The Architecsonic Object

Stereo Sound, Cinema & Colors

Published in Culture, Technology & Creativity In The Late 20th Century, John Libbey Press, London, 1990
Talk delivered at Sound In The Cinema, MIMA, Linden Gallery, Melbourne, 1992
Talk delivered at International Year Of The Film Composer, AFTRS, Melbourne, 1991

Dolby Stereo & THX Sound

Next to 3-D, stereo soundtrack recording, mixing and presentation are among the most overlooked aspects of film theory and criticism (both modern and postmodern strands). On the one hand, this is understandable. Attempts to describe and articulate the effects of sound in any context - especially one such as film which is founded on visual discourses and developments - are ultimately diserviced by verbal and literary recourse. On the other hand, it is hard to comprehend this lack of critical inquiry into stereo soundtracks when one considers the unified spread of audio-visual technology on the domestic commodity front, as demonstrated by the hand-in-hand proliferation of video formats (VHS, Betacam, Video 8, Video Discs, etc.), audio systems (portable hi-fi units, chrome cassette tapes, compact discs, DAT recorders, etc.) and the integration of the two. Indeed, the ignorance much film criticism displays in regards to stereo soundtracks finds its reverse image in the familiarity which a large number of consumers have with sophisticated technologies dedicated to fusing hi-fidelity sound with state of the art image reproduction. If hi-fi sound is such an accepted feature in domestic video consumption, why does stereo filmsound appear to be so neglected in the critical domain?

This, however, is not to infer that these mass consumers are today's engaged critics, armed with perspectives that afford them instant critical insight, while the learned academics remain stuck in the past with their fading critical methodologies rooted in literature, theatre, painting and photography. Rather, today's mass consumers - through their purchase of hi-tech audio visual components for domestic consumption - are possibly more in material contact with the contemporary cinematic experience : an experience born from developments in sound-image fusion as they have grown over the past fifteen years or so. My point is that while film criticism generally has neglected these developments in sound-image fusion, many people are - without any external critical prompting - totally conscious of the effects, results and plays of these important changes in the cinema. While this observation doesn't exactly get us anywhere, it is worth noting as a sign of our current technological environment, wherein this is but one of many discursive gaps dotted across the interlocking planes of experience, perception, articulation and consciousness.

Out of such gaps seep the misunderstanding and disinformation which have abounded since the introduction of Dolby soundtracks into cinema chains in the mid seventies. In fact, the success of the Dolby system may well be responsible for much of the hazy and lazy perception of filmsound, accepted as it is despite a widespread unawareness of what it entails. So what is Dolby? Simply, it is a patented noise reduction system employed in the crucial mastering of the final studio mixdown and optical transfer of a film soundtrack [1] which offers a broader frequency range in recording plus minimizes surface noise in playback. Combined with high fidelity speakers installed for theatrical playback, the overall sound of a Dolby soundtrack is generally of a higher quality than the forms of optical and magnetic soundtracks film industries had been dealing with over the previous thirty years. In the history of film technology Dolby is a cultural landmark for three reasons :

(i) it was the first major advance that brought film sound more in synch with the state of audio recording (for records, hi-fis, etc.) which had been developing since the end of WWII;
(ii) it was a patented system that fairly quickly exerted a monopoly over many film laboratories and theatrical chains, forcing them to go with the market flow and purchase Dolby equipment; and
(iii) it was marketed as a buzz development so that the word `Dolby' soon became synonomous with `quality'.

Further to this, the industrial and marketing success of the Dolby system was the prime factor in opening up a broader industrial and artistic context for stereo applications in the construction and presentation of film soundtracks. This is so much so that the phrase `Dolby Stereo' is perceived as a single technological process, when in fact it is a marriage between a high fidelity recording process (based on encoding and decoding noise reduction) and a 3-channel stereo playback system (left and right surround and/or discrete sound effects with dialogue generally placed centre) - the latter of which had been in existence since the early fifties [2].

But even throughout Dolby's first reigning decade, stereo filmsound was not entirely without its problems. Apart from the technical problem of projection adaptations, mismatched playback systems and badly designed acoustical set-ups in theatre chains around the world, stereo filmsound needed to explore and experiment with its own post-production effects in order to realize what it could contribute to the film narrative without destroying the cinematic text. This means that most stereo mixing in films right up to the early eighties was often as forced and rupturing (or `artificial' and `unnatural' if you prefer) as 3-D and all its claims to put you into the picture. Stereo sound generally went for that same, major desire of all postwar technology : to infuse you into its environment (aural, visual, tactile, surfacial, sculptural, mobile, etc.) through perceptual manipulation - but often with a ridiculously literal approach to executing effects, such as :

(a) panning the spoken dialogue across the screen as the characters move across the screen;
(b) alternating the direction of sound occurrences in line with shot/reverse-shot spatial conventions so that when the image cuts to a different perspective the sound simultaneously shifts and suddenly comes from a different point on the screen;
(c) creating ambient or environmental atmosphere sounds in artificial stereo which at times unintentionally make certain scenes appear hollow and cavernous due to the mismatching of on-screen true visual space; and
(d) suddenly cutting to a wider stereo mix and often louder surround-sound when musical numbers or manipulative sonic effects overtook the film.

As such, the early stereo soundtrack (which utilised what could be termed a `planar' approach to spatial mixing, exemplified by the above examples) would often draw attention to itself and break the textual form engineered by the more established production levels of the film. This inevitably went against the grain of many accepted critical modes (most of them unknowingly derived from a Bazanian model of naturalism - yes, Bazin, he who couldn't even handle wide-screen formats!) and thus didn't help push the topic of stereo filmsound into the main arena of critical enquiry, dismissed as it generally was as a hi-tech novelty for an audience attracted to fad technologies. (In hindsight, it is amazing that the poststructuralists didn't pick up on the `rupturing' effect of early stereo filmsound mixes, as they sonically blasted you out of the movie into the fractured and isolated confines of the theatre.) Whatever the reasons for this dismissal of stereo filmsound, the fact remains that it took a decade of experimentation before aural narratology in the cinema could be clearly discerned as having entered a new phase - that of stereo space, sonic detailing across the screen, and contrapuntal movement of sound with mobile camera perspectives (concepts we shall discuss in detail shortly).

