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Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations

When I went into the "studio system" (i.e., Desilu, MGM, Paramount) from working in the Film Department at ABC-TV at Prospect and Talmadge in Hollywood in 1959, one of my first duties at Desilu was to dolly the 1000' reel DIAL/MX/FX "units" to the dubbing stage.   So, I was able to see the mixers working at huge mixing panels with rows of slide pots and EQ controls.   To see and hear the "dubbers" in the machine room start up in sync was truly exciting, and even more amazing was how the mixers could get through a overall reel without blowing it.   Of course, they'd do one or two rehearsals to get accustomed to the tracks, following the cue sheets for where the individual audio pieces would come up between the sections of leader.   As you have stated, when the they were able to get "rock and roll" systems, they thought they'd gone to sonic heaven.   Oh, and in the "good old days", we all got a morning and afternoon coffee break (maybe not so, today).

Rod Stephens

--- On Wed, 6/24/09, Scott D. Smith <lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> From: Scott D. Smith <lists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations
> To: ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009, 7:18 PM
> Just to further clarify (or confuse)
> Tom's comments:
> There are actually a few different stages which come in to
> play on a typical film mix, some which could perhaps be
> construed as "sound-on-sound", depending on how you want to
> view the overall process.
> It was common practice (even in fairly early days), to do
> premixes of various elements, depending on their complexity.
> Dialogue pre-dubs and FX pre-dubs were the most common. This
> would allow the mixers to get the track count down to a
> manageable size, and take a lot or the tedium of basic fixes
> out of the final dub. Otherwise, you would end up with a
> track spread that was simply unmanageable.
> Depending on the final format of the mix, these pre-dubs
> could be mono, 3 track L/C/R, 4 track L/C/R/S, or 6 track
> (various flavors).
 on hand if the director didn't like some part of the
> pre-dub mix, allowing the mixers to go back and tweak the
> pre-dub decisions (although, since it took quite a bit of
> time to re-hang all the elements when working in 35mm
> analog, so it was avoided if at all possible).
> In the current digital workflow scenario used on most major
> Hollywood features, there is still a pre-dub stage (again,
> mostly for dialogue and FX), but it can usually be
> "de-constructed" when need be, as all the original tracks ae
> usually kept on the timeline. (It is not unusual to have a
> track count of 500+ on even a routine film nowadays, which
> would have given mixers back in the day a heart attack!).
> As Tom points out, the guys who did all this work back in
> the days of optical sound recording were incredible
> craftsmen (no women ever sat in the mixer's position until
> at least the early 1980's). The pressure that these guys
> worked under was just unbelievable. You could get down to
> 950 feet in a mix, and if you blew a cue, the master
> negative would usually be scrapped, and you would start all
> over. (There was no reverse selsyn system back in those
> days). Not unsurprisingly, many of these guys either left
> the business, or turned into fairly hard core alcoholics.
> Sadly, while we no longer have to contend with optical
> sound re-recording and forward-only interlock systems, the
> hours and conditions the post-production crews work under
> currently make the 1940's look like a cakewalk.
> Scott D. Smith
> Quoting Tom Fine <tflists@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>:
> > Hi Aaron:
> > 
> > What they were doing in Hollywood, from the early
> days, was recording
> > different aspects of the final soundtrack on different
> bits of film and
> > then mixing together from motor-sync'd playback to a
> final sound
> > master. There were crude mixing consoles from early in
> the electronic
> > recording days, too. One specific example I was told
> about, and I'll
> > ask the guy for the film title because I don
 > final music was mixed from three optical elements, one
> made from each
> > microphone, with each microphone focused on a
> different musician or
> > group of musicians. This would be very similar to
> live-in-the-studio
> > multi-tracking. They were also able to pre-record
> music tracks very
> > early, so a singer on film would be singing against a
> playback. And
> > lip-sync'ing and indeed orchestra play-sync'ing were
> developed early
> > on, too. By the early 1930's, Western Electric (and
> probably others)
> > had developed amplifier and mixer-network systems
> allowing for mixing
> > many different sound elements into a final soundtrack.
> Also, the whole
> > idea of "stem" mixes came out of Hollywood, a way to
> reduce many
> > elements to a few logically organized stems for final
> mixdown. By the
> > 1940s, the major studios' sound departments had big
> 3-person consoles
> > for final mixing (dialog, music, sound effects). Those
> guys were aces,
> > too. Think of the mono soundtracks for some of the big
> musical
