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Dolby Digital 4.1 Surround - Alien Anthology

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 (Edited)

When discussing audio mixes on Star Wars in this thread: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Ultimate-Trilogy-Set/post/568045/#TopicPost568045 

the 4.1 tracks on the Alien blu-ray set was brought up, decided to start this thread so that we don't derail that thread any further.

Anyway, the questions is; what exactly is the source they used for this track? According to Jonno who owns the blu-ray set, no information is stated about its origin. Does it even say original or theatrical on the package?

As you can see in the thread where we started to discuss this, my memory of what differences could be heard between the 35mm Dolby Stereo mix and the 70mm six-track, (that was available on the Widescreen Edition Laserdisc released back in '95) doesn't seem to be accurate, if this blu-ray audio is indeed supposed to be the original 70mm Dolby Six-Track Stereo mix.

The only release of Alien I own is the 20th anniversary DVD released back in '99, for that release they apparently used the 35mm Dolby Stereo, I recall there was some controversy around this as many were disappointed by the weak audio of that release in comparison to the powerful 70mm mix on the laserdisc.

The 70mm mix contains alternate dialogue and music cues and sound FX in comparison to the regular 35mm mix. But what I pointed out to Jonno going by my memory doesn't seem to be right, so is there anyone that can provide info about what this 4.1 audio track on the Alien blu-ray is, perhaps someone on this board owns the LD: http://www.lddb.com/laserdisc/06718/8760-85/Alien-(1979) and can help clarify this? Either the 4.1 track isn't the 70mm audio or I'm starting to go senile.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Ok, I got some word back from the friend of mine who owns the Laserdisc, and he said I remembered it correctly, and I trust him, in addition to those I already mentioned he said that the 70mm mix lacks dialogue spoken by Kane, his "Roll 92 degrees port yaw." and right before the Space Jockey scene his lines "Come on down here. Something different down here." etc. I guess the 4.1 track on the Anthology isn't the 70mm mix then...

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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I've had a more extended listen to the three tracks on the Blu. Unfortunately the additional Kane lines you mention are also included on the 4.1... more evidence that it isn't the 70mm, or at least not the original 70mm. More detail from this short 2002 thread on AVS:

The problem with the
current DVD vs. the THX Certified Dolby AC-3 RF LaserDisc is not only
one of bass, but the fact that two different masters were used.



The LD's Dolby Digital track is encoded using the 70mm 6-track master. 
It does contain sound cue and music cue errors that Ridley Scott wanted
fixed, however.  It was one of those rare 6 track mixes that was the
model for today's 5.1 surround (another was Apocalypse Now's 70mm
track): three front channels, two stereo surround channels, and a "baby
boom" channel. 



Notice I did say stereo surrounds. 



Which brings me to the DVD we have at the moment.  It has the sound
corrections Ridley Scott wanted.  Now here comes the problem:  they
didn't fix the 70mm 6-track master, they mistakenly chose the 4 channel
Dolby Stereo printmaster to correct.  Meaning, no low bass "rumble"
track and mono surrounds.



...



Dan

It is of course possible that the errors, i.e. missing lines, from the original 70mm mix were reinserted for this Blu presentation. And it's otherwise a strong sounding track - impressive bass on the Nostromo landing sequence, particularly in comparison to the 2.0 surround track (which presumably comes from the 35mm stereo mix).

Bottom line - I'd really like to have a listen to that laserdisc track! I have neither a laserdisc player, the disc itself nor the necessary PC tech - there are folks on this thread discussing capture of digital streams from laser, so there may be some ideas there as to how we might organise a preservation. Does your friend have the means to do any sort of capture, M, even if it's a little basic?

 

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Jonno said:

 

I've had a more extended listen to the three tracks on the Blu. Unfortunately the additional Kane lines you mention are also included on the 4.1... more evidence that it isn't the 70mm, or at least not the original 70mm. More detail from this short 2002 thread on AVS:

The problem with the
current DVD vs. the THX Certified Dolby AC-3 RF LaserDisc is not only
one of bass, but the fact that two different masters were used.