Apart from the slow rate at which technological flaws were improved upon in an industry seemingly allergic to change, the narratological ruptures of `planar' mixing were largely caused by the soundtrack being temporised by the conventional 3-channel set-up. Filmsound has had to cope with an inherited logic where spoken dialogue is always placed in the centre (the visual point of conscious focus) with sound effects and music tracks spread into a fairly thin left-right spacing (so as to wrap around the central focus of the dialogue). The point is that sound design here follows the faded yet eternally stained formations of literature and theatre, where `narrative' is essentially the dramatic housing for character interaction as generated by spoken dialogue [3]. Narrative film is consequently careful to accord a separate and privileged space for spoken dialogue, reinforced by employing stereo spacing in a secondary role, either as (i) an aural background as required by the formalism of an audio-visual reality, or (ii) a sensurround `you-are-there' tactical effect. The transition from mono to stereo filmsound has thus been retarded by some overly literal approaches to linking actual acoustic space (by mixing filmsound strictly in a left-right-centre framework) with the more complex `psycho-diegetic' screen space (how one comprehends the conventions of foreground, background, on-screen, off-screen, etc.). Even inventive lateral approaches to this problem similarly gambled and lost, such as Sensurround (a cheap but viable carnival-type of trick produced by pumping extra bass frequencies into speakers installed at the rear of the theatre to simulate an intrusion upon the actual viewing space, as in Earthquake, 1974) and Quadrophonic sound (a literal interpetation of sculptural/architectural space which attempted to transform the structural conventions of a four-walled enclosure into a cine-acoustic space, as in Apocalypse Now, 1979).

All in all, it had become clear by the early eighties that the `planar' approach to the emanation of screen sound was simply too graphic in its spatialisation : filmsound needed to be effected and generated in a more dimensional way, and that the prime problematic in shaping a dimension was obviously relative to the actual dimensions of the theatre. As the Dolby system was initially linked to a 3-channel technical concept of filmsound and thereby linked to speaker configurations which bluntly adhered to the same technical concept, the broadening of the horizons of stereo filmsound mixing eventually highlighted the problem with such over-simplified and limiting speaker configurations which contibuted little to the dimensionality of the acoustic theatre space. Sound mixers were gradually coming to understand how sound could narrate within the stereo space of the cinematic text, and their results were making it clear even to producers and directors how important a role speaker placement played in amplifying those effects to an audience. All these factors in one way or another begged a new appoach to theatre speaker configuration. Enter THX.

Basically, whereas Dolby is a recording process (or rather, a component incorporated into the recording chain), THX is more specifically a configuration of speaker installment and placement (banks of two-way JBL speakers housed in a specially-built acoustic wall behind the screen, plus attenuated speaker lines around the seating area) designed to enhance and maximize the fidelity of filmsound when played back in the acoustic environment of the film theatre. An initial set-back in the Dolby franchise for theatre chains was that - like all audio recording systems - if the speaker installment and placement is not carefully adjusted to its particular environment, the full quality of the recorded sound will not come through in playback [4]. One could say that THX is then more concerned with playback while Dolby deals primarily with recording, and the THX speaker configuration in many respects realizes the full sonic potential which the Dolby recording system technically desired. Boasted as `THX Sound' (and coming complete with its marketing drive as a wonder invention from the Lucas factory) it capitalized on this growing industrial awareness of stereo filmsound's greater flexibility and creativity and thus catered to its consequent growing needs by expanding and refining the acoustic presence of the stereo soundtrack in playback.

Most importantly, the advent and acceptance of the THX sound system affords us the context to deal with the material production of a `pyscho-diegetics' - ie. the means by which one acknowledges the psychological comprehension of dimensionality depicted in film. This involves the reconciliation of perceptual modes with representational codes (which are often at odds with each other) in the projection of a world onto the film's audio-visual screen. (Consider, for example, how images are on the screen, but sounds come from the screen.) `Psycho-diegetics' are primarily based on a formal relationship between established and accepted time/space factors such as:

(i) the physical world as experienced and identified by the viewer;
(ii) the realistic scenario as translated into a fictional realm; and
(iii) the physical environment of the theatre the viewer sits in.

While it is readily accepted that there is a sophisticated set of visual (photo/cinematographic) and temporal (montage/editing) codes that work in this way which we read in order to derive a cinematic experience from our cinematic comprehension, it must be highlighted that the same applies to the film soundtrack. This is more marked in stereo soundtrack explorations, mainly because the aural projection of space is difficult to reconcile with the visual framing of space (as mentioned in the early stereo filmsound mixing techniques listed above) due to the formal visual logic already established over the past fifty years. Effectively, a total sense of `psycho-diegetic' space (as opposed to models of either narrative space or on/off-screen space) is needed to fully fuse sound and image under the advanced technological conditions of Dolby and THX. And this is where Spectral Recording comes in.

Spectral Recording

The most recent development to date in this growing field of stereo filmsound is a system labelled `Spectral Recording'. While the Spectral process arrived without even the faintest trumpet announcement, its contribution to the technological plane upon which aural narratology grows with continuing strength is major. Credited by its special corporate logo at the end of any film utilising the process, Spectral Recording is in fact the fourth major development of Dolby noise reduction referred to as `Dolby SR'. (The other three are Dolby A, B & C.) Like each and every new development in any field of technological invention, Dolby SR `improves' upon a variety of existing technical processes. In this case the level of sophistication of noise-reduction and consequent signal-to-noise ratio is so great that many recording engineers in the field are comparing the system's capability to digital recording processes. In terms of the system's application in the recording and multi-tracking of a film soundtrack, the increased fidelity also appears to afford greater control in the mixing of filmsound [5]. The crucial effects here are to be found not simply in the clarity of sounds, but moreso in :

(i) the sonic definition between sounds, allowing the individual characteristics of multiples of sound to retain their aural identities; and
(ii) the acoustic definition between spaces, allowing interlocking and/or overlapping sounds to be perceived equally in terms of location and movement.

To sum it up, Spectral recording thus appears to highlight approaches to mixing (as distinct from Dolby's recording and THX's playback) which fully exploit the broadened audio space offered by wide and multiple speaker placement (such as in THX installations and, to a lesser degree, in some of the better Dolby set-ups in cinemas not carrying the THX system). The finished filmsound employing the Spectral process is thereby allowed to inhabit and traverse a variety of spatial dimensions in the theatre, enlivening the film's stereo spacing with a multiplicity of depths, and removing it out of the comparatively flatter, more literal domain of conventional sound mixing as established via the Dolby Stereo 3-channel sound.

