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Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For those interested in the technical/creative aspects of sound work,
I'll be mixing my latest feature film, "What Really Frightens You" beginning
on Monday October 27, 2008 at Du Art.

This will be my first 5.1 mix. Up to now I've mixed in the standard 4 track
Dolby format for 35mm exhibition. Of course Dolby involves derived channels.
Left and right which are discrete and a phantom center channel and derived
rear channel which is slightly delayed in the processors. 5.1 mixing involves
a left and right stereo channel with the center channel for dialogue only
and stereo surround channesl (LR, RR). All are discrete.

What's a bit disorienting is the fact that the 5.1 format is unique to DVDs
(standard definition and blu ray) and is not one of the formats utilized in
35mm theatrical exhibition. So while I'm mixing in 5.1, it has to be adapted
to the standard Dolby stereo mix which is left, center, right and mono surround.
The .1 in the 5.1 format is for subwoofer effects.

Here's what's even stranger for me. The high definition master video tape only
has four audio channels. Channels 1 and 2 will contain the Dolby stereo mix
of the film out of which is the phantom center and derived mono rear channel.
Channels 3 and 4 will contain the M & E tracks which are the same as the Dolby
tracks but missing the dialogue channel for foreign release. The 5.1 mix is not
contained on the HD master videotape. It's on a .wave file that cannot be heard
until it's been authored to blu ray and standard DVD. I guess it's very unusual for
me to mix in a format that I will only hear at the mix and not hear again until the
film is released for home video. Also the concept that the mix is not contained on
the actual HD video master but a separate element. The commentary track is also
on a .wave file and cannot be heard until it's released on DVD.

I'll post what it's like mixing in this format after I finish for those who are interested...

Here's what the elements are for the mix.

Six tracks. Tracks 1 and 2 are dialogue for the center channel. Tracks 3 and 4 are sound
effects and Tracks 5 and 6 are the rear channels. Plus there are another two tracks for
the stereo music which we'll spread onto the rear channels (at 25 % volume) and another
two tracks of 'room tones' (stereo city sounds etc.) to mix into the front left and right
as needed.

Premium Member
5,423 Posts
Now that is interesting Richard, I had always assumed there was a 5.1 track at the theater (at least for the last 10 years or so). Can I also assume this is true only for film? And that digital capture film will have 5.1? I may not have used the proper terminology so I hope you understand my questions.

If you have a minute, how about a little primer on the subject? I always find your posts very informative and interesting Richard.


Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
5.1 sound is not what's on a 35mm theatrical release print. It's unique to the DVD format which is why old movies have to be re-mixed to this. New movies can have
a 5.1 mix adapted to the current theatrical standards but they are different.
However, if a theater has a DLP it can show a DVD or digital download in the 5.1
set up providing the theater is wired for it.

On top of that, the Dolby optical release print has to be derived from a DAT Dolby
mix which is different than the 5.1 mix. In short, new movies have multiple mixes
not a single mix.

But believe it or not, a movie having multiple mixes was not uncommon after the
fifties. Before that (in the pre-1952 era) there was a single mono mix for all
US theatrical releases via the optical track negative which was mono.

"This is Cinerama" in 1952 introduced seven channel magnetic stereo (5 discrete
channels up front an a stereo rear channel in the back). This mix was on a separate
piece of 35mm magnetic film known as a 'fullcoat' and not on the release prints.

This was followed by four track magnetic stereo sound in the CinemaScope format
which was three channels up front and a mono rear channel in the back which was
rarely used. The tracks were inside and outside the 35mm film sprockets. However,
all CinemaScope movies also had a standard mono optical track mixed down from the
four track mix for theaters that wanted a wider screen but not the stereo sound
(which was most of them).

Then came the Todd-AO (aka 70mm) format which was six track stereo with five
channels up front and a mono rear channel. Dialogue, music and sound effects
were spread across all five front channels. The mono rear channel was not a
surround track but only used for direction sound effects. When a vehicle or
horse went from right to left channel it would continue for a few seconds into
the rear channel. Otherwise, it was silent for most of the movie. The reason was
that movie palaces weren't designed for this expanded sound field and the rear
channels were difficult to hear in the back of the huge 1000 seat theater.
When 70mm films were reduction printed to 35mm anamorphic they were
mixed down to two formats. 35mm magnetic stereo in the anamorphic
(CinemaScope) four track format and a single mono optical track version
too. So all films shot and/or shown in the 70mm format had three mixes.