The LD's Dolby Digital track is encoded using the 70mm 6-track master. 
It does contain sound cue and music cue errors that Ridley Scott wanted
fixed, however.  It was one of those rare 6 track mixes that was the
model for today's 5.1 surround (another was Apocalypse Now's 70mm
track): three front channels, two stereo surround channels, and a "baby
boom" channel. 



Notice I did say stereo surrounds. 



Which brings me to the DVD we have at the moment.  It has the sound
corrections Ridley Scott wanted.  Now here comes the problem:  they
didn't fix the 70mm 6-track master, they mistakenly chose the 4 channel
Dolby Stereo printmaster to correct.  Meaning, no low bass "rumble"
track and mono surrounds.



...



Dan

It is of course possible that the errors, i.e. missing lines, from the original 70mm mix were reinserted for this Blu presentation. And it's otherwise a strong sounding track - impressive bass on the Nostromo landing sequence, particularly in comparison to the 2.0 surround track (which presumably comes from the 35mm stereo mix). 

I guess that's a possible explanation for not hearing the dialogue differences but it's a little odd, it kind of defeats the purpose of including the track on the Blu-ray IMO. I don't know, I can understand that Ridley Scott wants to correct certain things for a remix, but that's what the remix on the disc is intended for. If that's the case, I'm a little disappointed.

That guy also mentioned stereo surrounds, was the 70mm mix on Alien really presented with stereo surrounds? Maybe that's impossible for you to remember, according to http://www.in70mm.com/library/process/dolby/index.htm it wasn't. (I guess SS - means split surround or stereo surrounds)

Jonno said:

Bottom line - I'd really like to have a listen to that laserdisc track! I have neither a laserdisc player, the disc itself nor the necessary PC tech - there are folks on this thread discussing capture of digital streams from laser, so there may be some ideas there as to how we might organise a preservation. Does your friend have the means to do any sort of capture, M, even if it's a little basic?

I would also love to have it preserved, the two tracks on the Laserdisc is in 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM. I wonder which of them is the best sounding, would be great to have both preserved. I don't think he have the right equipment for making a good audio capture, I can of course easily make a basic recording of the PCM track, it would be better than nothing but it would be nice to have something better than that. I'll have to check out what's needed for this, I do own a demodulator for the AC-3 track at least.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Hmmm...I'd say go for the PCM. Is it ProLogic encoded? That would bring it closer to the 70mm soundfield. This is the way 2001 sounds best in my rig. (LD 2.0 PCM in ProLogic versus DVD 5.1)

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Jonno said: And it's otherwise a strong sounding track - impressive bass on the Nostromo landing sequence, particularly in comparison to the 2.0 surround track (which presumably comes from the 35mm stereo mix).

I've never understood how a presumably pure stereo track can become a 2.0 surround track.  Where does the matrixed surround sound come from if the source is two channel?

I also don't understand why the other mix on the BD is 4.1 and not 5.1.  If it comes from a six-channel mix, why is it not 5.1?

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Chewtobacca said:

Jonno said: And it's otherwise a strong sounding track - impressive bass on the Nostromo landing sequence, particularly in comparison to the 2.0 surround track (which presumably comes from the 35mm stereo mix).

I've never understood how a presumably pure stereo track can become a 2.0 surround track.  Where does the matrixed surround sound come from if the source is two channel?

The surround channel (and the centre channel) are matrix-encoded into the left and right channels. You sometimes see these referred to as Left Total (Lt) and Right Total (Rt). A Dolby Pro-logic decoder extracts the additional channel information to retrieve the 4 channels L, R, C, S.

I also don't understand why the other mix on the BD is 4.1 and not 5.1.  If it comes from a six-channel mix, why is it not 5.1?