Where pre-stereo filmsound (since the late twenties) basically treated the film's audio-visual screen as a static block from which sound emitted as a focussed stream with volume being the prime means for articulating spatial difference (low volume = far away; louder volume = nearer; etc.), and stereo sound (from the mid fifties through to the late seventies) treated the audio-visual screen as a plane divided into channels (devised for a more detailed separation between dialogue, sound effects, atmospheres and music tracks), Spectral Recording displays the potential to treat the screen effectively as a spectrum rather than a plane; that is, as a sonic band stretched across to match the peripheral extremes of 70mm screens [6] so that psycho-optical relationships between retinal and corneal fields of vision are matched with the psycho-acoustical sensations of interpreting sophisticated sonic detailing in a full stereo spectrum. In other words, the Spectral process allows the previous separation between soundtrack layers (sfx + voice + sfx = left + centre + right) to become fully integrated into a total sonic space.

This fullness of space afforded by the Spectral process allows us to meet the problematics of articulating the effects of stereo filmsound head-on, because now more than ever, these effects are material and actual. To demonstrate this we will look at a film in detail in order to get a fix on this new phase of aural narratology. It is a new phase because it deals with what I term `achitecsonics' : the spaces constructed for sounds and musics in the cinematic text, and the consequent ways in which sounds and musics are employed in the construction of narrative. Architecsonics means what it implies : firstly, it is the sonic version of `architectonics' (the systematic arangement of knowledge as derived from models and principles of architectural structure and practice), dealing for our purposes with acoustic, aural, electronic, harmonic and musical materials and effects which articulate the cinematic text; and secondly, it is the temporal reinterpretation of narrative structures as they predominantly exist in the classical architectural manner (ie. fixed by frameworks, governed by shape and perceived as an allusion to the logic of 3-dimensional objects.)

In looking at Colors (1988) we shall see how - due to the film's showcasing of the Spectral process - narrativity is destructured and made temporal; how it is redefined as a flow (not a shape) that crosses and creates spaces, contouring and crafting dramatic action so that a `passage' (in both the spatial and temporal sense) can be presented without recourse to literature's pseudo-achitectural scaffolding and ground plans. Plainly, we shall view this film as an architecsonic object.


Before we analyse the soundtrack to Colors, it should be pointed out that while this film easily carries the best use to date of the Spectral process, many films credited as using the same process (explosive films like Robocop, Innerspace, Action Jackson, Moonwalker, Batman, Startrek V, etc. which are based on creating a dimensional cacophony into which the viewer/listener is fantastically projected) do not demonstrate the same sophisticated `psycho-diegetic' sensibility in their mixing. Herein lies the bluff of technology : any audio or visual recording system by itself never carries an inherent capability to realise the extremes of its own potential - let alone transcend them - especially when lateral, multi-disciplinary or creative approaches are required to push a system's effects further than envisaged in its manufacturers' technical design [7]. Colors, then, is presented here as an example of the greater cinematic realization of the sonic and textual potential afforded by employing the Spectral process.

So ... you sit down in a theatre to watch Colors. Dolby Stereo, Spectral Recording, THX Sound and 70mm. The works. In total silence, pre-credit information rolls up a black screen, mentioning the gangs in outer LA and the special Flying Crash division of the LAPD assigned to deal with them. Cut to a scene setting up Duval, Penn and other cops at the station. Strictly telemovie stuff. Then cut to inside a police car travelling along a freeway, looking into the car and through the side window to the traffic flashing by. The full stereo sound of some C&W music fills the audio-visual screen : crisp, delicate, hi-fi quality. It replaces all other diegetic sound effects except for the occasional distant police siren. The stars' names are superimposed on this travelling shot, so you sit back and relax as you generally do when the credits roll on. Big block letters proclaim `C O L O R S'.

Suddenly a weird and extremely loud sound - impossibly louder than the full sound you're already hearing - comes from .... somewhere. Not exactly from the screen but ... everywhere but the screen. It's the sound of a spraycan being shaken. Then an incredible slice of hissing white noise sears not just across the screen but throughout the theatre as red paint is spraycanned across the film's title, dripping down like blood. Your first full taste of Spectral recording. This first sound of the spraycan is in a sense `aural grafitti' : an intrusion of a defined space (the theatre audience) that leaves its mark upon the environment. It functions as a cue for how sound will be worked throughout the film to generate sonic effects which symbolise and simulate the territorial sense of space that governs both the fictional (the gangs-versus-cops plot) and the actual (the listening/viewing experience). In this single, powerful gesture, the textual thrust of the whole film is materially presented, as Colors - a story about gangs and cops battling each other and themselves - deals with territorial sound and demarcated space, where the presence and flow of sound shapes all forms of cinematic space (symbolic, actual, dramatic, cultural, musical) throughout the film.

After the grafitti has sprayed its presence into the acoustics of the theatre - into what effectively is an `anti-screen' space that taunts our perceptual logic - all screen sounds melt into a wall of stereo reverb as the image dissolves into an overhead helicopter shot of the city at night. The buildings sparkle in the darkness as the sound delicately fades into the depths depicted below. The scene then changes to a street level shot of an outer-suburban block corner at night. No beautiful overhead imagery; no speeding daytime traffic. The scene is empty. Silent. Pregnant. Some hard-core rap appears on the soundtrack, but once again it comes from an anti-screen space. It replicates the acoustic effect of music played in a wide empty enclosure (say, as in a school quadrangle) where a distinct delayed echo confuses the sound of the music, making a song's rhythm double up on itself to produce an arhythmic effect. But in this instance the effect is even more stylised and apparent because the delay is generated electronically (to simulate the acoustic phenomenon) to mix the music with extreme stereo separation. The question is begged : where is this music coming from? On cue, a van appears on the screen. The music is then assumed to be blaring from the van in the empty streets, but the sonic effect nonetheless remains more impressive than the mimetic presentation of the scene, signalling that this music is greater (ie. larger, fuller, stronger) than the confines of the soundtrack : it appears to come from within the film as well as from somewhere else.

The music in question is laid-back hard-core rap of the LA school - a style distinct from East Coast hip hop permutations. It's the opposite of being wired (tense, frenetic, hyperactive sound collages) - more like the transcendental lows linked to druggy, whacked-out states. The large black van cruises with the same sense of movement : lumbered, but smoothly stealing across its territory. Cut to inside the van : the wide stereo effect of the music track closes up into thin mono. What at first sounds like the vocals to the song are in fact the gang members in the van, toasting and rapping while high on drugs. Their voices sound claustrophobic, rapping on a rhythmic treadmill; trapped in the endlessly cruising van and the territorial confines of their gang life. From outside the van come even stranger noises, this time pushed right back into the spectral anti-screen space : cars passing by, police sirens in the distance. Sounds of possible danger, designed to sonically alienate the audience (via the anti-screen spaces in the filmsound mix) so as to generate the sense of unease they give to the gang members.

