Yes, Jacob, I’ve just explained that.
Okay, so the original mix actually contained only 3 channels of audio, not 4; no mono surround. Just left, centre, and right, with a fourth “control track” burned in to adjust the dynamic range when need be, as seen above. Those three channels were then mixed live during the night of the world premiere in NYC. According to Bill Garity, who led the charge in the production of the Fantasound system, the only time the film actually played in surround was during the Ave Maria segment, where the sound of the pilgrims choir began at the back of the room and then slowly moved their way down to the screen as the sequence progressed. Then, for the Carthay Circle Theatre premiere in Los Angeles, automatic mixing replaced manual mixing, but again, surrounds were apparently only turned on for the finale when the bells begin to chime near the end of the Bald Mountain segment. So to recap, the final Fantasound had only 3 channels of audio, but panned around a room containing anywhere between 5-96 speakers, if not more (the answer is always different depending on who you ask). And yes, when the film entered wider distribution through RKO, a mono mixed was prepared in ‘41.
The 2000 5.0 mix, technically, respects most of the original theatrical mixing approach by having the sound play entirely in the fronts, with all the left, centre, and right pans left intact. Unfortunately, when it comes time for the bells to start ringing at the back of the room near the end of Bald Mountain, and the choir to move from rear to front channels in Ave Maria, nothing. The audio is still anchored to the front stage, and that is not what was intended. On top of that, the music sounds like a little too much digital noise reduction and filtering was applied, hampering the impact of Stokowski’s arrangements and aggressive execution. Honestly, the score sounds like it’s being shot out of a metal tin can in that mix; no low end frequencies to give it any weight, and since there’s no high end frequency information left in these recordings to play with anymore, the whole thing just sounds pretty flat. The 2010 mix tries to correct these problems with better EQ’ing, but the directional effects of the mix that Disney and Stokowski intended are almost entirely lost. Very little movement from left to right, and it has a different problem than the 2000 mix had— now there’s sound playing simultaneously from every direction. You’re filling the space with Stokowski’s music, yes, but once again, not as originally intended, where the mix would mostly be entirely in the front, but then sometimes find its way to the back, then sometimes just the front right, then just the rear left, and so on. I can think of one instance in Nutcracker where the sound actually swirls around the room in the Dolby Stereo remix. That effect is lost in every mix post 1991 LaserDisc/VHS.
So yeah, neither the 2000 or 2010 releases got the audio right. The closest thing to the original Fantasound is the reconstructed mix that Terry Porter fashioned for the 50th anniversary reissue in 1990, and even that only exists as a matrix-encoded stereo track that you have to feed through the right receiver to be able to fully appreciate. If all goes well with capturing the sound elements I have access to, we should see a mix more faithful to what was originally intended. Stay tuned.
This is a project I’ll have to keep an eye on. I had not realized that they have screwed up the audio mixed on so many things. Disney really needs someone who knows what they are doing with these home video releases. I’m going to have to find that 1990 audio and listen for myself. I do have my old VHS still, but playing it is not so easy.
The audio is most effective when you feed it through a receiver that can decode Dolby ProLogic (not ProLogic II) so the matrix-encoded mono surround channel is sent to the back of the room as it was intended. When it’s most active, however brief those moments may be, the mix goes all over the room, and it’s pretty darn cool.
The biggest challenge will have to be how to handle the Deems audio. Do you put the shortened intros? Do you put the full video with Deems where available and subs where not? Do you provide the dub as an alternate track?
I don’t want to reveal too much about what I want to do w/ the audio just yet, but as far as the interstitials go, for now, the truncated versions are all I can use as the release containing the extended audio (brought up in the main post) has not yet surfaced as of this writing, and suddenly muting Taylor’s audio to turn on subtitles for prolonged periods is less a cohesive experience than I was planning on creating. At the moment I’m not entirely sure I would go through the trouble of cutting together a truncated version of the 2000 dub, either. I’m honestly not too fond of it and as it turns out, many other fans aren’t, either. Perhaps the dubbed interstitials could be provided as individual bonus features for those who have never even bothered purchasing any official release and want to see the original footage play out completely.