Early 70mm 6-track mixes were actually 4.2 - 3 front, mono surround and 2 LFE channels. You can't encode 2 LFE channels into AC3 hence it becomes 4.1. However, the quote in Jonno's post above suggests the mix came from the 4 channel master used to make the Dolby Surround mix (which had no LFE channel - so I don't know where the .1 came from). 

Later 70mm 6-track mixes used a single LFE channel and split surrounds, the same configuration used in Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes today. According to Jambe's filmumentary, Raiders of the Lost Ark used split surrounds, but this is not shown in the list on in70mm.com.

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captainsolo said:

Is it ProLogic encoded?

 Yes, it's a ProLogic encoded track.

Chewtobacca said:

I've never understood how a presumably pure stereo track can become a 2.0 surround track.  Where does the matrixed surround sound come from if the source is two channel? 

I think it's the name "Dolby Stereo" that confuse you, an optical 35mm Dolby Stereo track isn't just two channels, it's a four channel configuration; Left-Center-Right-Surround.

Chewtobacca said:

I also don't understand why the other mix on the BD is 4.1 and not 5.1.  If it comes from a six-channel mix, why is it not 5.1?

hairy_hen described it better than I can do here: http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Ultimate-Trilogy-Set/post/567939/#TopicPost567939

Edit: Moth3r beat me to it. ;)

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Moth3r said:

According to Jambe's filmumentary, Raiders of the Lost Ark used split surrounds, but this is not shown in the list on in70mm.com.

Interesting, I guess the list on in70mm could be incomplete, do you know what source Jambe got this info from? Maybe it's mentioned in Rinzler's making of.

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It came direct from Mark Mangini. (If you haven't seen "Raiding the Lost Ark" yet, you should watch it - fascinating stuff.)

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That would explain why they got the DVD 5.1 from the 6 track masters if indeed they did for Raiders.

Darn this can get confusing for trying to keep which film had which mix straight.

On Alien, you should be good with the ProLogic PCM. Just give the tracks a listen and see which sounds better, fuller, and more impacting by ear. I've found that these tracks can sound great even for modern 5.1 mixed films. I don't have a demodulator but I've gone back and forth with well mixed DVDs and come to the conclusion that sometimes I just like the clearer but less surround defined 2.0 matrixed PCM versus a well mixed lossy 5.1.

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

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Moth3r said:

It came direct from Mark Mangini. (If you haven't seen "Raiding the Lost Ark" yet, you should watch it - fascinating stuff.)

Quite reliable source then. Yeah, I really have to check out his work, love his previous work.

captainsolo said:

That would explain why they got the DVD 5.1 from the 6 track masters if indeed they did for Raiders.

Darn this can get confusing for trying to keep which film had which mix straight.

Yes, it's very interesting. Makes you wonder, maybe the Six-Track mixes of Empire and Jedi had split surrounds after all.

captainsolo said:

On Alien, you should be good with the ProLogic PCM. Just give the tracks a listen and see which sounds better, fuller, and more impacting by ear. I've found that these tracks can sound great even for modern 5.1 mixed films. I don't have a demodulator but I've gone back and forth with well mixed DVDs and come to the conclusion that sometimes I just like the clearer but less surround defined 2.0 matrixed PCM versus a well mixed lossy 5.1.

Yeah, I agree. But it would be nice to have both of them properly captured, right now it seems I can only do a basic recording of the PCM. Haven't checked with my friend yet if he have the proper equipment for it.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Some interesting notes regarding the various soundmixes of Alien in Widescreen Review: http://widescreenreview.com/hddisc_detail.php?recid=12316

The "Alien" soundtrack, while encoded in the DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel format, still is dramatically less dynamic and sounds dated. The previous DVD's Dolby® Digital soundtrack had no split surrounds and very weak .1 LFE enhancement, making it a 4.1 mix. Our reference Dorrough meter bridge showed aggressive split surround signals on the discrete LaserDisc version reviewed in Issue 18, but monaural surround on the DVD version. Both were THX digitally mastered for "optimum performance," but the THX standard of quality was not heard on the previous DVD. This new encoding has electronically enhanced split surrounds, but they still are at subtle, inconsequential levels.

