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Hold onto your old Little Mermaid discs! — Page 3

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...so is there a good non-VHS source for the original audio mix :(?

"Right now the coffees are doing their final work." (Airi, Masked Rider Den-o episode 1)

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 (Edited)

It depends what you consider the original audio mix.

The ORIGINAL release in 1989 only had a stereo mix.

Michaeldvd.com.au:

The Little Mermaid was originally released in 1989, before discrete digital soundtracks were commonplace, so the original soundtrack is in Dolby Stereo. The soundtrack was remastered for the 1997 theatrical re-release, but obviously the same sound elements were used, and occasionally the mono effects stand out like a sore thumb. In particular, a segment from a scene where a ship explodes into flame is accompanied by sound effects that emanate entirely from the centre channel.

 

The original Dolby mix AFAIK has only been released on the laserdisc.

The 1997 5.1 DD remix was very well done, and critics had a lot of good things to say about it (and so do I).

The 1997 mix was release unaltered on the old unrestored DVD in 2000. In fact there was a limited release of the same disc that contained the 1997 DTS mix as well (now THAT would have been wonderful to use).

And as we all know the new Platinum disc only contains the crappy 2006 DEHT mix.

My restored edition uses the 1997 mix, which is infinitely more satisfying.

HomeTheaterForum's did a listening test comparing the 2.0 16/44.1 LPCM (laserdisc), 5.1 DD/AC-3 original mix (laserdisc), 5.1 DD original mix (old DVD) and 5.1 DD DEHT mix (new DVD).

Dr. M

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Problems:

The first cause for alarm is that the only English audio mix provided on this disc is the Disney Enhanced for Home Theater (D.E.H.T.) mix. The original, great-sounding mix heard both on the previous laserdisc and DVD is nowhere in sight. I can’t believe that given the dearth of bonus material on Disc 1 that Disney couldn’t have found the bandwidth to include it. And perhaps the omission of the original mix wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had the new DEHT mix not been so troublesome.


The problems with the new mix are two-fold to my ears. One problem is directional… the placement choices of the sound. While most non-musical sequences seem fine in terms of what comes out of what speaker, the musical sequences, which are the heart and soul of the film, have been less tastefully served. Firstly, the lead vocal tracks to each song are duplicated in the front three channels… spreading Ariel’s (or Sabastien’s) voice across the front sound state in a strange, phase-shifting sort of way that I can only imagine was supposed to “enhance” the experience.



During the first song, Ariel’s voice sounds oddly detached and lacks the solid soundstaging and presence of the original mix. The decision to spread her voice over all three front channels dissolves any sense that you’re hearing a point-source of sound… ie: a person singing. Adding to that some overly aggressive placement of instrumentation in the rear channels and the sensation is more like putting a boom-box on your shoulder in a 1980’s MTV video than listening to a soulful aria as the song was intended to portray.

Now, I guess I should be thankful that The Little Mermaid’s DEHT mix didn’t suffer the same fate as that of Aladdin where the clueless mixing engineer decided to place the lead vocalist tracks in the rear surround channels as well. But that’s small consolation given that, unlike Aladdin, the original mix is not presented here as an option.

But now we get to the real problem I have with this new mix. It sounds artificial. And the musical vocal tracks have a dry, flat, electronic signature that’s entirely destroys the lush, vivid, liquid sound quality of the vocal tracks in the original mixes on the laserdisc and DVD. Just how obvious is this problem? Well, it was so obvious to my ears that when first sitting down and skipping to my favorite “Part of Your World” sequence expecting to be showered with musical bliss (picture that old Maxell advertisement) as I have been accustomed to experiencing with the previous DVD and laserdisc, instead I found myself grimacing with disgust and running from the room to dig out my old laserdisc to do some serious A/B comparisons. I had to see if my memory was so in error or if the Disney tech team really are complete and total morons.

Discovered fact: They are morons folks. Allow me to state boldly the plain and simple truth. The techs who cooked up this DEHT mix are nothing but tone-deaf, MP3-listening junkies who wouldn’t know a holographic soundstage if it bit them in the ass. I’ll continue.

So after blowing the dust off of my laserdisc player, I strategically ran cables both directly from the LPCM output and from the RF-output via my AC3 RF modulator so I could easily toggle back and forth between the 2.0 16/44.1 stereo (ProLogic) track on the LD, the 5.1 AC-3 (Dolby Digital) track on the LD, and the new 5.1 Dolby Digital DEHT mix on the new DVD. To make things even more fun, I hooked up my old DVD player so that I could also seamlessly toggle to the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix on the old DVD. Wow. What a deal:

  • 2.0 16/44.1 LPCM (laserdisc)
  • 5.1 DD/AC-3 original mix (laserdisc)
  • 5.1 DD original mix (old DVD)
  • 5.1 DD DEHT mix (new DVD)



After a while I became quite skilled at quickly syncing the various discs up to within a few seconds of each other to enable quick and effective toggling during play. It helped that the laserdisc and original DVD shared the same chapter stops.

So what did I learn in my 2+ hours of source switching?

Firstly, the recording level of both the LPCM and AC3 on the laser is noticeably lower than either of the Dolby tracks on the two DVDs. I found this interesting as one might have assumed that the laser and early DVD shared the same core Dolby Digital compressed soundtrack. They clearly do not. Yes, I adjusted levels to compensate accordingly during my listening session.