In the seventies Dolby introduced the optical stereo format. The film would be mixed
in four track discrete stereo like a CinemaScope movie. From that a six track 70mm version could be 'blown up' by incorporating the low frequencies on the left and right channels into subwoofer sounds which were known as 'baby booms' at the time. They
would not used the extra two front channels other than for explosions which was
different than the Todd-AO 70mm format which used all the 5 front channels.
They would take the same four channel mix and create a two channel optical stereo mix where the center channel contained the 'common' sounds (dialogue) that weren't in both left and right channels into a phantom center channel and the sounds that went from right to left channels (the difference between them sent to the rear in a delay) creating the rear channel.

Then came three different types of six track digital soundtracks in the nineties. One
was contained on an interlocked CD-ROM (the DTS format) which was really digital
Vitaphone and then there was the SDDS tracks on the ousides of the sprockets and the
Kodak digital sound between the sprockets. Since these six track discrete format were
not reliable there was a standard two channel (derived center and rear) Dolby optical
track as a backup which would kick in if the digital tracks failed during exhibition.
The Kodak digital format is the one that survived although some theaters are still
set up for the DTS synchronized CD format and the rare 70mm prints that are made
use this system now instead of the six magnetic tracks on the release print.

Then for unknown reasons, when DVD was introduced in the mid to late nineties, they
created the 5.1 format which was different than any theatrical stereo format up to
that time which meant the old stereo 7, 6, 4 and 2 channels stereo mixes had to be remixed.

But as I said, any movie shown in Cinerama, 70mm or CinemaScope had three mixes
in the fifties and sixties. So what is the 'definitive' mix? Well for films exhibited in
multiple formats there isn't. There are different mixes of the same audio tracks which
you can evaluate separately as to their effectiveness in a specific venue.

So for many contemporary movies there will also be three mixes. A digital
six track mix, a Dolby derived four track mix and a DVD/Blu-ray 5.1 mix. Each
is different.

Sound confusing? Well it is for a producer like me who had to sound edit
and sound design to compensate for the different formats in each mix.
"One size" no longer fits all markets or venues. It's also considerably more
expensive to mix now that it was in the mono days.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Here's some audio trivia.

There's nothing new under the sun. Way back in the thirties, I found
some prints in the two channel optical sound format. I screened a print
of "Maytime" (an old three strip Technicolor musical in 35mm) which had
dual optical tracks rather than a single mono optical track. Some of the
studios used to make unique dual channal optical tracks which would be
played back as a single mono optical track with the single light optical
reader of the time. But if you play "Maytime" made in the late thirties
through an dolby decoder here's what you'll hear. The left channel will
contain the music and effects only. The right channel will contain the
dialogue only. This was obviously done so foreign distributors could replace
the right track with their own dubbed dialogue.

All Dolby did in the seventies (beginning with "Tommy", not "Star Wars")
was to take the dual optical tracks and mix them into a stereo left and right
tracks with a derived center and rear channel and even that wasn't new...
they had tried it with quandrophonic vinyl record albums previously. Or course
the main difference was that Dolby encoded their two channels with noise reduction
to reduce optical track hiss. As common sense dictates, if you split a single mono
35mm optical track in two, you'll be hearing two 16mm optical tracks which have
some hiss. Dolby compressed the sound but also made you lose some high end sounds.
Discrete channels are always superior to compressed audio tracks. The dual channel
optical tracks of the thirties were played as single mono optical tracks even though
there were two 'squiggly lines' in the track area. They weren't split in two like they
were in the seventies with two tiny optical lights reading the tracks rather than one.
For those who don't know what 'optical sound' is, check out the animated demonstration
in "Fantasia" (1940). Those tiny squiggly lines on the left side of the picture area
are photographed sound waves. Just as light shined through the picture image and
projected through lens gives you the image on screen, there is another tiny light
and lens aimed at those squiggly lines which reads them and transfers the photographed
sound waves into electronic signals which are then sent to the amplifier and speakers
like any sound electronic sound waves (record, CD, radio).