I’m curious as to how this magnetic stereo mix differs from the 1990 reissue’s amazing soundmix.
The most important sonic characteristic which sets the mag soundtrack apart from the 1990 remix is that the former is dry as a bone; absolutely no artificial reverb or post-processing effects were thrown in to “sweeten” the audio. These really are the original left/centre/right channels of theatrical audio, albeit a generation or two away from the hissy nitrate sources. The Dolby Stereo remix from 1990 was the first time since 1940 that the movie was experienced as it was originally intended, but I noticed several times in that very mix that the centre channel, for some reason, sounded noticeably more muted than the left and right, so more than several passages of music throughout the program don’t quite have as much impact as they do on the mag tracks. On top of that, in some instances, Terry Porter doubled and slightly delayed certain passages of music in the rear channels to recreate the enveloping effects Stokowski originally intended, but even when it’s properly unfolded from the Dolby Surround track, frankly, it really sticks out and draws a lot of attention to itself, and not necessarily in a good way. In the event that I get the mag tracks (again, hoping for the best), I’ll post an A/B comparison with empirical evidence to demonstrate key differences.
What do the colours look like in the final shot of the film during Ave Maria🤔😊😉😊😉
Frankly, pretty close to what it looks like on Blu-ray.
One of the changes that encouraged this preservation project were scenes like this from A Night on Bald Mountain. Needs no explanation.
2010 DTS Lowry Restoration
Original Technicolor Timing
Those guys are great, and I have asked around a few times publicly and privately for a mag IB print. Not long after, someone offered the 1956 SuperScope print, and unfortunately I haven’t heard from them in almost two years. The stereo mag print I currently have is on SP color and already turned a very strong red. But the scanner this print is (hopefully) going through has an on-the fly fade correction algorithm that works exceptionally well, and there’s still plenty of blue and green information left intact on every reel. So again, worst case scenario, I do still have plenty of great 35mm material to worth from, thank God; I simply prefer the video be entirely sourced from an IB Tech print. If the restored mag footage looks just as good as new after going through the scanner, though, I’m seriously not splitting hairs. This project needs to move forward at some point after all. =)
Honestly, the only thing I really need help with is what I brought up in the first post: finding Reels 1 and 4 from another 8-reel IB Tech print. Preferably from the mono '63 or '69 reissues.
I wouldn’t be able to at the moment as that remix has not been completed yet. Perhaps when it’s finished, I will likely cut together “before and after” samples that highlight the differences and improvements made from the film’s last official release.
I’ll take your word for it regarding The Jungle Book, but I personally thought that film’s discrete surround remix fared much better than that for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Compare how the music playing over the opening credits (and a few other scenes) sound(s) on the 1996 releases with how they sound on the 2002-onward releases…it’s even more night and day than the differences between the matrix surround and discrete surround versions of “I Wanna Be Like You”.
That mix is the best way to appreciate the film’s score, but even that is not without its own problems. The soundtrack has no matrix-encoded surround information to decode despite being advertised as a Dolby Stereo track, so it’s only a standard stereo mix— in fact, in some scenes you can hear a doubled layer of score delayed by milliseconds in the phantom centre that was clearly supposed to be coming from the back of the room when fed through the right receiver. Not sure what happened when Disney mastered the disc audio but it makes fixing other dialogue/music sync issues, that do occasionally crop up, a flipping headache to correct.
These kinds of problems are most evident, for example, in the sequence where Rabbit gets lost in the woods; it’s almost impossible to ignore the music echoing in the centre field a split second after you hear it from the left and right, and Rabbit’s call for help near the end of the sequence clips pretty badly. Another mixing faux pas that drives me crazy is when Tigger talks to the narrator near the end of the film. For some reason, the mixer layered the score that’s supposed to be playing underneath the dialogue with the instrumental to what sounds like the “Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” reprise, resulting in a frustrating cacophony of music that was clearly not originally intended.
