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Author Topic: About sound (stereo?) on 16mm films...
Jan Bister
Darth 8mm

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From: Ohio, USA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted August 20, 2005 03:53 PM      Profile for Jan Bister   Email Jan Bister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Been wondering... (like I always do...)

OK, let me summarize what I know and correct me in case of any mistakes... 16mm sound film nowadays comes with an optical soundtrack which provides monaural sound. There are no stereo optical-sound films, despite the fact that the mono track in fact consists of two identical lines of "jaggies." There is 16mm magnetic-sound film, but it is even rarer than super-8 optical-sound, and also only monaural (no such thing as 16mm film with two magnetic stripes instead of just one).
With super-8, is it possible to screen a feature film and sync a DVD of the same film to the projector, thus adding digital 5.1 sound to the presentation - although apparently this is only possible with an Elmo GS-1200 projector. (?)
With 16mm, there is no way of doing such syncing... and there just plain are no 16mm films with stereo sound - nor any consumer projectors that would have more than one single optical-sound pickup.

Assuming everything I've said is correct, does this mean I will never be able to watch a 16mm feature with stereo sound? [Confused]

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John Whittle
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Northridge, CA USA
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 - posted August 20, 2005 04:43 PM      Profile for John Whittle   Email John Whittle       Edit/Delete Post 
Jan,

First, the dual (two) bilateral track is made with either moving ribbons or a mask in an RCA recorder so the fact there are "two" has no bearing on anything other than from the engineer stand point that the track is a bit quieter than a bilateral track would be. There are about 30 different version of optical sound tracks that have been used over the 70+ years. There are multi-track 35mm recordings dating back to the early 30s.

There were experiments with dual track 16mm optical sound prints in the mid to late 1960s but the idea was to provide dual language prints and the projector could be switched from one to another. In fact Elmo make a version of the 16CL that had a switch to play those prints although few were made.

I don't know of any 16mm Dolby SVA (stereo variable area) prints and there are no known recorders to produce such prints. It would be possible to modify a Westrex recorder or optically reduce a 35mm track negative onto a 16mm print. Lots of money and you have to own all the copyrights to do the experiment--something out of all our control.

DTS does offer a service for 16mm film. They provide a time code optical sound track negative which plays on a standard projector. The "sound" output is routed from the projector to the DTS equipment where the time code is decoded and used to control the 5.1 (or more) track playback.

DTS has provided this service for a few titles for festival projection. Again there are a lot of special set-ups and equipment to do this and again you have to own all the copyrights and pay all the lab bills to make the print and CD for the sound.

As for synching a 16mm projector like the Super8 Elmo would require someone to come up with a drive motor to replace the existing drive in an Elmo or Eiki and have the same solid state speed control circuitry. This is not impossible but would require a lot of engineering to find the right motor, build the circuitry and what ever machining would be required to the projector to replace the motor and fit and mount it.

In short, remember 16mm optical sound and magnetic sound are essentially "dead media". No one is working agressively on any new projection machines or presentation devices. The same is true for Super8. You need a market to underright and sustain the engineering/invention program to do this. So the answer to your question without going into your points or mine:

"Will I ever be able to run a 16mm optical sound stereo print" are between nil and zero. The technology exists to do it and if you could license the rights and sent me about $1,000,000. I could supply you with a print and projector for ONE title.

Sorry, you're just about 35 years late.

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Jan Bister
Darth 8mm

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From: Ohio, USA
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 - posted August 20, 2005 06:45 PM      Profile for Jan Bister   Email Jan Bister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
LOL, yes, I know. [Smile] I was asking this question out of curiosity more than anything, anyway, so it's not like you just crushed all my hopes - I had none to begin with. [Big Grin] But thanks for the in-depth explanations, excellent info as always!

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Ricky Daniels
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: London & Kent UK
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 - posted August 21, 2005 02:22 AM      Profile for Ricky Daniels   Email Ricky Daniels   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Just for info guys (I've mentioned this before),

There WAS a system back in the early 80's of producing <<stereo>> 16mm optical prints, I actually ran a couple of demo films at a BKSTS technical conference for a Japanese speaker.

The 16mm optical SVA track looked just like a scaled down Dolby Stereo track (it could have been a reduction print of a Dolby Stereo optical track for all I know/remember).

The material was run on a modified blue Elmo Xenon projector and the track was scanned by a laser light source. It worked very well indeed, if I remember the film clips were from contemporary feature films and some original footage (firework displays if I recall correctly).

Shame it didn't catch on [Frown]

Rick

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Jan Bister
Darth 8mm

Posts: 2629
From: Ohio, USA
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 - posted August 21, 2005 09:24 AM      Profile for Jan Bister   Email Jan Bister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It sure is amazing, though, how super-8 can do stereo sound so easily while 16mm has been left in the dust with its mono optical sound. Somehow you'd expect that 16mm, being a larger and more professional gauge, had received better treatment than that... [Eek!]