The advantage to both optical sound (stereo or mono) and digital sound (Kodak,
SDDS systems) is that the sound information was contained in the emulsion and
would last the life of the print and not degrade in storage. While the magnetic
sound of the fifties through the seventies sounded very good, the magnetic tracks
would wear out as you played them over and over shedding oxide particles and
degrade in storage. It would also cause the film to get 'vinegar syndrome' in the
long run since the oxide acted as a corrosive on the film stock. Most magnetic
prints would warp and buckle as they deteriorated. The fullcoat film in 35mm
(used for the master mix and Cinerama interlocked system) were even worse
in terms of becoming twisted, warped and shedding off the oxide. Very often
the transfer technicians who are re-recording the old fullcoats into the digital
sound formats only have one pass to get the sound off of it before all of the
oxide flakes off. Some keep their fingers on the sound head as it's being re-recorded
and most of the time they have to clean them off after the transfer since oxide
residue is all over the place. Magnetic stereo sound was not an archival format...
not that they cared back then. It also stinks to high heaven when it's deteriorating.
The fumes are so strong they bother your nose and eyes when you handle them.

Premium Member
15,054 Posts
Thanks Richard, thats very interesting information.
This is one of the reasons I love this Forum is that we have people that actually know things like this and are willing to share that info with the rest of us.:T

Premium Member
5,423 Posts
Great info Richard, Thanks.

How about films like Monster? As i understand it, the soundtrack for this film was conceived and recorded in 5.1. Is this very common? And if so, how does a theater handle this,.... can I assume that even though it was designed as a 5.1 soundtrack that there are multiple mixes in this case as well?

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Yes. They would have to alter the two rear channels so they were mono rather
that stereo for a 35mm Dolby Optical track.

You can mix in the 5.1 format and adapt it to the others by combining tracks/
folding them down and so forth. However, the mixer will ask you whether you
want the sound field designed for home set ups or for theatrical exhibition.

The bottom line is that as much fun as it was to watch "Star Wars" in 70mm
six track stereo at the Loews Astor Plaza in NYC back in the seventies, you
will get a much better sound field at home since you can customize it for your
needs. All theater sound is a compromise depending on how wide and how long
the cinema is. In the case of the Astor Plaza, it was very long so the surrounds
really blasted from the back of the theater. I wouldn't want to sit in the back
rows as a resut.

One of the biggest differences in 5.1 is that they keep the dialogue in the center
channel only for most releases. This is so foreign distributors only have to replace
that channel with a dubbed track while leaving the left/right and two rear channels
the same. This is different than films mixed prior to the advent of DVD. They would
often have directional dialogue on all of the channels which mean foreign distributors
would have to remix the entire movie rathen than just replace that center track.

Of course older stereo movies in 7, 6 and 4 track have been re-mixed for 5.1.
There are complex ways of doing it and simple ways. The simplest way is to
take the music on tracks 1 and 3 and added them at 25 % into the two rear
channels which would contain the mono rear track otherwise. By adding stereo
music in two rear mono channels, it makes them stereo...in a limited manner.
They just take dialogue from the left and right and put it into the center only
and leave the rest of the soundtrack 'as is' in the original 4 track.

The complicated method is to add effects or enhance ones that were originally
recorded to make them more effective in 5.1. For example, "The Sand Pebbles"
blu ray contains both the original 4 channel mix along with a new 5.1 mix which
has stereo surrounds (they added more crowd ambience and spread the music
into those channels) and added some low frequency sub-woofer for the explosions.
I guess technically the 'official' mix is the one that Robert Wise created in 1966
but I prefer the new one which is more dramatic. I do miss the directional dialogue
and singing in the original 6 track versions of films like "Oklahoma!" though.
I guess one excuse is that even in larger home theaters, the screens aren't that big.
The justification for directional dialogue was for the huge movie palaces in the fifties
and sixties with 60 to 80 foot wide screens. In those cases having dialogue come
out of the center speaker when a person was on the far left side of the screen
would've been disorienting. "Ben Hur" was an example of extreme compositions
on a very wide image (2.76 x 1 anamorphic 70mm) with characters on opposite
sides of the ratio which is why the original 6 track and 4 track stereo prints had
very directional dialogue. Another curious technique in the fifites was to record
with multiple mikes on set. I saw the Radio City Music Hall restoration of "A Star
is Born" in 1980 which had the original 4 track mix. I could hear Judy move from
mike to mike across the CinemaScope screen as she walked. In other words they
had three mikes spread across the set to record people as they moved around.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
You're welcome. So I start 9 AM on Monday. I'll have to leave at 6:45 AM to
make sure I get to NYC and the mixing studio in time. I'm only 50 miles from
Manhattan but rush hour can be a nightmare. It will be very stressful but
once it's mixed I'm seeing my vision (and hearing it) for the first time. Until
a movie is completed, it's all in my head. Getting it on film and on DVD is
quite complex and you need steely determination and **** of steel to
make it happen.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)

I will post where the movie is playing once I've gotten some festivals,
theatrical and DVD release.


