Magazine article American Cinematographer

Mixing "Rollercoaster" Sound for Sensurround®

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Mixing "Rollercoaster" Sound for Sensurround®

Article excerpt

A revised technique which, for the first time, makes it possible to mix music, high-pitched screams and low-pitched rumbles on an optical track

There were some monumental problems in regard to the sound for "ROLLERCOASTER". To begin with, it marked the first time that we put music into Sensurround and LaIo Schifrin had to compose his music so that it would be compatible with the Sensurround equipment'- which is like writing in a restricted frequency range.

Also, for the first time, we put some high frequencies into the system. It was the first time that there was as much definition to the sound effects.

The company took two sound crews on location - one to record the production dialogue, and the other to record sound effects of rollercoasters and other rides in the various parks. They recorded them flat and also with the Sensurround type of curve to them, so that they would have the bottom end that is required to reproduce effects in the Sensurround mode.

Then, in the dubbing, there are limitations as to how much volume level you can put on the sound track because of the amplifiers and speaker systems in the theaters. This does become quite delicate, because you can blow those amplifiers and speaker systems out. A very delicate balance was required between the sound effects of the rollercoaster made in Sensurround and the music that was recorded for Sensurround. By the time you get into a job like that, your head is absolutely spinning because of all the elements involved that you have to try to keep in balance.

Each ride in an amusement park sounds different from the others and there are many problems in trying to put them together to sound real and have individual definition.

In the past - in pictures like "EARTHQUAKE" and "MIDWAY" - the Sensurround was more like just a rumble, but in "ROLLERCOASTER" it has music in it, plus the rollercoaster effect, plus the screams of the people - and it's all on a single composite optical track.

"ROLLERCOASTER" is being sent out with two types of sound tracks, each with a different balance. One is monaural and the other is for Sensurround. We make the monaural version first, to be used for drive-ins and all the other theaters that are not equipped with Sensurround. Then we take the monaural dub and put up with it for mixing the Sensurround units, what we call the "Sensurround box" (the device that makes the rumble effect) and, in this particular case, the music tracks. Then we make the Sensurround dub. Basically, we dub it in monaural and then update it to Sensurround. That's the way we get our Sensurround version of it.

We take our monaural and put it on a three-track magnetic. On Channel One we put all the Sensurround music, the rumble and the sound effects. On Channel Two we put the entire program. On Channel Three we put the control track - which is what triggers the Sensurround.

That was our part of it. Bob Leonard had to cope with the rather complex engineering feat of putting all that onto an optical track. This was the first time that it was ever done that way.

The high-frequency effects in Sensurround add a totally new dimension. They come out of both the front and rear Sensurround speakers in the theaters so that the effect is more like quadraphonic sound than stereo. The low frequencies are what really shake the chairs, while the high frequencies are for yells, screams and creating dramatic tension. The new method we use of setting up the channels for dubbing makes it possible to raise or lower effects against the Sensurround. For example, when a rumble is coming, the music or screams can be raised in with the Sensurround to heighten the dramatic effect. …

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