Those are just the examples that come to mind as of this writing. Despite its minor problems, the mix is still the best the film has ever sounded, and a Godsend for anybody still waiting for Disney to drop the complete stereo score via their “Legacy Collection” line. But I’m kind of digressing; the whole point of this wall of text is to further what was earlier said about Disney’s inconsistent attention to the quality of presentation of their A/V. Back to Fantasia, its last release obviously focused more on the video presentation than that of the audio, and it’s been that way since the 1990 Fantasound reconstruction. Again, the write up I linked to earlier highlights the issues w/ the 2000 and 2010 DTS mix.
I think he meant to ask if I was going to remix the captured audio in 5.1, and yes, the plan is to fashion a new multichannel mix, but as previously mentioned, it depends heavily on the quality of the source material and capture, so I can’t promise anything at this point. Once the mono and stereo audio has been digitized, I’ll know for sure what I’m working with. HDR for the video is a must. Once you’ve seen Fantasia properly projected with just the right amount of luminance, there’s no going back— some of those special effects really pop in 35mm, and you really won’t get the full effect in SDR.
Disney is wildly inconsistent with the A/V quality of some of their titles. The Jungle Book is another one that comes to mind. If ever you can, listen to the 1990 Dolby Stereo soundtrack; it’s noticeably more enveloping and consistently separated than the 2007 Platinum Edition mix, despite the latter being presented in discrete surround. Sound effects pan more frequently in the Dolby Stereo mix, and while the underscore for almost every song is mixed in broad mono that sounds flat as a pancake in the Platinum Edition (”Trust in Me,” “My Own Home,” and the closing “Bare Necessities” reprise being the only exceptions), you can hear separate music stems at play in the Dolby Stereo mix. The differences between 1990 and 2007 “I Wanna Be Like You” in particular are like night and day. (I’ll probably post the A/B comparison videos here soon.) So, yeah, there’s trade offs between both options— few scenes have broad mono score while most are in true stereo, and it isn’t always the same scene in both mixes.
For those interested in Fantasia’s audio history, I’ve explained it here.
That’s incredibly appreciated, but the project is currently self-funded. The aim for both prints is a 4K HDR scan, which-- factoring in hard drives, shipping, pre-scan film cleaning-- is altogether going to be so ridonkulously expensive that the goal would have taken forever to reach through crowdfunding alone, if it ever got there at all.
I bring it up here in the first place simply for fans of the film, Disney, and preservation in general to look forward to the project’s completion. And in regards to the funding goal…
Reel 1 contained the first 14 minutes of the film (introduction by Deems + Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), and Reel 4 had the other 2/3 of the Rite of Spring. Worst case scenario, the mag print that I have for the soundtrack is thankfully complete without a single splice, so for the time being I can substitute the missing IB Tech reels with the same ones from the mag print. In fact, the plan was to have both prints scanned anyway so that any missing footage from the Tech print could be patched using the mag print scan, whether it was the occasional missing frame or, in this case, a whole two reels of Technicolor footage.
Thank you very much. n__n
I’m trying to make as much progress as I can given the circumstances. Already tried one scanning facility that turns out some seriously great work, and I should be getting samples from the mag stereo reels over the next few weeks. I’ll update as soon and as frequently as possible.
I’ve wanted to talk about it here for so long now, but needed to make sure I at least secured enough of the right source material first before I could speak in confidence. As fortunate as it is that we’ll be getting (most of) an original Technicolor print preserved, improving the film’s soundtrack has always been this project’s primary objective, and I can’t wait to hopefully share samples of what I have in mind for that. =D
Not from a scan, just a picture (shoddily) taken w/ an iPhone. The final scan, Lord be willing, will look much better and properly timed.
Quite a few; LaserDiscs, reel-to-reel tapes, record albums, 35mm optical/magnetic audio-- just about anything and everything I can get my hands on. Again, this is all assuming that there won’t be any hiccups during the transfer process and the resulting sound quality is optimal for every resource. Already have the LaserDisc audio, working on getting the rest digitized.