A new joint is lit : the match flares as the sound burns across the screen, momentarily blocking all other aural details; momentarily sealing off the world outside the van. That `outside' world is textually split once again into the fictional and the actual : respectively, the threat of the other gang cruising the same zone, and (more importantly) the audience - ie. we are the world outside, for inside the van is another world we can never experience. And it is the soundtrack alone that gives us the experience of being alienated from and by that world. By decisively balancing identification with alienation - each applicable as both our textual mechanisms and the gangs' territorial machinations - Colors draws a line on the soundtrack which we cannot cross [8].

Functioning as a clear outline for much of the film's spatial and sonic self-reflexivity, an early scene where a mother grieves over her dead son as the police arrive to investigate the incident can be broken down to indicate how the film's textual machinations are mobilised by the material assemblage of the soundtrack, which in turn highlights the territorial demarcations made manifest in this `dimensional' approach to mixing :

Further into the film, another scene marks these sonic lines of space with more force. As some gang members are brought in to the police station and transferred to a cell block, the theme song to the film ("Colors" performed by Ice-T) comes onto the soundtrack. It carries across one of the film's few amazing visual scenes as the two gangs - coded with their `colors' (either red or blue bandanas) - taunt and jeer each other from two adjacent cell blocks. Their voices become a thin cacophony, sonically embalmed in something that is literally shaking the whole cinema : bass. The soundtrack pumps out what in any other context would be an inordinate amount of bass, but in keeping with the overall stylistic tradition of hip hop music (where bass is simultaneously a sign of sonic excess and a subcultural token of black cultural identity [9]), the bass serves to energize the song, to foreground it in the film. It is foregrounded for two main reasons :

(i) technically, the subsonic frequencies in the lower range of the song's musical production (particularly the booming synthetic kick drum) are central to the record's mix and fortuitously resonate with most presence in the film's Spectral mix, generating a series of earth-shaking pulsations which make the song stand out from the audio-visual screen as much as the initial sound effect of the spray-can; and
(ii) culturally, this song is probably the most authentic black track in the movie (so much so that Herbie Hancock's score `pales' by comparison) leaving it to be the most potent conveyor of the socio-cultural scenarios the film presents and addresses.

Textually, the song Colors as a true `title track' sums up the film's status as an architecsonic object, splitting the soundtrack into three major modes :

(a) music soundtrack - composed by MIDI multi-tracking [10] the concept of rhythmic syncopation becomes not simply a musical aesthetic, but also a form of technological synchronization. As determined by the core pulse laid down, all other sonic fragments (beat or otherwise) fall into a line of rhythmic precision. The score is thus less layered and more fused and integrated, according its fragments a location simultaneously in time (the music) and space (the mix).
(b) social soundtrack - the style of the song is more of a lifestyle factor than a formal consideration, as this is the `type' of musical sound to be heard in the actual environments of the scenes represented in the film. As `film music' it communicates more through reference than evocation.
(c) film soundtrack - the song actually contains all the aural elements of the scene it is attached to, for mixed in with the musical arrangement (digital drums, synth bass lines, 3 scratch tracks, strange keyboard sound, Ice-T's voice) are some of the dominant sound effects of the film (gun shots, police sirens, 2-way radios, gang slang, police megaphones - most of which have unironically sampled from movie soundtracks). The point is that the original song - like many `gangster-style' rap tracks - features these `sounds of the urban jungle' in such an iconic fashion. The song is thus a mini-soundtrack for the film, just as the film is an extended-scenario of the song.

Panning out from these three soundtrack modes, many fractal relationships between elements and components of the film's narrative become crystalline under conditions of territorial sound and demarcated space. The central narrative conflicts of this `multi-track' film can be structurally and thematically opposed thus :

Accepting the above as the key semes in the film's aural narratology, certain formal devices in mixing certain sounds recur. For instance, the rap music generally fades up on the soundtrack, as if we/the police are invading a territory, coming into contact with the very signs used by the gangs to mark that territory : their music. Another case would be the way police sirens are floated both throughout the duration of the soundtrack (often linking, fusing or juxtaposing one scene with another) and without the spatial environment of the Spectral mix, symbolising through this displacement that the sound of danger (the siren) occurs and carries anywhere and everywhere. A final example is the combination of Hancock's chase-scene music (upbeat but unobtrusive charges of percussive overlays) with the barrage of sound effects, where the former's full stereo mix is designed to blend with the latter's sensurround crashes and screeches, signifying the chaotic music rhythm of the city.

The above aspects of aural narratology are sometimes mixed, other times isolated, thereby contributing to the dynamic contour of the text, as the thematics come in and out of phase with each other. Most interestingly, the Spectral mix allows for a full experience of the function and purpose of the various thematics by combining spaces in ways that would be impossible to achieve if employing other (cinematographic, literary, etc.) modes of narrative construction. This `dimensional' approach to mixing is clearly a critical development of what earlier was described as the `planar' approach to mixing early stereo filmsound. As such a para-physical sensation drives the dramatic exposition by manipulating the soundtrack.

In summing up, Colors `performs' and `realises itself' as an architecsonic object in the following ways [11] :

(a) it replicates and simulates the aural environment of its scenic/sonic reality (the street, gang lifestyle, rap music, etc.)
(b) it is textually enveloped by the orchestration and production of its title song's musical fragments (via MIDI composition)
(c) it accords each and every thematic of its narrative a specific place in its spatial sound mix (via the Spectral process)
(d) it privileges sonic presence over visual abstraction (highlighting an ontological observation on the cinema, that sound is always present whereas mimetic codes are based on removal and absence)
(e) it foregrounds dynamic flow over formal structure (in that the core energy of its text is eventful : through a dynamic handling of the soundtrack it generates effects more than it constructs meanings).