The DVD Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on the Alien Director's Cut reviewed in Issue 81 was a new remastering effort, sounding a bit louder in overall level than the previous DVD. There was also some more low-end content and refinement in spatial articulation, but the .1 LFE presence was inconsequential. Otherwise, the general characteristics of the audio were similar to the previous soundtrack remastering. The fidelity is certainly dated, and some distortion is to be expected. The soundstage tends to be conservative in nature, with an adequately compelling sense of holosonic® spaciousness throughout. The low end is inherently reserved and weak. The Dolby Digital version seemed to have just a bit more to offer in the low end, but the DTS® Digital Surround™ audio (new to that release) sounded a little more “open” in the midrange and articulated in dimension. Dialogue sounded natural and spatially integrated, with a spread across the three front channels, with emphasis on the center channel.

On D-VHS® D-Theater™, the Dolby Digital soundtrack sounded just slightly smoother in the midrange than the DVD "Alien" Quadrilogy version reviewed in Issue 81. Like the DTS version for the DVD, the DTS audio for the D-VHS D-Theater (encoded at the full 1509 kbps) sounds a little more “open” in the midrange and articulated in dimension. The Blu-ray Disc version is that remastered soundtrack encoded in the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel format. The enhanced refinement in fidelity, clarity, low-level resolution, and spatiality are evident, but .1 LFE impact is virtually nonexistent and distortion is heard throughout. The sound is inferior to the subsequent three films sonics, always sounding dimensionaly and dynamically reserved. (Gary Reber)

The 4.1 track isn't mentioned but I find the bold part very interesting, I need to take a listen to the 5.1 track on my old DVD, it's been a very long time since I did.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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 (Edited)

Great additional info! Let's see if we can summarise then:

 

Theatrical release - 70mm 6-track and Dolby Stereo

1992 special edition laserdisc - Dolby Surround (probably from Dolby Stereo master)

1995 THX laserdisc - 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM (based on 6-track 70mm master)

1999 DVD - 5.1 (actually 4.1) and 2.0 AC-3 (based on Dolby Stereo master - both mixes sound exactly the same)

2003 DVD - 5.1 AC-3 and DTS (new mix with Director's Cut variation)

2010 Blu-ray - 5.1 DTS (new mix with Director's Cut variation), 4.1 AC-3 (who knows? ;) ) and 2.0 AC-3 (very 'smooth' sounding - since it's available for both Theatrical and Director's cuts, it's probably a compatibility-minded downmix of the new version)

 

Feel free to add or amend. The laserdisc is looking more and more important, but the lack of info on that 4.1 is deeply frustrating - I'll delve through HTF's message boards to see if something ever came up (and doesn't Charles DeLauzirika host a forum there?)

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msycamore said:

I think it's the name "Dolby Stereo" that confuse you, an optical 35mm Dolby Stereo track isn't just two channels, it's a four channel configuration; Left-Center-Right-Surround.

That's the information I was missing.  I understood the matrixing, but assumed that the source had two channels, not four.  All is clear now.

Moth3r said:Early 70mm 6-track mixes were actually 4.2 - 3 front, mono surround and 2 LFE channels. You can't encode 2 LFE channels into AC3 hence it becomes 4.1.

That makes sense.  Thank you both for the information. :-)

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Jonno said:

Great additional info! Let's see if we can summarise then:

 

Theatrical release - 70mm 6-track and Dolby Stereo

1992 special edition laserdisc - Dolby surround (probably from Dolby Stereo master)

1995 THX laserdisc - 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM (based on 6-track 70mm master)

1999 DVD - 5.1 and 2.0 AC-3 (based on Dolby Stereo master)

2003 DVD - 5.1 AC-3 and DTS (new mix)

2010 Blu-ray - 5.1 DTS (new mix), 4.1 AC-3 (who knows? ;) ) and 2.0 AC-3 (presumably based on Dolby Stereo again)

I think that's a nice summary of what we know, the audio on the '99 DVD is a weird one... a 4.1 track disguised as a 5.1 and I just discovered (at least on my disc) that the English 2.0 Surround track isn't surround encoded at all, it's a plain 2.0 stereo track, can you please check the 2.0 track on your '99 release Jonno, want to know if it's just my disc that's faulty.