So far, that’s the plan. All I can say for now is that I might see a digitized version of that mix soon, but nothing is set in stone and I’m doing my best to keep my expectations in check. There would still need to be some work done on the soundtrack before it’s presentable, though. One of the trademarks of the original mix is its aggressive pans, but they didn’t always occur precisely when they were supposed to, resulting in some minor signal bleed between the other channels. Probably not as much of a problem when the music is played through a stereo system, but it draws a lot of attention to itself through headphones. Thankfully, that’s a relatively easy thing to fix with very seamless results. In the event that I do any work on the audio, the original raw capture will be provided as a listening option. Again, this is all barring any unforeseen setbacks with obtaining it in the first place. Hoping for the best.
Updated first post w/ sample strip.
I wouldn’t have known about the Taylor footage in this release had you not brought it up on a Skype chat, so a big thanks to you for that. Luckily, SpringBoob over there uploaded some of the draft pages I could point to. =)
But yes, that release’s biggest draw for me is certainly the sound. It did go for sale on eBay some years ago and I still have not forgiven myself for refusing to bid on it knowing what I know now about the extra Deems Taylor audio. I don’t rule out the possibility of a 16mm blue-track Technicolor print existing somewhere, though, as I’ve seen IB Technicolor Pinocchio listings (more than once!) with the same blue tracks-- RKO credit cards and all.
I’m currently in the planning stages of a very personal Fantasia preservation project, but for it to move completely forward, I need some help. The film’s footage will be sourced from a (drop dead gorgeous) IB Technicolor print from 1963, which unfortunately lost reels 1 and 4 to the worst case of vinegar syndrome I’ve ever personally witnessed; completely unusable. If I can get those two reels from another 35mm IB Tech print comprised of 8 reels-- even if I can only borrow them for scanning, then we’re in business. (Not literally, this is strictly a non-profit preservation project, as it should be.)
The other problem involves the film’s master of ceremonies, Deems Taylor. As Fantasia’s original sound elements no longer exist, neither do Taylor’s complete commentary tracks, and all that has ever survived is what’s available in the general release version. Or so I thought; according to this post, studio continuity drafts for the 1942 release confirm that more of Taylor’s recordings did survive in that 81 minute cut. I guess this is a call to action of sorts to all film collectors/archivists and dedicated enthusiasts who happen to peruse these threads, that either have access to a reduction print or an original blue-track Technicolor print of this release, or at least knows where either may exist. I’m trying to include as many of the original soundtrack elements as possible in this home brew, even if it’s just a minute or two more of commentary audio that wasn’t previously available, so locating a good copy of this release would be of enormous help.
Hope I can share more about this very meaningful project in the near future. =)
Nothing to worry about. The Fantasia on the 1990 reissue and 1991 VHS releases are one and the same, both running at about 119 minutes. Unless the theatrical reissue prints were played at 25fps instead of the intended 24, I’m not sure why someone would note that they ran 5 minutes faster than the VHS, because they most certainty did not. Disney, too, noted this on their anthology box set from 2000, and it is simply not correct.
The short answer, unfortunately, is no. The $100-$200 price range is likely to get you a good print scan if you know who to ask, but it’s definitely not enough to buy a dedicated scanner to do it yourself. Lasergraphics’ ScanStation units are fairly popular for this sort of thing, but the most “affordable” option is a whopping $50K, minimum.
I would pay close attention to the Kinograph website as the year goes by. This is a do-it-yourself 16/35mm film scanner that already has a second, improved model currently in development, the ballpark cost of which will be somewhere around the $1K-$2K range, I believe. With that, you then have the option of buying the same area imaging sensors that ScanStation and the like use for their units, if not better. Sony, for example, just released the Pregius 6.5K CMOS area scan sensor sometime last year, and it was reported somewhere on Cinematography.com that Lasergraphics was already testing it for future use because of its improved dynamic range and noise levels.