The second thing I noticed was that while the “mix” of the 5.1 AC3 on the LD and older DVD sound like they are derived from the same LPCM master, the sound quality of the Dolby Digital on the (original) DVD was much better than the LD's AC3… much more open, natural, and with a richer sense of musical textures and micro-detail like musical decays and ambient “hall”. In fact, the Dolby Digital on the older DVD sounded very close to the fidelity of the 2.0 LPCM laserdisc track in terms of musical naturalness. I was quite impressed (though voices still sounded most natural of all on the laserdisc’s LPCM). The LPCM did present a more believable sense of space and nuance versus the older DVD’s DD track, but the improvement was subtle. Given this only slight improvement in fidelity on the LPCM, I felt that the gains in soundstaging with the discrete 5.1 encoding on the older DVD were a reasonable trade off and out of all the audio mixes the 5.1 DD on the previous DVD emerged as my preferred choice.

The important conclusion was that all three “original” audio presentations did a superb job of faithfully reproducing believable vocals that were lush, natural, and liquidly smooth. The sharp contrast with the dry, flat, almost brassy nature of the vocals on the new DEHT mix in comparison was undeniable. The vocals on the new DVD’s DEHT mix sounded “electronic” in a way that pulled me out of the film during what should have been the most encompassing moments of the story.

My memory had not betrayed me. This new mix really was the problem after all.

Because firstly Disney insists on putting a bastardized mix on this disc that disregards the integrity of the original recording's natural tonal quality and fidelity, and secondly because in doing so they also elected not to provide the original mix as an alternative, I cannot view this DVD presentation of The Little Mermaid as quality effort.


Sound Quality: 2.5 / 5

Dr. M

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*sigh*

So I guess I need to find a laserdisc of it. How many editions are there?  Hopefully only one, or maybe one each CAV/CLV from the same release?

"Right now the coffees are doing their final work." (Airi, Masked Rider Den-o episode 1)

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 (Edited)

I remembered there being a CLV and CAV release on LD. I suppose there had to be an AC3 one as well.

I didn't realize there were THAT many.

Really though, give the older DD5.1 mix a listen before going off on a crazy crusade, it's very well done.

The theatrical re-release IIRC was based on the original ProLogic-like stereo mix (or the 70mm six track as SilverWook was saying). It's not like they pulled more channels out of their butt, they largely just used newer technology to provide discrete channels for existing ones when theaters became capable of handling that (thanks to the switch to DD, DTS and SDSS).

I'm sure there were some changes (70mm six track does not correspond to the same speaker placements as modern DD5.1), but really, when HTF thinks a 5.1 mix sounds better than a PCM original, they probably have a good reason. Less channels isn't always better, just less. :-)

Dr. M

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I only comment because way back when, I set up my first two channel system. I was recording TLM off the Disney channel to preserve my original VHS. The downmixed stereo for the 97 sounded vastly different compared to the 89 stereo. Thanks for the info. It's good to know these 5.1 remixes have some creditability to them. DVD or no, I'll never let those tapes go.

While we're on it, my big concern recently is Sleeping Beauty. They're releasing a 7.1 mix. I know the source is six channels, but the original is stereo. A fifty year old movie in 7.1 just worries the heck out of a purist like me that wants the Bkuray (you've got to love the misleading add the touts the new 2:55:1 transfer by having a cropped widescreen image morph into a fullscreen one).


Made for IE Forum's Episode III theme month - May 2005.

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If you want to preserve Little Mermaid, get yourself a laserdisc player and any of the older laserdiscs and do a rip of the PCM track.

Heck, get me a copy of the audio track and I'll sync it for a second edition if you'd like.  Preserving a TV recording on VHS sounds pointless, but maybe that's just me.

It's important to understand that when stereo audio is mixed for theaters, there is a 3d holophonic soundstage.  It should be unnecessary to explain that sounds can seem to come at you from various directions including behind you in these situations.

Dolby ProLogic and similar are capable of interpreting this from 2 channels of input and localizing them to specific speakers to improve the quality and make it so everyone doesn't have to sit in a tiny little sweet-spot to get the effect.

Upmixing from this is quite possible and the masters may even already be multiple channels to start with.   The can simply use the same audio, and with some small tweaks pass it discretely instead of all squished together into 2 channels.

Now that goes out the window with Disney's DEHT mixes which are designed for "home theaters" (which means idiots that can't set up their system, don't know how to use the audio menu on a DVD, or are watching on a 9" single speaker television).

But... most studios make a deliberate effort and tend to do a pretty good job with an upmix.

As far as full frame, this has been discuss before as well.

A lot of times animators will work with the full cells when creating animated movies and down the road TPTB decided they want to make it widescreen for greater impact or marketablility or whatever.

To do this they just crop the film when transferring it.

Sure you are most familiar with the widescreen presentation, but the animators never did all that work with the intention of a portion never being seen.

It's not the same as cropping live action films for widescreen, because in those cases there is a cinemetographer who knows what will and won't end up in the final shot composing the action based on that.

Dr. M

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Anyone know if the "goran nasai, suteki deshou" Japanese dub (first line of "Part of Your World") made it to video?  I know there was an OST that used it.  The other newer dub I call the "yoku mite, suteki ne" dub.  The meaning is the same; the newer dub is more casual Japanese but screws up the meter. (Scan English: "Look-at-this-stuff is-n't-it-neat", the old Japanese dub fills it in, "go-ran-na-sai, sute-ki-de-shou", the new one, "yo-ku-mi-te, sute-ki-ne" with a missing syllable at the end of the line!)

"Right now the coffees are doing their final work." (Airi, Masked Rider Den-o episode 1)

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Dumbo and Toy Story 2 are also being altered. Dumbo is deleting the Crows from Dumbo, and the Bloopers in TS2 are gone.

To me, Star Wars is a brand that means quality, just because it’s a bad SW film, doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie.

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This is a ten-year-old thread… 😮

Ol’ George has the GOUT, I see.