The mixer was astonished how well organized and prepared I was. The
way most pictures are made is the director works with the editor and after
it's cut, the sound editor comes in and does all of the folleys, sound effects,
cue sheet and so forth. The director usually hears all the tracks for the first
time at the mix and a great deal of the mixing time is just listening to them
and deciding how to lay out the sound. Of course someone like Lucas would
be involved with the elaborate sound effects in the post-production stage.

In my case I not only write, produce and direct the movie but also edit
it and do the sound editing. I actually started as a sound editor ("Mother's
Day" back in 1980), then moved up to editing ("The Toxic Avenger") and
finally made my own features. So I did all of the folleys and layed in all
of the sound effects on each track. Here's something
that will amuse you. I did all of the male screams in the film along with the monster
roars. My teenage niece did all of the female screams. In both cases we adopted
different tones to our voices then had the music composers process it in their
synthesizer to alter it so it sounds like different people. The monster roars are
just me roaring. They slow them down and add echo and reverb along with a subwoofer
kick to make it sound like an enormous creature. I did these on a number of
other pictures in the past ("Class of Nuke Em High", "Space Avenger") so I was familiar how to do it.
I recorded, edited and listened to the six channels of separate tracks many times
before the mix. I basically memorized what was there. I also
coded the track cue sheet with dark red indicating a stereo left/right sound
effect (as opposed to a generic background sound like city traffic which would
be in both L/R and not having any panning of the sound) and color coded the
stereo surround effects in blue. That way the sheet indicated exactly where
everything was supposed to go.

I like to mix in layers so we started with Tracks 1 and 2 which were the
dialogue tracks with every other person on the opposite track. Since there
are slight differences in recording it made it easier to mix them together than
way. For example, our male lead had a louder and deeper voice than the female
lead so all of his dialogue was on Track 1 and all of her dialogue on Track 2. The
mixer would try different filters to cut out extraneous noise (like light traffic or
crew member shuffles, camera noise etc.) until the dialogue was as clean as he could
make it. Then both tracks 1 and 2 would be combined into the center channel.

Tracks 3 and 4 were the folleys (footsteps, sitting down, typing, running etc.).
Some were combined into equal levels for the Left and Right channels. Others
were directional effects like a car driving by so it would start in the Left channel
then fade out there and fade into the Right channel and then fade out.

Next we added the 'room tone' onto the same Left and Right tracks. That would
give a presence in the location. The 'room tone' tracks were a separate CD.
I had four general stereo tones that ran for five minutes each. The first was heavy
traffic outside, the next was very light traffic for inside an office or room in NYC,
the third track was office tone of people typing and taling and the final track was
crickets for the climax at the Gothic Castle. So the mixer added these stereo
room tone tracks to the already mixed Left and Right effects tracks.

So now we had the center channel dialogue mixed, the Left and Right stereo
sound effects & room tone tracks mixed. The next thing we did was add the
stereo surround channels (LR, RR) from Tracks 5 & 6. Those are the tracks that
had some monster roars and echoed screams. The monster roars were set at a level
that would give a subwoofer effect (the .1 in the 5.1 format).

The final thing we added was the music which was on a separate CD in stereo
synched up to each scene it was required in or 'cue'. That would go into the
Left and Right channel and in some cases at 25 % volume in the surround channels
(LR, RR).

I decided on a specific sound design before mixing. My film runs 80 minutes. For
all of the scenes that take place in 'reality' (which were NYC offices, bookstores,
rooms etc.) I would only use the front three channels. For the horror scenes (which
are hallucinations) the rear channels would kick in. We also did a lighting change for
the horror scenes. We had blue gels over the key lights on dimmers and as the
character started to hallucinate the blue lights would dim on turning the image from
normal 'warm' color to a cold neon blue. So the audience will get both a visual and
audio cue that something gory is going to happen when the lights change and the
rear channels kick in. I thought it was quite effective and better than just having
the rear channels use room tone and music for the whole feature which is the
conventional way to mix a 5.1 movie.