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John Whittle
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Northridge, CA USA
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 - posted August 21, 2005 10:21 AM      Profile for John Whittle   Email John Whittle       Edit/Delete Post 
Jan

Super8 Stereo is done by recording on the balance stripe--something that was never envisioned by the original engineers. 16mm magstriped film also carried a 30 mil balance stripe and it would have it would have been possible to do the same thing--problem was there was no market. 16mm sales were always for "playaback" machines for professionally produced films whereas Super8 was the home movie machine.

The 16mm SVA Dolby tests were exactly that--Tests. There was one optical recorder (a modified RCA PM-80) that had been used by Kodak to produce the original tests (ironically with a Maurer F Prime Galvo stuck on the "other side" of the flywheel for recording the two pass twin tracks. Later it was modified by RCA for a dual galvo optical system.

There was a move at one time to introduce 16mm Cinemas (Remember the Jerry Lewis Theatres? and General Cinema had plans) and there are papers recounting the conversion of Eastman 25B projectors for the project. I think Elmo provided a "stereo" version of their LX-2200 even though there were no commercially available prints and that's the key "commercially available".

Now if you've ever heard a 16mm Eastman color print that was made from 35mm negative optical sound track you'd know there are several problems with doing that (at one time we would do that if we only wanted ONE 16mm print and use a 35mm negative and 35mm track negative and make a reduction print) The picture is the BEST you'll ever see but the suond suffers from fill in and loss of high frequency and also is eqaulized for 35mm projectors.

It amazing to think of this, but there are really very few optical sound recorders still operating around the world. Most of the negative optical tracks for current features are done at ONE place, NT Optical in Santa Monica CA. He records 35mm Dolby SVA on a Westrex Recorder (heavinly modified by a company I know but can't recall at the moment** which is the only place in the US that "re-strings" Westrex ligh valves) and records at half speed to get around some of the problems with high frequency response.

But optical sound recording is far more ART than SCIENCE much like the mastering of vinyl records.

John

**Company is Betmar and they have the remains of the ORIGINAL roll of duraluminum used for the ribbons in the light valve that Western Electric made in 1929 and that's what's still used!!

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Jan Bister
Darth 8mm

Posts: 2629
From: Ohio, USA
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 - posted August 21, 2005 12:03 PM      Profile for Jan Bister   Email Jan Bister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Amazing... you're just full of history and interesting facts... but yes, I can see how it all just comes down to what the intended (and actual) market was for the two film gauges, and how whether or not sound systems caught on came into play...
In any case, I don't mind 16mm monaural sound at all, I'm just happy it sounds as good as it does. Having just recently screened my very first 16mm film (a Pink Panther cartoon) and hearing, for the first time since my highschool days, optical sound, I was really impressed with its clarity and presence. And as I like collecting older features and classic comedies which were (usually) never recorded in stereo to begin with, nothing is lost anyway. [Smile]
My concern, I guess, was about "modern" features (1980s and 1990s) which make heavy use of the stereo or even surround sound for music and effects to complement the on-screen action (not to mention special effects). But those are cheaper to buy on super-8, anyway [Big Grin]

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

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 - posted August 21, 2005 06:13 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I used to know a collector who in the early 1980s told me that he was impressed to see that a modern 16mm feature that he had bought had a stereo track. I'm afraid I can't recall what the film was, but it was a box office hit.

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Adrian Winchester

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John Whittle
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Northridge, CA USA
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 - posted August 21, 2005 09:36 PM      Profile for John Whittle   Email John Whittle       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
I used to know a collector who in the early 1980s told me that he was impressed to see that a modern 16mm feature that he had bought had a stereo track. I'm afraid I can't recall what the film was, but it was a box office hit.
It's possible he had what we called a 100% reduction (meaning both picture and track). It would be easy to identify if it was Eastman Color because there would be a white frame line (CRI prints also sometimes have this as do some Technicolor IB Prints) but there would be a clear line between the picture and the sound track (there were only a couple of makers of sound track reduction printers) and it would most likely have been printed to a lighter density and look "purplish" rather that very deep blue/purple.

Without seeing a scan of the track, I'd be more likely to think that it was just a dual bi-lateral track but anything is possible. I can only speak from my 30 years in the industry and 30 years membership in the SMPTE--but anything is possible especially if he had a "deal" with a night worker at the lab (there was one such chap that was sent off to the big house around here back int he 70s for supplying "reject" prints to collectors).

