Souped-Up Superman Page 3

Super Sonics

Fixing the soundtrack meant going to the original 70mm master release print, which had the music, dialogue, and sound effects combined in a six-track mix. But the hurried postproduction that had compromised the flying scenes had compromised the sound, too. Tracks were dubbed one on top of another, making the final soundtrack less than ideal. Again, it was up to Thau to find the best possible materials to use for the restoration.

He happened on an item marked "miscellaneous 1-inch master" while searching through the massive inventory. "When something is that vague," he remarked, "it gets your attention." The box turned out to contain eight reels of 1-inch audio tape marked Superman 3M2, 6M1, 4M5, and so on. His jaw dropped: "Just a second. That's how we slate music! Could this really be what I think it is?" It was - the original masters of the John Williams score.

Williams had recorded the hundred-piece orchestra on 24 tracks, which were then mixed down to the six tracks on the 1-inch masters. All of the music was in two sets of left/center/right channels, with each set taken from a different perspective of the orchestra. This gave Thau everything he needed to create a 5.1-channel surround mix.

To avoid having to run the precious masters through the tape machines more than once, music editor Robert Garrett used 24-bit analog-to-digital converters to digitize them directly into his ProTools audio production system. "Once I'd done a little bit of equalization," he explained, "mostly to flatten out that blar ey-glarey midrange they had during the '70s, bring up the high end just a bit, and punch up the bass a little, the music cues sounded incredible - absolutely incredible."

Super Models

To use the remixed music tracks for the DVD, the team needed unmixed versions of the dialogue and sound effects. They had found a tape containing the dialogue, music, and sound effects on separate tracks, but unfortunately none of it was in stereo. This wouldn't be a problem for the dialogue, but, as Thau put it, "mono sound effects just don't fly anymore."

Besides, they sounded horrible by today's standards. A lot of the big explosions, as when Krypton blows up, were just the sound of wood being broken! So Jay Nier enberg and his team at the SoundStorm effects house painstakingly went through the film and replaced most of the origi nal sound effects. On the new soundtrack, Kryp ton sounds like a big, crystal planet breaking apart - not a wooden one. Where the original effects still worked well, however, they used sampling and other methods to recreate them, but with a lot more dynamic range.

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