Jonno said: 

The laserdisc is looking more and more important, but the lack of info on that 4.1 is deeply frustrating - I'll delve through HTF's message boards to see if something ever came up (and doesn't Charles DeLauzirika host a forum there?)

Not a bad idea, I'm pretty sure DeLauzirika host a forum there, at least he did. It's very strange that nothing is mentioned about that 4.1 track, I guess it could be the same re-worked track they prepared for the '99 DVD but with an improved LFE. And like Moth3r pointed out, where did the LFE come from when they produced that track on the anniversary DVD, the weak bass of that track suggest it wasn't derived from the Six-Track. With all this shit going on, I would also like to get the proper 35mm Dolby Stereo track preserved.

I will never understand why there is so difficult for the home video industry to provide the real theatrical audio mixes for their films, and when they seldom are, they are in lossy quality whereas the remix is always presented in lossless. I wonder if even the directors are aware of what many of these remixes do to their films.

There are of course many great remixes done on films but on those releases with only the remix available, which is often the case since the DVD era came along, we are stuck with lesser versions of the films where there is screw ups, missing sound effects, altered sound effects etc. Great care was taken when they mixed the films in the first place, why not alter the aspect ratio when you're at it. Sorry but I don't get this weird standard, remix a mono film to 5.1 or 7.1 surround is equal to colorize black and white films IMO. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest... sigh.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

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Jonno said:

Great additional info! Let's see if we can summarise then:

...

1995 THX laserdisc - 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM (based on 6-track 70mm master)

Although the AC3 is stated as being from the 70mm 6-track, I'm wondering if the PCM on this LD could be based on the 35mm Dolby Stereo mix? That would be interesting.

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msycamore said:

... I just discovered (at least on my disc) that the English 2.0 Surround track isn't surround encoded at all, it's a plain 2.0 stereo track, can you please check the 2.0 track on your '99 release Jonno, want to know if it's just my disc that's faulty.

Keep in mind that the Surround property of an AC3 stream is purely a flag to tell the decoder to switch to Dolby Pro-logic decoding mode. The audio may well contain matrixed surround information but be missing the flag, if you force Pro-logic decoding you should be able to hear if there are rear channels in the mix.

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Moth3r said:

Although the AC3 is stated as being from the 70mm 6-track, I'm wondering if the PCM on this LD could be based on the 35mm Dolby Stereo mix? That would be interesting.

That is possible, I actually don't remember but I believe both are based on the 6-track, will have to ask him.

Moth3r said:

Keep in mind that the Surround property of an AC3 stream is purely a flag to tell the decoder to switch to Dolby Pro-logic decoding mode. The audio may well contain matrixed surround information but be missing the flag, if you force Pro-logic decoding you should be able to hear if there are rear channels in the mix.

This was exactly what was going on, I was uncertain at first as I thought it sounded like some of the dialogue came out of the rear speakers when it shouldn't, but it seems to be alright. Thanks.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

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Moth3r said:

Jonno said:

Great additional info! Let's see if we can summarise then:

...

1995 THX laserdisc - 5.1 AC-3 and 2.0 PCM (based on 6-track 70mm master)

Although the AC3 is stated as being from the 70mm 6-track, I'm wondering if the PCM on this LD could be based on the 35mm Dolby Stereo mix? That would be interesting.

From the cover scan that msycamore posted, "The six-track magnetic sound masters used in the original 70mm theatrical prints were utilized to create the sound tracks for this widescreen laser disc release of Alien." So yeah, I take it to be both tracks, even though the PCM couldn't possibly replicate all of the channel information (correct me if I'm wrong). If only all releases had this kind of useful information printed on them...