John

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John A. Pommon
Film Handler

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From: San Francisco, California 94131
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 - posted August 25, 2005 02:41 PM      Profile for John A. Pommon   Author's Homepage   Email John A. Pommon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hey John: Multi-channel sound has always been a big favorite.
Just out of curiousity if a 35MM analog dual VA stereo Dolby [w/2 additional channels encoded] was optically reduced to 16mm dual VA size do you think it could still produce four channel sound? (retain the encoded tracks inbedded in the dual VA)

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John Whittle
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 791
From: Northridge, CA USA
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 - posted August 27, 2005 12:46 PM      Profile for John Whittle   Email John Whittle       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Just out of curiousity if a 35MM analog dual VA stereo Dolby [w/2 additional channels encoded] was optically reduced to 16mm dual VA size do you think it could still produce four channel sound? (retain the encoded tracks inbedded in the dual VA)
All the encoding would survive, there would be a couple of problems (maybe). One the equalization is going to be off since it's a 35mm negative but you're going to have to build/modify your preamp stange anyway, two the cross mod is going to be off resulting in fill in with a fall off in high freq and what ever that does to decoding the back channels. And three the spacing of the left and right channels on the optical track may not be in the right places (I think there was an SMPTE standard on the track placement but it probably expired since no one used the system). Again since you're going to have to make your own modifications, it's going to be a matter of setting the split solar cell in the right place so that you don't clip one track or the other (which is the reason the spetum is wider on the SVA tracks than a regular dual bilateral track anyway).

John

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Josef Grassmann
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 190
From: Hennef-Sieg, Germany
Registered: Apr 2005


 - posted August 27, 2005 05:34 PM      Profile for Josef Grassmann   Author's Homepage   Email Josef Grassmann   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
At least in Germany several hundreds 16mm projectors have been converted to stereo (dual channel)(Bauer, Siemens, B&H, Fumeo aso.).
Only a few 16mm films were made in stereo. I think first started in the 1970s.
For most 16mm projector-owners it is nice to have.
As already mentioned before, 16mm stereo´s lack of high frequencies response if taken from a 35mm originally, as film-speed is 1/3 compared to 35mm and laser modules (in most cases) are difficult to built in, due to rather big dimension.

Josef

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John A. Pommon
Film Handler

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From: San Francisco, California 94131
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 - posted August 28, 2005 03:34 AM      Profile for John A. Pommon   Author's Homepage   Email John A. Pommon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks John -

I forgot the speed issue and of course it's analog. If it was digital audio such as DV and MINI-DV video tape the slower speed would not make much difference being how the info is all zeroes and ones. Thanks Again John

Josef:
Would you happen to know of any titles that made it to stereo?

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Antique Video Transfer Service
2" Quadruplex videotape to DV/DVCAM digital transfers
5001 Diamond Hts Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94131-1621
www.antiquevideo.com
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John Whittle
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 791
From: Northridge, CA USA
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 - posted August 28, 2005 09:10 PM      Profile for John Whittle   Email John Whittle       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
If it was digital audio such as DV and MINI-DV video tape the slower speed would not make much difference
But with digital you have a different problem of data rate and compression to deal with--that's why DTS only puts a time code on the optical track and uses that to run the DTS player. Remember the first Kodak/ORC digital sound system suffered from a lot of problems, one being data rate and error correction. With DV you've got a pure digital system--try doing it with a photographic recorder and see how much speed and emulsion real estate you'll need.

Most of the "dual track" prints I've heard about were dual language and not stereo. In fact the equipment really couldn't do stereo since the original recorder was an RCA PM-80 which didn't even use the RCA Galvo but rather a Mauer F Prime on the other side and they (Kodak) made two passes to record the negative. Maybe you could do stereo (don't know how you'd keep it in phase but then I don't know how Fantasound would work with multiple recorders and playback devices either).

John

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Jan Bister
Darth 8mm

Posts: 2629
From: Ohio, USA
Registered: Jan 2005


 - posted August 28, 2005 11:39 PM      Profile for Jan Bister   Email Jan Bister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What have I started here [Eek!]

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John A. Pommon
Film Handler

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From: San Francisco, California 94131
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 - posted August 29, 2005 01:50 AM      Profile for John A. Pommon   Author's Homepage   Email John A. Pommon   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Speaking of time code . . . . . Mini-DV in the LP speed does not record timecode to every frame of video, it records it less often, and calculates the frame numbers in between but in reality that is very rarely a problem. Certainly not one I have ever encountered.

With regard to the DV speed it doesn't matter on the lossless aspect of video in either speed. SP and LP are clones in terms of the data. The difference is in how it is stored.
One is NOT "lower quality" or "more lossy" than the other. The Sampling rate is the same. The difference is in the correction bits, in SP mode there are 9 bits,in LP mode there are 8 bits so you can write about the same data with the lower speed .
However Sony points out LP is not nearly so robust and less resilient to faults and a MiniDV tape recorded in LP may not be playable in other MiniDV camcorders.
In my (hopefully) humble opinion, it's not worth risking the dropouts and/or incompatability issues to bother recording in the LP mode. True, you end up with twice as many tapes at the SP speed, but on the other hand, shorter tapes are easier to work with when you're editing.

[ August 30, 2005, 02:57 AM: Message edited by: John A. Pommon ]

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Antique Video Transfer Service
2" Quadruplex videotape to DV/DVCAM digital transfers
5001 Diamond Hts Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94131-1621
www.antiquevideo.com
antvid@antiquevideo.com

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