I still have one more simple mix which is the commentary track. I've recorded the
actors. I'm still waiting to see if the DP and F/X artist is available for their comments.
I'll have to record the rest. I'm not sure whether to just discuss the production itself
or give a little history of sound and horror movies since I'm a film historian too. I
guess I'll see how much running time is left after I edit the actors and my production
trivia. For this mix I'm just arriving at the studio with the commentary on a CD that
runs 80 minutes. We'll play the two channel Dolby mix low at 25% volume and add
the commentary to Left and Right. For the commentary track the center channel
and two rear channels will be silent since they'll just confuse people if they interfere
with the narration.

I also have some production stills showing how the latex creatures and other effects
were created in stages along with the trailer which will be contained on the DVD.

For "Delivery" to a distributor, here's what a producer has to give them. A HD Video
master 1080p with the Dolby stereo mix on tracks 1 and 2 and M & E mix (left right
music and effects but no dialogue) on tracks 3 and 4. I also give them the 5.1 mix
on a .wav file DVD and a commentary 2 channel mix on a .wav file DVD. Then they
'author it' which means laying out all these materials (with the distributor logo and
suppliments like trailer, stills, other distributor product, FBI warning etc.) onto the
DVD master for both blu ray and standard definition copies. Some producers have
the distributors make all of these materials but I prefer to do it myself and supply
them so the color timing is the way I want it. Otherwise they make accidently alter some aspect of the movie (mistime the color, change the contrast, desaturate the
fleshtones etc.). There are so many variables in the mastering process that I prefer
to maintain creative control over every aspect of the movie. Most distributors prefer
that too since it saves them the cost of making the master. It's extremelly expensive
but I incorporate that into the budget as a general post-production expense.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Mixing digitally is certainly better than the old fashioned way on reels.
Here's how everyone mixed through the late eighties.

You'd have the 'workprint' of the cut film which meant there was a splice
on every shot which would pop a bit in the projector. For the sound you
would purchase 'sound fill' which was old 35mm prints of feature films that
were faded or too scratchy to use in a theater. Then each sound effect
would be recorded on 35mm magnetic film which looked like a clear piece
of film with no image but had a thin mag stripe on it (similar to reel to reel
tape except on a piece of 35mm film). On that magnetic 35mm film you
would record the separate dialogue, sound effects and music. You would
physically cut each piece of 35mm magnetic sound film into the old release
prints. The workprint picture and each reel of sound film would have a 'start
mark' which was a hole punch on the leader. On the number '2' in the countdown
leader you would splice in a 'beep' on magnetic film on each of the 35mm reels.
Then when there was a sound effect you would splice in the 35mm magnetic
film into the old release prints. When there wasn't a sound it would just be
the old film. The old film wouldn't make any sound as it went across the
magnetic sound head which is why they were used.

So you'd end up bringing about 32 reels of picture and sound film
to the mix. All of it had to be threaded up which would take at least a half
hour of your mix time for each reel. Then the mixer would mix onto a 35mm
'fullcoat' which was a 35mm magnetic film with four tracks on it. There was
also 35mm magnetic film with six tracks for 70mm movies. It was very cumbersome
and time consuming and you had the problem with magnetic hiss on the heads which
is where Dolby came in to compress the sound to remove it but you also compressed
some of your high end and low end sounds. Most mixing studios were only set up
to do 10 minute reels. You'd have to assemble each 10 minute reel into a 20 minute
reel for printing.

You would make a 35mm Dolby Optical track negative from the 35mm fullcoat four
track magnetic film. For 70mm films, they would use the six track 35mm magnetic
film and record it directly onto the 70mm release print. 70mm prints were astronomically
expensive. First you would make the print (without any sound track). Then you would
send it to another company that would apply the magnetic stripes inside and outside
the sprockets. Then another company would record the six tracks of sound onto
the blank magnetic tracks. A 35mm release print would average about $1000.
A 70mm release print would cost $10,000 at least.

