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Vintage movie sound

vintage movie sound

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#1 John Barlow

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 09:57 AM

I am trying to find more info on vintage movie sound techniques.

 

I love the warmth, presence and timbre of the vintage movie sound tracks, which modern movies dont seem to have.

 

Thinking about for example Peckinpah's Wild Bunch with William Holden and Getaway with Steve McQueen and also Greg Peck and Burt Lancaster movies.

 

I realise these actors came through stage and theatre and knew how to project their voices, but its not so much them but the soundtrack of the movie itself.

 

Do you think it is possible to recreate this sound with modern equipment? How does one achieve this?


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#2 James Compton

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 03:42 PM

 Ribbon microphones and analog tape help to make that sound. Record the edited dialog and sound fx onto 1/4" REEL TO REEL analog tape. That will add tape compression and warmth. There are some plugins that get close, but it's like shooing on FILM - there nothin' like the real thang.


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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 05:24 PM

I'm not sure ribbon microphones would've been used for that job, at least on location. Although, they may have been used if the dialogue needed to be looped. They are usually figure of 8 pattern.

 

The Sennheiser 805 and possibly the 405 would've been around in the late sixties and I gather they sound rather different to the later models.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 05:33 PM

If you go back far enough, some of the quality of sound was due to duplicating optical tracks for editing and mixing sound.  I was just reading William Friedkin's memoirs and he talks about how Fox movies in the early 1970's used sound effects from their library stored on optical track, and how limiting that was due to hiss.  He went out and recorded new gun shots for "The French Connection", which was supposed to be a lower-budgeted Fox movie, and got yelled at by the studio line producer for spending money on new sound effects.  It also turned out that this line producer used to be a sound recordist and recorded the gunshots in the library that Friedkin said were unusable -- but only because they had been stored as optical tracks, not because this producer was a bad recordist.


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#5 Freya Black

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 07:09 AM

Nagra maybe?

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagra

 

Dynamic Shotgun mics?

 

Freya


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#6 John Barlow

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 10:11 AM

Yep, used Nagras are cheap on the used market, however emulating tape compression via a VST or sound tools plugin is also quite advanced these days. 

 

The vintage soundtracks also have that warm edgy tube sound and perhaps a lift in the 400Hz region

 

Still wondering how best to spend money chasing this sound.


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#7 James Compton

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 11:57 AM

Yep, used Nagras are cheap on the used market, however emulating tape compression via a VST or sound tools plugin is also quite advanced these days. 

 

The vintage soundtracks also have that warm edgy tube sound and perhaps a lift in the 400Hz region

 

Still wondering how best to spend money chasing this sound.

 

 Get a small, portable mid level quality, tube preamp that is designed for studio use and modify(if necessary) for field and on-set use. Have a look at the 500 series lunchbox preamps and EQ's .


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#8 James Compton

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 02:06 PM

  Check out these two 500 series mic preamps. 

 

 

LaChapell Audio 583S mk2

http://www.sweetwate.../detail/583Smk2

 

SMPro Audio Tubebox

http://www.samash.co...CFQET7AodK24AuA

 

 Work with boom mics more and alot less wireless lavaliers. You can hear the 'room' in those old movies. Naturally, some ADR will be necessary - that is where the ribbon mics come in  :D . It's alot like old school music. Older movies are like well-recorded rock songs captured  in an old wooden one-room church. New movie audio is like a downloaded mp3 of a bad bathroom recording.

 

 You will need to mix the audio differently than you would normally. Listen to the way older movies sound. Films made from about 1981- to the present have a 'hyped' sound. They started using aural exciters and reverb for sound effects. Go in the other direction. Get a good mix of dialog, room tone and foley. Do not polish the life out of it.


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#9 John Barlow

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 05:31 PM

Thanks James, useful tips there

 

I guess those boxes can also be used at post time too, ie run recorded sound through the boxes into the NLE?

 

New movie audio is like a downloaded mp3 of a bad bathroom recording.

Agreed

 

Fish poles like old skool techniques


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#10 Richard Perrine

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 03:01 PM

for year I used a senn 816 shotgun for dialog....this allowed me to keep the mic out of camera view and get high levels of audio with the mic even 10-15 ft away from the actor.

dialog was always "crisp" ...lacking bass. I longed for the rich bass tracks from the James bond films.

working with the shotgun...you can't be lazy....the front element has to point at the actor at all times....he moves...you move....the end of the mic points to his chin.

He walks 10ft across the room...you move the 10ft with him...otherwise he move off axis of the mic and your dialog level drops down 15db.

when recording (with a Nagra) ...no filtering, no limiters....you can use a low cut filter (40hz) to eliminate small room echo...but better to use some sound blankets.

 

Now as I found out.....getting the "bass" in the voice.....with an 816.......the front end element of the mic points just below the actors chin with the mic only about 3ft from

the actors chest. not possible all the time.

 

now the reason for not filtering or limiting/compressing  when recording.....you want a consistent sounding dialog track.......

in post mixing.....you will roll off lows or highs of the entire dialog track to keep all voices sounding the same throughout the entire film.

Then before mixing the dialog with the effects and music....dialog gets compressed either 3:1 or 5:1...for consistent volume....and to give it the ability to be heard and understood after the mix.

in the old days.....a mono mix for an optical sound track on film meant sticking all music effects and dialog into about -30db to 0db range.

Try playing with a mono mix of you own material to see if you can make it sound like the old tracks.

In stereo today.....the LCRS mix is with dialog only in the center channel, music -- full range 20 to 20KHZ on LRS channels , and effects about the same as music.