A final word on Colors. While it cannot be underestimated how much textual energy this film derives from the admittedly `uncinematic' realm of `musicology' (how music cultures and technology operate in a post-industrial environment, and how popular music in particular has since WWII been the one of the most complex cultural phenomenons), it is possible to view a film such as Colors - despite its misleading visual title - as awakening and being awakened by the sonic potential that cinema has always had but has often been denied [12]. Edged up against the sprockets of the celluloid strip, the soundtrack has made its presence more pronounced over the past fifteen years, where sound developments have escalated in the face of the film-vs-video grain impasse. Bypassing those granular debates, the film soundtrack instead revitalizes approaches to sound which for numerous industrial and cultural reasons cinema infrequently considered during its first half-century. The point is that the new technologies have not `re-invented' cinema; nor have they granted film unheard and unenvisaged capabilities. Simply, various developments in filmsound (and only a very small percentage have been mentioned here) have made it difficult for the soundtrack to not uncover ground lightly traversed in years gone by.

Colors - not only as a showcase for the Spectral Recording system but also as a demonstration of advanced aural narratology (`dimensional mixing', `psycho-diegetics' and `architectsonics') - redefines the cinematic experience, and hence the so-called cinematic apparatus, by manipulating and communicating to the audience in ways previously unheard of (sic). Irrespective of how film criticism and theory grapples with such a dimensional redefinition of the cinematic apparatus, the film industry has set into motion the mechanisms to produce a cinema experience along these lines, a point proven by the industrial development of Dolby Stereo, and THX throughout the world (see Addendum). Colors then is neither `just' a fancy, sonic spectacle, nor a playful, technological experiment. Far from being stranded as a hi-tech oasis, it is a drop in an ocean of sound waves.


[1] Noise reductions systems were not new at a professional level (the DBX system being a major competing force in the market of professional recording hardware) but the Dolby system - invented and patented by Ray Dolby in England in 1966 - found its greater success on the domestic front which by the end of the sixties had branched into three main streams of portable hi-fi music consumption : (i) transistor radios, (ii) audio cassette recorders and (iii) 8-track cartridge machines installed in cars. Where the sixties increased portability, the seventies brought increases in fidelity and reductions in signal-to-noise ratio, respectively : (i) the change from AM to FM, (ii) new chromium dioxide tape coatings, and (iii) more compact audio cassette car systems that eventually replaced the more bulky 8-track format. It is not by coincidence that these developments were catered to the youth market which by the late fifties was being recognized more and more by the recording industry as a separate and major demographic spread. The increased `mobility' of sixties' youth subcultures (rejecting the `home' in favour of beaches and cars) went hand-in-hand with the portability, compactness and increased fidelity of the above improvements. To youth culture in general, music needed to be bigger, fuller, more `real' - hence the success with which Dolby was marketed to the growing audio cassette market in the seventies. But why all this talk of the youth market? Well, once Dolby was established here (notably through Japanese hi-fi companies en masse employing the Dolby system in their new cassette recorder designs) it wasn't long before filmsound picked up on what was a well-founded fetish for fidelity - especially considering how the demographics of both the recording and film industries were overlapping. The first heralded films to employ the Dolby system were rockumentaries or rock related films (Tommy 1975, The Grateful Dead Movie 1976,etc.) and after what was a virtual showcase for the Dolby stereo process - Star Wars, 1977 - Dolby was viewed as the way to go for increased soundtrack clarity. (See the addendum to this article for a chronology of developments in stereo filmsound.) For an overview of Dolby's initial rise in filmsound applications, see Charles Schreger, The Second Coming Of Sound, FILM COMMENT, 1978. For an account of how the Dolby system was intially presented to the film industry, see Dolby Encoded High-Fidelity Stereo Optical Soundtracks in the special `Film 75' issue of AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, September 1975. For a techical account of the features and characteristics of the Dolby noise reduction system, see Ioan Allen, The Production of Wide-Range, Low-Distortion Optical Soundtracks Utilizing the Dolby Noise Reduction System, SMPTE JOURNAL, Vol.84, September 1975. For technical observations on the ensuing developments of the Dolby system as applied to stereo optical soundtracks since 1975, see Dave Robinson, Dolby In The Cinema, STUDIO SOUND, September 1976; Ioan Allen, The Dolby Sound System For Recording STAR WARS, AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, July 1977; R. E. Uhlig, The Sound Of The Story, AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, August 1978; and David Robinson, The CP200 - A Comprehensive Cinema Theater Audio Processor, SMPTE JOURNAL, September 1981.

[2] Technically, stereo filmsound goes back a long way - especially if one considers the use of live music to accompany silent film prints! But even as early as 1941, Fantasia - itself a milestone in sound-image experimentation - was released in "Fantasound" stereo, a system involving a 4-track magnetic soundstripe which effectively set the trend for most 3-channel playback audio-spatial designs : three tracks carrying information to played left, right, centre, plus movement between and spatial combinations of all three, and a fourth `control track' to align the volume relationships between the other three tracks in the 3-channel playback. Many other films after WWII in line with the onslaught of widescreen presentations were designed to make the cinematic experience visually and aurally greater than watching television. Unfortunately, as Cinemascope had become the major widescreen process by the late fifties, the development of stereo filmsound was retarded by its early catering to Cinemascope's employment of a special discrete 4-track magnetic soundstripe. The incompatibility between the magnetic sound stripe and celluloid footage - due to (i) monosound having always been printed as an optically-printed track running linear to the celluloid footage, and (ii) the faster rate at which the mag stripe deteriorated - prevented widespread projection, as only 35mm projectors with either special or optional magnetic sound heads could play early stereo mag-striped prints. Dolby's main contribution to stereo filmsound in the seventies was not simply its fidelity in recording and playback, but moreso the industrial viability of its process which capitalized on existing projector/amplifier/speaker set-ups around the world, thereby presenting a cost-effective system to the film industry. (The Dolby optical print is encoded with four bilateral `lines' of sonic data matrixed into two which - after decoding - are sent to the 3-channel sound system in the theatre in much the same way as the Fantasound process detailed above.) As such, further stereo filmsound exploration was equally determined by this factor as it was dependent on the increased fidelity Dolby brought to the recording and playback. For an informative introduction to the history of stereo filmsound, see Michael Arick, The Sound Of Money - In Stereo!, SIGHT & SOUND, Vol.57 No.1, Winter 1987/88. For a more technically detailed overview see John G. Frayne, Arthur C. Blaney, George R. Groves & Harry F. Olson, A Short History Of Motion Picture Sound Recording in the United States, SMPTE JOURNAL, Vol.85, July 1976. For a specific analysis of the technological relationships between the stereo filmsound of Fantasound, Cinerama and Cinemascope, see Hazard E. Reeves, The Development Of Stereo Magnetic Recording for Film (Parts I & II), SMPTE JOURNAL, October and November 1982.