The problem with all magnetic materials (tapes, 35mm fullcoats, 70mm prints) is that
they would degrade over time whether they were used or not. The oxide would start
shedding making the track very hissy or losing your sound altogether. Magnetic
was analog so every time you copied it you lost some qualiy and picked up additional
hiss. You had to be very diligent cleaning off the magnetic heads (which accumulated oxide which could damage them) and also degause them so they didn't record
'thumps' onto your magnetic tracks. When editing magnetic film, you had to degauge
the splicer too. In short...they were a major pain in the neck and were not archival.

Digital mixing gives you multiple elements for the long run. You can mix in full 20
minute reels in stead of 10 minute reels. You keep the final mix
on a small hard drive. Plus two copies on DVD masters. Plus the 35mm optical
and digital track negative. And you don't lose any quality when you copy it from
format to format or over and over. And it's much simpler to handle. You go to
the mix with a stack of CDs rather than boxes and boxes of 35mm workprint and
35mm magnetic film. The CDs get loaded into the computer in the Pro Tools
program in a few minutes. I also save the separate mixing elements.

393 Posts

Maybe I've said it before, but I'm always fascinated reading your posts. Such a great window onto a world I know exists, but otherwise have no clue what goes on in it.

I'm sure the mixer was appreciative of your preparations. I know it's always annoying to me when someone comes to do whatever, and is unprepared.

My opinion, FWIW, is that you should definitely do some history in your commentary, if you can spare the space/time on the DVD.

Is the trailer available anywhere online, or will it be, before release? I'd be interested to see it, and the final product, too.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·

Many thanks. Maybe I will adapt these posts into a general history
of stereo sound. As far as I know, it hasn't been done elsewhere on a
DVD. My problem is I talk so fast some people have a hard time understanding

I literally just finished the movie. The trailer isn't on line yet. I have to get
all that together over the next few months. I just created the press book.
If there was a way of posting the trailer here I would...

Everyone should note here that I am not part of Hollywood or that
world of filmmaking. I'm part of the completely separate East Coast
industry. Or what's left of it I should say with so many companies
folding like dominoes over the past few years. However, I have on
occasion worked with some Hollywood actors like Adam West, Christopher
Stone and Viveca Lindfors. These days I prefer to find my own talent and
develop them from scratch. At least for the horror genre, you don't necessarily
need a 'star' to get it distributed, it just has to be scary and have good
technical specs.

Senior Shackster
792 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
For those unfamiliar with the term 'folley's...here's what they are.

The term was originated with an editor named Folley during the transition
to sound in the early thirties. Directors originally thought they had to record
the random sound effects like a person walking or a door opening and closing
on set with the dialogue. Folley suggested just recording the dialogue on
location and adding all of these extraneous effects later which was easier to
mix since you could alter the level after the fact rather than trying to get
both footsteps and an actor speaking simultaneously. So live effects recorded
in a sound booth while looking at the picture being projected (or on video today)
are called 'folleys'. In your sound booth or room deadened of all sound other
than a directional mike recording the effect you watch the picture while making
the specific noise. For example, if you want the sound of someone walking on
grass or leaves you take an audio cassette tape and pull out all of the tape and
put it on the booth floor. When you walk on that in synch with the person walking
on screen it sounds like they are walking on leaves. You always record them at
a very loud level then reduce them to the appropriate level at the mix. As common
sense dictates, it's easier to lower the volume of a sound effect than raise it and
increase background noise. Since I edit my films and have seen the images hundreds
of times it's not hard for me to walk or run in synch with the picture. But there's a
simple technique for a 'folley artist' who hasn't seen the movie before the recording.
Just walk one beat after the actor on screen does it. Then move the track a couple
of frames backwards and it falls in synch. Movies actually have a two or three frame
leeway in terms of synch. More than that and you will notice something out of synch
but you can be a frame or two off and not notice it since the film is playing at 24
frames per second. The way the 35mm optical/digital track is synched to the picture
negative is by putting an audio 'beep' on the number 2 on the countdown leader.
So when you get the 35mm track negative back from the lab, you put it into a synchronizer with a sound reader and roll it down until you hear the "beep". You
mark off that frame. Then you put the picture negative in the same synchronizer
and roll it down to the number 2 on the leader. Now the picture and track are in
synch on the number 2. Then you roll both back past the leader and mark off the
clear protection leader with an X and that's what gets threaded up into the printer.
Some people put an X end mark on the leader at the end of the reel too to be safe.
You might have seen a film in some film festival where the projectionist screws up
and you actually see the countdown leader projected on screen before the film starts and heard the beep at the number 2.
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