Un-mixed we talk about making "stems"....that is music rolls and effects rolls separately....a hold-over from making separate reels of recorded magnetic film for the pre-mix.

 

Now with only one channel (the Center ) handling sync dialog and all the others blaring ...you now know why you can't heard the actors in most of all the modern movie mixes today.

 

when recording dialog(besides mic placement)....at the head of each and every tape.....30seconds of  0db tone....for the guy to transfer all the dialog at the same level.

recording room tone? mic in the same position and volume control at same setting as used for the dialog recording....so the background noise level is same and the room tone can then be used for fill if needed.


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#11 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 03:11 PM

 Ribbon microphones and analog tape help to make that sound. Record the edited dialog and sound fx onto 1/4" REEL TO REEL analog tape. That will add tape compression and warmth. There are some plugins that get close, but it's like shooing on FILM - there nothin' like the real thang.

 

Yup.  I have a Nagra 4.2 and was recording on it the other day.  You just can't beat the sound.

 

Have you considered purchasing a Nagra and digitizing the tape?  If the source material is analog, it will always retain that warmth.


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#12 Richard Perrine

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 09:07 PM

got quite a bit of equipment here....Arri16BL, Arri35 2C, mitchell35GC...Nagra IV with 816, 8 plate flat bed 16mm editor, and Magnatech film dubbers (6 track SR).

A film collection of about 50features..... Norolco (kinoton) projectors....3 FP-20's and 4 DP-75's.....and mics and lighting gear, etc.

everything from 16mm to 70mm.

I hardly have anything that's digital....you can always find someone to sell you a copy of Prosound tools....but try finding out the hardware you need to run it or  D/A's for

even 16 channels in/out.....and you'll be searching forever.

I've got an RCA BK44 ribbon and have just added a tube mic pre-amp in front of it.

also looking at playing with a small digital audio program Audicity to start learning with.

I have yet to figure out the A/D and D/A hook-ups.

the magnatech's will run 48 channels.

 

And 45 years of running film in theaters.....

 

Rich


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#13 John Barlow

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 06:28 AM

@Rich, @Bill

 

I have been looking at Nagra, which model in yr opinions should I consider, also, what about service?

I presume tape stock is 456 or what?

 

The comment about squeezing into 30db DR, got me thinking about experimenting with highly compressed 8 bit, full band to emulate the old days.

 

I was watching a blu ray of On the Beach, with Gregory Peck the other week, man that soundtrack sure growls :)


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#14 Richard Perrine

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 08:21 AM

I like the Nagra 4.2 with the standard 150 ohm mic pre-amps (No phantom power in them)....should be a 3 speed with a xtal module and the resolver modules inside (I forget the letter code for the board...QSLI ?....it allows you servo lock and resolve to external sources)...you'll need an ATN  (110V line power supply) , a speed varier and there's a cable (QCP?) that connects from the ATN  to the Nagra  on the right side. The cable should be a pair of banana pins at the ATN to a Tunchel at the nagra end. It feeds a 60hz pulse from the 110VAC to the resolver to line lock the machine.

In practice......if you had an old mag recorder with a 110VAC sync motor in it.....the mag recorder would run 24fps all the time (except in a "Brown out").  You would have a roll of tape all ready recorded on the Nagra....throw the switch just to the right of the meter to QSLI and the deck switch  from off... counter clockwise to playback (with a picture of a speaker next to it.  The QSLI is then connected....60HZ reference come in from he power supply......XTAL pilotone is read off the 1/4" tape in playback.....Nagra then servo-locks itself and takes care of speed variations.....mag film will lock with the picture when you line it up on a flat bed or sync block.

 

The -30db to 0db range...... when I first did some filming with an Auricon single system  Optical sound camera...we did an exposure test for the optical track and sent it into the lab.   There is a point where the sound is too soft to move the galvo and it drops out in the track.  I remember that -30 being just about at that limit.  If it was too loud past  0db.....you could just blow the galvo.

 

On the Beach.....1959  United Artists....Westrex Sound mono........ With The Robe in 1953 mag film recording came in....The film camera was locked to a magnetic film recorder by 3 phase sync motors......so they got a roll of magnetic coated film with the dialog on it from the sound department. All electronics were "tubes"....give you that warmth.... Westrex dropped using variable density some time in the 50's.....and most tracks were Variable area mono.

Check out the Academy curve......100hz cut on the low end and  6db per octive  roll-off starting at 7kHz on the high ....that would be for the optical neg and track....

if they actually had the mag film to work with for the blue Ray....they would have a wider range track and could get around the Optical roll-offs.


Edited by Richard Perrine, 26 January 2015 - 08:23 AM.

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#15 Richard Perrine

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 08:23 AM

The Variable density track can be seen in the Soundman short when you watch it.


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#16 John Barlow

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 10:10 AM

Thanks, Rich, I enjoyed very much your posts. 

 

4.2s I have seen around $1000, is that about the going rate?


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#17 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 02:11 PM

Thanks, Rich, I enjoyed very much your posts. 

 

4.2s I have seen around $1000, is that about the going rate?

 

Agreed.  Look for a 4.2, but you should be able to get one for less than that.  I got mine off of ebay a while ago for $700.


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#18 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 03:47 PM

I sold my 4.2 for about £400 on ebay a couple of years ago.


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#19 Richard Perrine

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Posted 26 January 2015 - 11:05 PM

haven't been following the prices on Ebay, 800 to $1000 sounds fair.

 

Rich


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#20 John Barlow

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 05:34 AM

Thanks all, you have been very helpful

 

John


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