> > pictures, that's a very complex sound universe to fit
> into one channel.
> > 
> > -- Tom Fine
> > 
> > ----- Original Message ----- From: "Aaron Levinson"
> > <aaron.levinson@xxxxxxxxxxx>
> > To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> > Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 6:38 PM
> > Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations
> > 
> > 
> >> I agree that Les Paul takes undue credit for many
> things but what  Tom describes as multi-track recording
> in Hollywood is not strictly  speaking correct. To me
> multi-tracking means being able to change  separate
> levels AFTER the process, what he is describing is
> more  like sound-on-sound as opposed to multi-tracking
> as we commonly  understand it today. The same is true
> of Mike Biel's assertion  adding a sound or a voice to
> an already existing recording, this  involves a
> generational loss whereas with multi-tracking and 
> overdubbing as we employ it today it does not. But
> sound-on-sound,  stereo and a bunch of other so-called
> modern tech
ques clearly had  their unique antecedents
> which should be accorded their due. I  nevertheless
> stand by my basic assertion that the reason for so 
> many alternate takes was the recording process of the 78
> era. I am  well aware that some exceptions do exist and
> I apologize for not  duly noting them.
> >> 
> >> AA
> >> 
> >> 
> >> Tom Fine wrote:
> >>> While the general gist of what Aaron said is
> true (MOST sessions  were done live and MOST for-profit
> record labels did not want to  pay for elaborate
> overdub or punch-in stuff if it was avoidable),  Mike
> is right about Les Paul inventing very little, by any 
> reasonable definition of inventing. However, Paul is indeed
> a  superb musician with an innovative mind. I wish he
> wouldn't "take  credit" for so many other people's hard
> work, since he's done  plenty that he can legitimately
> take credit for.
> >>> 
> >>> Anyway, Mike, how did Edison do "overdubbing"?
> Did he use some  sort of acoustic mixing system or just
> play a cylinder into the  room at the same time live
> sound was being made, with the horn  picking up both?
> >>> 
> >>> As for multi-tracking, just about as soon as
> electronic-optical  recording hit Hollywood, people
> were figuring out how to mix  sprocket-synchronized
> sounds. There were multiple sound elements  to some
> very early optical-sound pictures. At least that was
> told  to me by a restoration guy who has done some very
> high-profile  films.
> >>> 
> >>> -- Tom Fine
> >>> 
> >>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael
> Biel" <mbiel@xxxxxxxxx>
> >>> To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> >>> Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 12:59 PM
> >>> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Recording Innovations
> (was: take numbers on  emerson records)
> >>> 
> >>> 
> >>> From: Aaron Levinson <aaron.levinson@xxxxxxxxxxx>
> >>>> I for one am not at all surprised by
> numerous alternate
> >>>> takes in the 78 era, it makes perfect
> sense. Anyone that
> >>>> makes records, and Tom will back me up on
> this, knows that
> >>>> even in the era of multi
fferent feel if not outright errors.
> Everything was
> >>>> live pre-Les Paul so no "punching" was
> possible.
> >>> 
> >>> I wish people would stop giving Les Paul more
> credit than he is due.  He
> >>> was not the first to do overdubbing, he was
> not the first to do
> >>> multi-tracking, and punch-in editing was not
> one of his things in the
> >>> early years.  He is an extraordinarily
> talented musician with a
> >>> fantastically innovative mind, but his knack
> is to adapt new technology
> >>> and expand on past techniques.
> >>> 
> >>> It is not true that everything was live before
> Les Paul.  Even Edison
> >>> did overdubbing on tinfoil!!!!!!!  I am
> not kidding.  This is the
> >>> absolute, well documented, truth.  Just
> this weekend Dave Weiner showed
> >>> a film at the Jazz Bash that showed a
> violinist playing a trio with
> >>> himself in the 1930s -- both sound and
> picture.  Voice over-dubbing was
> >>> common.  Adding instrumental tracks was
> common.  Editing in and out of
> >>> music -- punch-ins -- was common.  I
> challenge you to show me anything
> >>> Les Paul did that had not been done
> before.  And you have to realize
> >>> that by the late 1930s even many 78s by
> companies beyond Edison and
> >>> Pathe (who had done it back to the turn of the
> century) were dubs, not
> >>> recorded direct-to-disc.
> >>> 
> >>>> The players wanted it to be right and at
> that time the only way
> >>>> to insure that was to play it again
> Sam.  AA
> >>> 
> >>> It was not the ONLY way, it was just the usual
> way.  I have been playing
> >>> records for sixty years and have been
> researching the technology of
> >>> recording for fifty, and one thing I have
> learned is to never think that
> >>> something had never been done before.  I
> am still constantly surprised
> >>> by discoveries of earlier technologies. 
> All too often when a statement
> >>> is made "This is the first time . . ." it
> really should have been a
> >>> question "Was this the first time . . . ?"
> >>> 
> >>> Mike Biel
> >>> 

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