Earliest Films with Multichannel Soundtracks

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by David Olstein, Mar 13, 2003.

  1. David Olstein

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2001
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm fairly certain that Fantasia (1940) was the first commercially released film to feature a multichannel soundtrack (at least at limited roadshow engagements). The "FantaSound" system utilized three screen channels as well as auditorium speakers (although I'm not exactly sure whether there was a discrete surround channel or whether there was selective panning of one of the three main channels).

    The next commercial release I'm aware of that featured a multichannel soundtrack was This is Cinerama (1952).

    Does anybody know whether there were any films released after Fantasia and before This is Cinerama that had multichannel soundtracks?

    Also, does anyone know how many non-CinemaScope 35mm films during the 1950's were presented with multichannel soundtracks? I was certainly aware that some CinemaScope films had a magnetic four channel soundtrack, but I was surprised to learn that From Here to Eternity used a discrete three channel soundtrack for large venues.
     
  2. Carl Johnson

    Carl Johnson Cinematographer
    Supporter

    Joined:
    May 6, 1999
    Messages:
    2,259
    Likes Received:
    25
    Real Name:
    Carl III
    thats a very interesting question. i'm the farthest thing from an expert but if i would have guessed what year was the first multi channel film i would have missed the mark by at least 20 years.
     
  3. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    0
    PORTRAIT OF JENNIE(1948) had some first run engagements where the climatic storm sequence was shown on an enlarged Magnascope screen with multiple-channel sound.

    After THIS IS CINERAMA(1952), magnetic stereo prints were used on a number of feature fims in 1953 prior to the introduction of CinemaScope in September of that year, particularly on films in the 3-D process.

    Joe Caps, I believe, would have full details on this subject.
     
  4. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
  5. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 10, 1999
    Messages:
    1,698
    Likes Received:
    0
    With respect to Fantasound, I believe the interlocked optical soundtrack had three soundtracks on it. Really stretching my memory here, I believe I also recall hearing that there were pilot-tones for each track that would steer them throughout the auditorium. (I recall hearing that a proper Fantasound setup had something like 36 speakers. Seems high, but...)

    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  6. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

    Joined:
    May 17, 1999
    Messages:
    2,358
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't think there were 36 speakers, it was more like 8. I can't remember the exact number but 36 is way too high.
    Possibly three in front, two on the sides, two in the rear, and one overhead. The optical soundtrack had four tracks, three were audio and the fourth did have tones which controlled faders to steer the three tracks in any combination to any of the speakers.

    Fantasound also had a few other innovations which were required to reach the goal. To smoothly pan audio from one speaker to the next, the Disney engineers had to invent the panpot. They found that you get a smooth pan if the total power level of the two channels remains constant during the pan, it isn't linear but rather logarithmic. Also, they were the first to do multitrack recording which allowed them to put a single musical instrument such as a flute on one track with the rest of the music on another track, so that the flute could move by itself around the auditorium.
     
  7. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2000
    Messages:
    2,063
    Likes Received:
    410
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    Real Name:
    Doug
     
  8. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
  9. David Olstein

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2001
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  10. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    0
    The stereo versions of HIGH SOCIETY and NORTH BY NORTHWEST were created in recent years from the original stereophonic recording sessions.

    THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, I believe, is the only VistaVision film that had some original roadshow engagements in genuine stereo.
     
  11. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  12. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,549
    Likes Received:
    179
    Location:
    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    Abel Gance's 1935 reissue of Napoleon included "perspective" sound.
     
  13. Ray Chuang

    Ray Chuang Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2002
    Messages:
    1,055
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think the reason why Fantasound didn't become popular (besides this thing called World War II) was the fact the setup was almost Rube Goldberg-complicated in order to get it to work properly.

    I feel that multichannel sound didn't really become fairly widespread until Dolby Surround became available in the mid 1970's, mostly because the soundtrack was stored on a magnetic stripe on the filmstrip itself (I think).

    In my opinion, it took the competition between Dolby Digital, DTS and Sony's now-phased out SDDS system in the 1990's to get everyone to put in multichannel sound systems in theaters on a really wide scale.
     
  14. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
    Early Dolby Stereo soundtracks were available as optical ones as well as magnetic. Dolby was really a way to reduce background noise (hiss, pops, whatever) and had nothing to do with stereo sound per se. Many soundtracks were/are Dolby mono as well as stereo.
     
  15. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    0
    IMHO, Dolby Stereo could never hold a candle to Todd-AO six-track magnetic from the roadshow days of the fifties and sixties.
     
  16. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    Joined:
    May 16, 2001
    Messages:
    7,549
    Likes Received:
    179
    Location:
    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    ...and nothing has matched the 7-track magnetic sound of Cinerama.
     
  17. David Olstein

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2001
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  18. SteveP

    SteveP Second Unit

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2001
    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    0
    I feel very lucky to have experienced the tail end of the roadshow era as a child in Connecticut and a teenager in New York City.

    The loss of the roadshow theatres in Times Square (the Rivoli, the Capitol, the Warner Cinerama, the Loews State, the DeMille and the Criterion) were historic desecration at its worst and something that New York City has yet to (and may never) recover from.
     
  19. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 1999
    Messages:
    2,393
    Likes Received:
    0
    I saw all those roadshow films at the venues SteveP mentioned (all were actually above Times Square between 45th and about 59th Streets) when I was growing up in New York City. Steve left out the Roxy and Radio City Music Hall, the former closing down around 1959 the latter still around but not showing films much anymore.
     
  20. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2001
    Messages:
    3,762
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Real Name:
    Damin J. Toell
     

Share This Page