[3] Accepting that theatre is not simply the written made spoken, but an arena for vocalised dialogue, acoustics have generally been the prime province for conveying theatrical effect : the stage may be visually and spatially removed from immediate eyesight, but the audible levels of the actors' voices must be maintained. While the introduction of sound film in the late twenties was treated as a fad that divided film criticism into technological (sound = invention of realistic cinema) and artistic sides (sound = destruction of silent cinema) it is often overlooked that sound may have set dramatic film back on a course of theatrical mechanics due to its reinstatement of the human voice in the narrative space. Even today, most films privilege the human voice above virtually every other aural and sonic consideration. Perhaps this is why films foregrounding either musical scores or sonically explosive soundtracks (apart from receiving little `literary-derived' critical respect) afford the more total cinematic experience - a realm where the spoken word is drowned out by its own soundtrack.

[4] Established theatre acoustical design had been viewed by recording and mixing engineers as a prime inhibiting factor in the greater development of high-fidelity filmsound ever since the widescreen/stereo explorations of the early fifties. Unfortunately, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences had set a standard in 1938 for the electrical reproducing characteristic of projected filmsound in theatres. Informally called the `Academy Curve' it stipulated that projected sound in American theatres should compensate for a `roll off' (ie. soften in volume level) of the upper frequency range of the the soundtrack because both (i) the acoustics in many theatres and (ii) the capabilities of the optical soundtrack were deemed incapable of accurately replaying such frequencies. (This standard of course affected how engineers and mixers would approach their final filmsound mixes : forced to monitor their final mixes without the higher frequencies, they would consequently boost those frequencies, which in turn would variably cause distortion in the transfer from the final mixdown to the optical printing of the soundtrack.) The `Catch 22' here was that these observations were based on late 1930s technology plus the then-existing state of psycho-acoustical subjective responses (ie. theatre patrons from the seventies onwards have experienced much higher-fidelity sound at home). The `Academy Curve' appears to have remained as stubborn a fixture as the architecture of many cinemas - at least until the mass revamping of theatres by the Dolby system in the latter seventies. Apart from the technical articles on Dolby mentioned above, see Mark Engebretson & John Eargle, Cinema Sound Reproduction Systems : Technology Advances & System Design Considerations, SMPTE JOURNAL, November 1982.

[5] A few technical notes are needed here to explain firstly the usage of the terms `spectral' as applied here, and secondly - and more importantly - why exactly the Spectral process is the next major step forward in filmsound fidelity. Firstly, the term `spectral' refers to the means by which the noise reduction process analyses the signal to be processed, ie. by spectral analysis : breaking up the range of potentially recordable frequencies in order to analyse any incoming sound so as to only employ noise reduction on the frequencies of that sound requiring actual noise reduction. This means that sounds are treated by the SR unit in a manner akin to the human ear's ability to selectively `mask' various frequencies in relation to each other. Secondly, the Spectral process is the means by which Dolby got around what was both its major breakthrough and its major stumbling block : the stereo `4-2-4' matrix processor. For over a decade now, technical debates have taken place over the pros and cons of matrix signal lines (where two SVA tracks on the optical soundtrack are matrix-encoded to become 4 signal lines sent out to a configuration between 3 main playback channels) and discrete signal lines (where there is a number of tracks corresponding to the number of channels). It has generally been agreed upon that discrete lines (ie. separate lines) allow for the best spatial definition in final theatre playback. But with the extreme clarity with which the SR unit encodes the recordable frequency range, the matrix-encoding then becomes better defined (as the SR noise reduction is also used in the optical transfer) which then means that clearer spatial definition is effected in final theatre playback. For a comprehensive analysis of the specifications of Dolby SR noise reduction, see the special supplement prepared by Dolby Laboratories in STUDIO SOUND, July 1987. For details on how Dolby were leading up to the breakthrough of the Spectral process, see Richard Elen, Down At Dolby Labs, STUDIO SOUND, March 1984. For interesting guidelines for how composers should consider Dolby noise reduction, matrix-processing and speaker monitoring, see Ron Pender & Tim Leigh Smith, Music For Film, STUDIO SOUND, May 1986; and Tony Spath & Dave Harries, Music Mixing For Dolby Stereo, STUDIO SOUND, October 1989.

[6] The bigger the screen gets and the more it curves around, the more incompatible monophonic and rudimentary stereo filmsound becomes, as the focal points of sonic emission are virtually rendered static and constricted by the dynamics of the widescreen's meta and internal movement. For an informative and succinct history of widescreen processes and presentations see Rick Mitchell, History of Wide Screen Formats, AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, Vol.68 No.5, May 1987. See also Michael Arick, op.cit.

[7] Technical credits related to the final filmsound mix :
MUSIC - music score by Herbie Hancock; additional score by Ice-T & Africa Islam; additional music Capitol production Music/Ole Georg; music editing by Carl Kaller; music consultancy by Gary Goetzman & Sharon Boyle
SOUND - sound design by Randy Thom & Gary Rydstrom; sound recording by Jim Webb; music recording by Mark Wolfson; sound re-recording by Randy Thom, Tom Johnson & Jack Leahy; supervising sound editor by Ronald Jacobs; sound effects editing by Ken Fischer, Robert Shoup & Marian Wilde

[8] A literary translation : "the central themes of the narrative are symbolically reflected in the formal and plastic qualities of the the film's construction". I could easily say this - but it wouldn't tell us anything about the core area of symbolic production, the soundtrack. In fact, reading Colors as trite and shallow because of its skeletal thematics and banal social realism is not unlike dismissing novels because they haven't got any pictures on their pages. Colors is a film predicated on and privileging sound. To not realize this amounts to aural illiteracy.

[9] The lineage of Carribean music is founded on bass : from ska (the Carribean distortion of East Coast r'n'b) to reggae (the latter being the first major instance of subsonic bass intruding upon white rock's favoured mid-range aural spectrum) to black disco (which continental Europe technologically colonized into Eurodisco and sold back to white America) to the eventual bass explosion in eighties' hip hop. This explosion is regional : booming drum machines, pounding disco bass drums, cheesy subsonic synthesiser bass lines and creative distortions of bottom-end effects travelled from the East Coast (the New York state of electro, rap, hip hop, Latin hip hop) throughout the nation (Washington go-go, Chicago house and acid, Detroit techno, Miami bass) and over to the West Coast (LA hard core rap and jack beat swing). And on it will go. Remember : bass can rock your whole body; treble just gives you a pain in the temples. While the history of filmsound privedged the tinny, scratchy timbres of the spoken word, Spectral Recording is made for bass - that subsonic dark continent which Sly & Robbie (on their song "Boops", 1988) stake and title thus "Bass ... the final frontier."

