Souped-Up Superman Page 4
Sound technicians Steve Pederson and Dan Leahy were given five weeks to do the new mix - three weeks longer than they would usually get, or about the same time as it takes to do the mix for a new film. "Thau directed us to pull the orchestral music back into the theater," said Pederson, "even more than we typically do today with new films. He just wanted to really lean into the surrounds, which I think in a home environment will fill up the room and really immerse the viewers in the sound."
With certain reverb effects and other processing, such as panning dialogue, Pederson decided to be a little more adventurous than the mixers had been in '78. "You can obviously take license with this film. Since there's virtually no reality in a lot of scenes, you can take whatever is there and bend it."
But they did use the 70mm original as a benchmark to make sure they were maintaining the same proportions of sound effects to music. Scenes that are driven by music in the old mix are still driven by music in the new one. But the music is much louder and cleaner, and the effects are able to cut through it much easier than the old sound effects, which had a lot of hiss. A low-frequency effects (LFE) channel, which didn't exist on the original soundtrack, was added to beef up the bass.
The Superman DVD has two 5.1-channel soundtracks: the new theatrical mix of dialogue, music, and effects plus a mix with just the music. There are also unedited versions of eight music cues, remixed for 5.1 channels. A prime example is the main title music. Originally written for the end titles and then heavily edited to be used at the beginning, it's heard here at its original length.
One of the more intriguing extras is the screen tests Thau unearthed while searching through the material. You can see a skinny Chris Reeve acting in a cheesy Superman costume as well as Anne Archer, Stockard Channing, Lesley Ann Warren, Susan Blakely, Debra Raffin, and, of course, Margot Kidder, trying out for the part of Lois Lane.
Thau also discovered a little more than 200 cans of 16mm behind-the-scenes foot age shot during the production but never used. Back in '78, War ner Bros. and Superman's producers decided they didn't want to give away all the secrets of how they did the effects, so they put out a meet-the-actors fluff piece instead. There was so much good footage that Thau and DVD co-producer Jon a than Gaines decided to make three half-hour documentaries out of it.