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 Post subject: The Cotton Club
PostPosted: 26 Dec 2019, 18:52 
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Question: The Cotton Club and early digital audio movie releases were probably mastered from film using analog videotape, the analog audio again probably taken from the optical soundtrack of the film and reprocessed to PCM and then was recombined for the LD. Does this make sense?

I understand early discs (before 1985) were pure analog and after around 1987 most major movies were mastered on digital videotape. Is this correct?

The earliest movie on LD I own that states it was digitally mastered is The Color Purple from 1986.
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 Post subject: Re: The Cotton Club
PostPosted: 27 Dec 2019, 18:37 
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Most Hollywood movies from the mid to late 1950s or early 1960s recorded all dialogue on set to mono analog 1/4" tape on a Nagra III then other Nagra models until around 1989 when Jeff Wexler (The Natural, ID4, Fight Club) first began using DAT to record dialogue on set.
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First movie I did with DAT was "Ghost" in 1989 on a SONY D-10.

Prior to DAT those 1/4" tapes often got printed to a piece of film so they could edit and sync sound to picture. Then all the scoring and other audio gets recorded and mixed with the dialogue, likely to analog tape or maybe just a film print for distribution. Some videos below illustrate the process a little.

https://jwsoundgroup.net/index.php?/topic/29225-the-first-film-made-with-digitally-recorded-sound/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=EgT4-gDaCNo&feature=emb_logo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjKQNykc_04&feature=emb_logo

In 1986 Sony introduced the D1 (component) digital video format and from then on "Digital Mastering" was possible. Prior to that it was likely 1" analog video tape. The D1 system allowed a SPDIF input so that the master contained digital audio. D2 (composite) arrived in 1988.

So technically speaking LD with a completely digital audio chain was not happening until 1989 at the very earliest and even then, Jeff was a Pioneer so it wasn't for another year or so before more mixers adopted that workflow. Even then, the DAT tapes *may* have just been transferred (via analog) to a piece of film as before the days of DAT because their systems had not evolved yet.

So, The Cotton Club in 1984 was almost certainly recorded to 1/4" analog tape (on set dialogue) so if the LD has PCM on it you should know that the source of the PCM is still analog.

Maybe some of that was useful....
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 Post subject: Re: The Cotton Club
PostPosted: 27 Dec 2019, 19:53 
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Also, “digitally mastered” refers to the complete audio/video package and not necessarily anything to do with the sound. It could be a silent movie or even analog only sound on the LD and still be “digitally mastered”. That term just means that at some point the video passed through something digital as the LD was being made.

There were very few portable digital audio recorders suitable for recording movie sound on set until the late 80s so few things not recorded in a studio, movies or otherwise, will have a full digital existence before then. Even after that I’d say some kind of tape probably lasted until the 2000s just because of the price/reliability of storage.

I will say though that even before LDs with Digital Sound, even before digital mastering and purpose made prints for video many things made for home TV or video would have had their soundtracks made from a master tape if it existed rather than the optical track. Optical tracks aren’t as high spec as 1/4” tape, they deteriorate quicker, etc. They have the wow and flutter of tape and the pops and hiss of records.

Any time you see on home video that the mix is significantly different from theatrical that means they went back to the multitrack master and did a new mixdown so in those cases there would be no optical track used.
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