[10] MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It became the dominant means of studio-recording for pop music in the mid eighties, replacing `multi-tracking' which in the late sixties became the norm for assembling temporally dislocated sounds into a finished, pseudo-real time composition. MIDI effects a very different compositional process. Through storing all required sounds digitally (sampling) and composing/orchestrating them in temporal relation to each other (sequencing), the `performance' of a digital mix happens in real time and with perfect (inhuman) timing.

[11] If this analysis seems too alien in its rhetoric (by favouring aural and audio metaphor) there is not much I can provide as compensation. To articulate sound involves realizing it. Experiencing Colors involves listening to it as much as watching it - a mandate which acknowledges the legacy of sound-image fusion in the cinema. While it is probably unlikely that one could now take in Colors in the form of its original presentation (70mm, THX Sound, Spectral Recording), the stereo Hi-Fi VHS video release (Warner Bros. Home Video) will more than ably demonstrate all the points I have made about the film's soundtrack above - but only if one watches the tape wearing headphones to fully experience the shift in spatial dimensions in the mix.

Addendum - Chronological history of developments in stereo filmsound

Alan Blumlein's first experiments in stereo variable area (SVA) optical encoding using synchronous sound (two microphones) and image (one camera)
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sets Standard Electrical Reproducing Characteristic (aka The Academy Curve) as determined by analysing optical noise generated in theatre replay systems. This `standard' then effectively puts a ceiling on the upper frequency range of film soundtracks due to attempts to minimise noise (Note: this standard remains right through to the late 70s)
Bell Telephone Laboratories' (BTL) 1st public demonstration of stereo sound recording at New York World's Fair
Fred Waller's multiple projection onto spherical ceiling screen at New York World's Fair
Fred waller adapts multiple projection for U.S. Airforce ariel gunnery training film simulation
Fantasia released in Fantasound : discrete 4-track magnetic stereo stripe film played through 3-channel theatre replay system (complete with 8-speaker configuration)
WWII D-Day : Allie forces discover German Magnetaphon sophisticated magnetic tape recorders at Radio Luxomburg
Hazard Reeves' Magnastripe : improved process of striping celluloid film with magnetic soundtrack
Ampex recorders in the USA incorporate principles derived from Magnetaphon
Colonel Ranger's Rangertone : system of transferring 1/4" magnetic tape to sprocketed 16mm magnetic fullcoat
Fred Waller continues developing multiple projection onto spherical screens (now labelled Vitarama)
Hazard Reeves and Fred Waller collaborate to produce Cinerama : separate magnetic stereo recording played through 7-channel theatre replay system in-synch with 3-camera simultaneous image-recording/projection (Note: this combines basic principles of Blumlein's `live' recording process and Fantasound's theatre replay system, but adds widescreen image as produced by Waller's Vitarama multiple synchronous projection and Reeves' Magnastripe sprocketed magnetic film played on a synched fourth machine)
Production commences on This Is Cinerama initiated by deal with Mike Todd
This Is Cinerama premieres in New York; plays in total of 12 U.S. cities and 5 European cities; marketed as one-site extended runs (runs in New York for 122 weeks)
The Robe : 20th Century Fox's Cinemascope discrete 4-track stereo magnetic stripe film (Note: discrete tracks are all striped onto the actual projected film with 3 tracks going to a 3-channel theatre replay system and 1 track used to control signal send through theatre replay system. All multi-track film soundtracks use minimum 1 track to control signal send through theatre replay system.)
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers : MGM/Paramount's Perspecta Sound pseudo wide-stereo effect by sending mono sound through 3-speaker configuration with each speaker handling its own fequency range so that sound appears to `hover' around widescreen
Oklahoma : Todd AO discrete 6-track stereo magnetic stripe
Cinemascope-55 discrete 7-track stereo magnetic stripe : developed for Carousel but never used
Cinemiracle discrete 8-track stereo magnetic stripe : developed but never used
1960 to 1970
Stereo mag-striped film used only on special release versions of films in first-run theatres equipped for 3-channel playback. This period could be termed the Great Decade Of Silence wherein little improvement was made on the basic principles of the Cinemascope 4-track process.
Dolby-A noise reduction system : aimed at professional studio recording and engineering
Dolby-B noise reduction system : simplified version of A, aimed at domestic hi-fi market
Oliver! : 1st film to use Dolby-A in recording and engineering of musical score
Experiments undertaken by Dolby Laboratories on excerpts from Jane Eyre to determine (i) fidelity potential of optically printed soundtracks, and (ii) acoustical problems in theatre replay systems (Note: results determine that optical can handle fine frequency representation but that theatre replay systems suffer from fidelity level consistent with the 1938 Academy Curve)
A Clockwork Orange : 1st film to use Dolby-A encoding/decoding at all levels of location recording, dubbing and mixing
1st Dolby-B cassette decks released by various hi-fi companies onto the domestic market
A Quiet Revolution : Dolby demonstration film of advantages of noise reduction enhancement in transfers from final-mix to optical soundtrack
1st cinemas (U.K.) installed with Dolby 364 decoding unit to decode mono optical prints encoded with Dolby process
Dolby, RCA & Eastman/Kodak collaborate to develop 2-channel stereophonic variable area (SVA) optical printing system (Note: problems in 2-channel replay - stereo sound too widely-spaced for widescreen and thus only works for audience seated in front line of screen)
Earthquake! : Sensurround discrete 3-track mag-stripe film for standard mono playback with additional low-frequency speaker configuration (Note: track 1 - music, sfx, LF rumble; track 2 - same + dialogue; track 3 - control track to switch additional LF speakers on/off. DBX noise reduction incorporated)
The Little Prince & Callan : 1st stereo mag-stripe films encoded with Dolby
Stardust : features complicated post-production sound effects and treatments (derived from Walter Murch's work on George Lucas' American Graffiti, 1973) recorded with Dolby noise reduction
