A few years ago I posted audio files of a stereo recording I'd made of a 70mm screening of "Star Wars" in 1977.
This was done taking two mono recordings – one taken at the far right front of the theatre, the other far left front – and marrying them together. Though there were sync and phasing issues, and clipping of the loudest sounds, it at least documented the film as it existed then, compared to the 35mm and mono soundtracks – let alone the subsequent special edition.
I'd written at the time that the process of doing this was complicated and time-consuming, and it was, but while I'd remembered doing a similar in-theatre recording at a 70mm screening of "The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980, I did not have the tapes and figured they had not survived.
But, they did.
I recently located the raw right and left channel tapes, and have put them together, using a different process than I'd done with the reel-to-reel deck three decades ago. Transferring both channels into WAV files, I used the right channel as a guide track and sped up/slowed down the left channel to sync as closely as I could, though it's not always perfect. There are still sync and phasing issue, and a few dropouts, but the sound is good enough to provide a window on how the film existed in a 70mm engagement in the summer of 1980.
I did no equalization or adjustment of the original audio, and the stereo doesn’t kick in until the opening crawl ends. (At least I didn’t READ the crawl out into the mic as I did with "Star Wars.") The two instances where I had to flip over cassettes necessitated that the sound would be briefly in mono.
Also, for part two (about half an hour) I have not located the left channel cassette, so that section as presented here is in mono only. If I ever find it I'll process and re-post.
Still, for those researching differences in the soundtracks of the 70mm and 35mm versions of ESB, let alone with the special editions and various video releases, I figure these files will help answer those questions.
Here are the files:
ESB_part1_stereo.mp3 (62MB) (approx. 54 mins.)
ESB_part2_mono.mp3 (44 MB) (approx. 38 mins.)
ESB_part3_stereo.mp3 (36MB) (approx. 31 mins.)
And yes, life is still too short. :)
For more on Star Wars audio see: