dvd has a missing "HEY!" at the end of one of the songs that was on the vhs version...how does this happen if the film is mono? How could it be erased from the track? I prefer to listen to these in the mono versions, but MMISL sounds great either way.
     
  18. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    That hugely sustained last note in that song is one of the wonders of the MGM musical catalog. And Judy's reaction of exhaustion afterwards is priceless.
     
  19. Richard M S

    Richard M S Supporting Actor

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    Why did Turner and Rhino stop releasing those soundtracks?

    I honestly think I purchased every one of them.
     

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