Tommy (version I) : Quintaphonic discrete 2-track stereo mag-stripe matrix-encoded with Sansui QS 4-channel matrix system for 3-channel replay incorporating DBX noise reduction
Tommy (version II) : Dolby 4-track stereo optical print matrix encoded with Sansui QS 4-channel matrix system for 3-channel replay incorporating Dolby noise reduction
(Note: Sansui QS matrix system is a unit for `blending' 4 separate lines of sound information into 2 - either as 2 separate mag-stripes or 2 lines of optical SVA - which can then be extracted and separated back into 4 lines of sound information, ie. 3 tracks for 3-channel replay + 1 track for signal send control. The Matrix system suited the needs of the conclusions reached by the Dolby/RCA/Eastman/Kodak collaboration of 1973 as only 2 lines of optical SVA could be successfully printed on a 35mm celluloid strip. The discrete 2-track mag-stripe was of higher fidelity, but mag-striping was already accepted as being twice the cost of optical printing while lasting only 1/2 the life-span of optical prints. Quintaphonics was soon to be edged out of the production field.)
Dolby CP100 processor developed to handle switching from Dolby to non-Dolby soundtracks (the latter being films mixed acording to the Academy Curve)
Lisztomania : 1st Dolby stereo SVA optical film to exploit new logic chip of the CP100 (Note: this chip analyses the Left and Right mix channels of the matrixed tracks using the `sum & difference' principle to then send a combination of the 2 channels directly to the centre-screen speaker, thus enabling audience sitting practically anywhere to experience stereo effect)
Nashville : 1st Dolby stereo mag-stripe film to receive Oscar nomination for Best Sound
Both Dolby & DBX design noise reduction adaptors for Nagra 1/4" location-sound tape recorders
Total of 14 films with Dolby-encoded optical soundtracks; 3 in stereo; 400 Dolby-364 units installed in theatres worldwide; 20 CP100 units installed in theatres worldwide
Midway : 2nd Sensurround film (Note: Paramount's Sensurround system makes industrial links with Columbia's Quintaphonic system in bid to battle the Dolby/RCA/Kodak/Eastman front)
Rollercoaster : 3rd (and last) Sensurround film despite vast improvements on system and 800 theatres worldwide incorporating additional LF speaker configuration into their 3-channel replay plus special equalisation units and amplifiers
A Bridge Too Far : 1st film in Colortek Stereophonic Sound system - a modification of the now-defeated Quintaphonic system, this time based on `hue-controlled' optical matrixing to compete with SVA processes
Damnation Alley : 1st film in 360' Sound - 2Oth Century Fox's bid to create a pseudo-surround effect akin to Sensurround
Star Wars & Close Encounters Of The Third Kind : two simultaneous showcases of the now state-of-the-art Dolby system (Star Wars is 21st Dolby stereo optical film) which receive general release in over 300 US theatres
Superman : 50th Dolby stereo film
The Wiz : features musical numbers recorded with Acousonic Recording - first adaption of SMPTE Time Code pulse to synch video-replay to 24-track recorder
Further developments in Dolby mixing in Grease and The Deerhunter
Eprad's Galaxy System : roughly capable of decoding Dolby-encoded stereo optical prints installed in 100 US theatres (at 1/2 cost of authentic Dolby CP100 processor)
Supercession of Dolby CP100 by CP200 : Incorporates chips to replace Sansui SQ matrix-encoder, so now the whole noise-reduction/SVA-matrix encoding is handled within the one unit. The CP200 also features split to handle magnetic sound options, plus add-on for extra bass enhancement (Note: in effect, the CP200 was attempting to corner off the teritory of, respectively, the Quintaphonic/Colortek system and the Sensurround system)
Colortek rechristened Kinteck Stereophonic Sound with basic modifications
Dolby SAS Surround Adaptor - another add-on for the CP200 which perfects the `sum & difference' process to now send sound to up to 7 channels around theatre space
Apocalypse Now : Quadrophonic sound showcasing the Dolby SAS Surround Adaptor plus 1st 70mm Dolby 6-track magnetic stereo
Dolby-B incorporated into car cassette decks
Superman II : further explorations of the SAS Surround Adaptor
Kintek system rechristened Cinesonics : incorporates simulation of Dolby SAS Surround Adaptor (Note: DBX still being used for this continuing name-change of the Quintaphonic system)
Dolby-C noise reduction : a higher fidelity version of Dolby-B designed for the domestic market
Something Wicked This Way Comes & Splash! : 1st films to feature digital mixdowns prior to optical transfer
Digital Dreams : 1st totally-digital film soundtrack - demonstration film by Glen Glenn Studios
Stop Making Sense : 1st film to transfer live 24-track analogue recording to 24-track digital SMPTE control
Fantasia : (1941) rereleased with digitally-remixed stereo soundtrack
Hi-Fi Digital Audio introduced into domestic market for VHS & Beta systems
A Star Is Born : (1954) rereleased in Dolby stereo, transferred and remixed from original 2-track stereo magnetic film soundtrack
Dolby Professional HX noise reduction : attempts to improve Dolby-A for professional use
Dolby DS4-2-4 matrix simulator designed for use in sound/music studio monitoring of final filmsound mix
Lucasfilm's THX-Sound System
Dolby Laboratories file patent published for a discrete multichannel optical filmsoundtrack process (Note: effectively the perfection of spatial separation of the SAS Surround Adaptor plus the ability to more successfully handle quadrophonic and `holophonic' soundtracks should they be developed)
Two patented approaches to `surround sound' (ie. `truer' spatial stereo) introduced into music recording and engineering : (i) Holophonics and (ii) Ambisonics. Talk of using Holophonics in 2010 but never eventuates.
West Side Story (1961) rereleased in 35mm stereo
Ultra-Stereo : economical stereo sound system that clones Dolby process and can roughly be played back through the Dolby CP200 in a theatre
Dolby Spectral Recording (SR) noise reduction
Star Trek IV, Innerspace & Robocop : 1st films recorded using Spectral Recording
Over 1,500 Dolby 35mm Stereo movies; over 1,200 theatres worldwide installed with CP200 processor
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962) rereleased in 70mm stereo
B.A.S.E (Bedini Audio Spatial Environment) - modification of `ambisonic/holophonic' recording principles. Used in Star Trek V, Halloween IV & Back To The Future II.
Chase Surround Sound - a digital-delay stereo system to transform mono soundtracks into `life-like' stereo sound. Used primarily for TV and video remixes such as the video rerelease/remix of Bambi (1942).
Kintek continues battling with Dolby franchises, this time with a Kinteck/Bose speaker system installation of 1/2 cost of THX/JBL system

Text © Philip Brophy 1990. Images © Columbia Pictures