More frustrating reading in this Blu-ray.com thread. The guy is completely confident that the 70mm was the source for the 4.1, but doesn't explain how he knows that. The lack of dialogue differences would certainly indicate otherwise (hopefully someone else with the Blu can back me up on this!)

And in any case, wouldn't the proper representation of this particular 6-track mix (with split surrounds) be 5.1? Seems more likely that this 4.1 would be an honestly-labelled repeat of the mono-surround 35mm upmix from 1999.

An awesome opportunity here, by the way... sadly I'm at the wrong end of the UK to enjoy this 70mm screening!

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Jonno said:

And in any case, wouldn't the proper representation of this particular 6-track mix (with split surrounds) be 5.1? Seems more likely that this 4.1 would be an honestly-labelled repeat of the mono-surround 35mm upmix from 1999.

Yeah, that would be a more suitable configuration if it really was a mix with split surrounds, which the post from that old thread you posted, the Widescreen Review and the actual Laserdisc now suggests.

Jonno said:

Seems more likely that this 4.1 would be an honestly-labelled repeat of the mono-surround 35mm upmix from 1999.

Agree that it seems more likely. Also, wouldn't they proudly state that the track was mastered from the 6-track elements on the box if that was really the case. No matter what, the Laserdisc audio tracks needs to be preserved. I may even buy a copy of that laserdisc.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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I've made a couple of tweaks to the version summary above to appease my OCD tendencies!

Bottom line? Even if the 4.1 were based on the 6-track mix, it's apparently been tampered with (possibly at the director's behest). This leaves the 1999 DVD and the 1995 laser as the best sources for the original mixes.

Our Mission Should We Choose To Accept It? Create a theatrical preservation using Blu-ray video and the two audio tracks from the earlier DVD and laser releases. We could go further and look at colour correcting the video too (since it's undeniably altered from the original release), but that rather depends on how much it bothers people - I personally don't mind it, but I know it's an issue for some. We might also include the 1999 commentary and production audio tracks, seeing as these didn't survive the transition to Quadrilogy nor Anthology releases.

I can probably do most of the actual assembly and authoring, but the one thing I don't have is that laserdisc mix. Let me know what progress you make there!

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Jonno said:

This leaves the 1999 DVD and the 1995 laser as the best sources for the original mixes.

I would say that some of the earlier Laserdiscs are probably even better sources for the original 35mm Dolby Stereo mix, due to being presented in PCM rather than the lossy AC-3 on the DVD. Like you said, the latest release to include it was probably the Special Widescreen Collector's Edition from '92.

Jonno said:

Our Mission Should We Choose To Accept It? Create a theatrical preservation using Blu-ray video and the two audio tracks from the earlier DVD and laser releases. We could go further and look at colour correcting the video too (since it's undeniably altered from the original release), but that rather depends on how much it bothers people - I personally don't mind it, but I know it's an issue for some. We might also include the 1999 commentary and production audio tracks, seeing as these didn't survive the transition to Quadrilogy nor Anthology releases.

I can probably do most of the actual assembly and authoring, but the one thing I don't have is that laserdisc mix. Let me know what progress you make there!

I thought they included the '99 commentary track on the Blu-ray? many reviews said so. Anyway, this sounds very nice Jonno, I will let you know as soon as I know more regarding the capture of the LD audio.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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 (Edited)

According to my friend, it should be the same mix on both tracks. Unfortunately he has not the equipment/sound card needed to rip the audio. :( I made a quick look at what sound card my PC have, it's a Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 Digital (SB0220), have no idea if it's able to handle this or not. As I'm a complete rookie when it comes to this, I'll need to search around and see what I can find about it.

Would be great to have a rip of both tracks, but if I'm not able to, is there still interest in a basic capture?

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Damn, my soundcard doesn't have a SPDIF input. :(

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com