From what I understand, though, and somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, you won’t pull that much information off a release print by scanning anywhere above 2.5K resolution. Where a larger resolution scan succeeds, if memory serves, is in the amount of noise (or lack thereof) that it captures—- usually the lower, the better. Then you can downres to 2K resolution and still have a fairly sharp transfer with little to no distracting noise levels. But it’s only one of several factors; in the most general/blanket sense, if the camera you’re using also has large photoreceptors, regardless of what resolution you’re capturing in, then you collect information with less noise problems. You also want to make sure you’re using diffused lighting, which can do a great job hiding some really nasty surface scratches without having to perform a wetgate scan.
Hope this helped in some way, and that others with far more experience and expertise in using and building film scanners can chip in here, too. All the best in your preservation efforts! =)
I happened to be the one who bought this print much earlier this year. It had some pretty bad vinegar syndrome, almost all of the color was gone, and it was most certainly not a “1940 print.” It was a reprint of the general release version from the late 40s. Promptly returned it.
Fantasia suffered, man. For those unaware of the film’s troubled sound history, the long and the short of it is that the original nitrate stems, that made possible the final 4-track Fantasound mix, no longer exist. All that was left for sound engineer Terry Porter to work with for the Dolby remix in 1990 was a magnetic copy of the original mix made in 1955 (only one Fantasound print had survived by that point, so Disney worked fast to preserve what was left). In addition, he used notes by Stokowski himself that told mixers where to pan the sound and when during the film, so it would say things like, “Left wall…,” “Kill the fronts…,” “Back only…,” and so forth in order to correlate the movement of the sound with the movement on and off screen. For instance, the church bells near the end of Bald Mountain ring from the back of the theater as they were meant to, originally causing Carthay Circle Theatre patrons to turn around in their seats in complete disbelief that they were hearing what sounded like actual church bells coming from the back of the room.
Armed with Stokowski’s copious mixing notes, the resulting remix was as faithful a recreation of the intended Fantasound as anybody has ever gotten. So far, VHS tapes and LaserDiscs of that same reissue, fed through a receiver with Dolby Pro-Logic decoding, are the only way you can hear that mix, with hard pans to the left, right, front, and back. Pretty cool stuff.
The 60th Anniversary Edition DVD from 2000 has a 5.0 mix that, on paper, looked like it was going to be a discrete version of the same Dolby mix from the 50th anniversary edition, which would’ve been welcome, but the score never steps out of the front to move around the room as it did before. Plus, it sounds insanely compressed, even in DTS.
The 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from 2010 has a 7.1 mix that is a truly curious case. The left/center/right Fantasound audio was not only DNR’d to death but also thrown to the back of the room (???) while a mono downmix of that very same information overpowers it from the front, narrowing if not completely erasing the original stereo image during playback. It’s like this throughout the entire film, not once moving around the room the way that it should. As a result of the previously mentioned (and excessive) DNR’ing, details in quieter passages have been filtered out along with most of the noise floor, and now sound muddied. What’s more, there’s this strange series of chirpy, crackling artifacts found in the upper frequency region during loud passages that’s almost impossible to ignore. A seriously troubled mix this one is, and to think it got a 5/5 on several well-known Blu-ray review sites.
I’ve heard professional captures of the magnetic stereo mix from a SuperScope reissue (not from poita’s upcoming project, but from a collector who owns a 1963 stereo print) and the film is much better heard this way than through anything else officially available to consumers. In addition, Fantasia also had what sounded like a dedicated mono mix-- it wasn’t just a fold down of the 4-track stereo mix. Different sections of the orchestra were better prioritized here than they were in the stereo version, and because of several technical tells I am thoroughly convinced that what you’re hearing really is a dedicated mix that sourced the original stems before they were forever lost to time… with an exception made to what sounds like an alternate take for “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker Suite; doesn’t line up with the stereo mix at all. Julietta Novis’ first “Ave Maria” towards the end of the film sounds like a different take, too, but the rest of her vocals and the segment in general sounds otherwise identical to the stereo version.
It’s a shame neither the mag stereo nor the optical mono tracks were just given as clean a capture as possible and offered as a listening option; both sound great.