Patching up "Lawrence of Arabia" Pg3
Hollywood Lost and Found

"Patching up Lawrence of Arabia," page 3

MSNL: So, who was the music editor on this restoration?

RA: You're talking to him! And we had a hell of a time because we didn't have any music masters. So we didn't add any new music to the new sequences, but there was always patching up to do for the new cut. For instance, in the new scene where we reconstructed the dialogue using alternate angles, the British officers are sitting in a tent discussing the upcoming campaign. Well, there was supposed to be a British military band marching by in the background. What does the British Army have that the American Army doesn't? Drums and Bagpipes! So I had this added footage and only a little of the band, and I had to figure out ways to extend it. The only thing I had was a part of a scene from the shortened version that had the music in it. I had to find a piece that was long enough that I could make a loop enough that I could make a loop out of it...

MSNL: To reprint it over and over to run it under the scene?

RA: Exactly, and so it would sound natural, of course. I was really struggling with extending music through this whole project. In those days, they dubbed everything to one piece of mag film for stereo movies. There were no "D, M & E's" (Dialogue, Music, and Effects) separate stems kept as we have now.

MSNL: Perhaps there were for mono films, a 3-stripe mag with mono stripes of Dialogue, Music, and Effects, but not for stereo?

RA: No, everything was kept on one roll of mag for each reel, so each stripe would represent a speaker position, so the Dialogue, Music, and Effects are all married. Making separate stereo "stems" with multiple recorders is fairly new. When we did "More American Graffiti" (1979) it was dubbed to one piece of film. I remember because years later, Universal called up and said "We're trying to make a TV version and we don't have the rights to some of these songs." If you remember, it was a multiple-record type of music track. They had theatrical rights to the records, but not all the TV rights. So they wanted to substitute songs for this version, so they said to me "Do you have an Effects and Dialogue version?" So I said "No." And I still don't know what they did. Well, they probably could have remixed it from the pre-dubs they had at Lucasfilm.

MSNL: You're talking about remixing effects and dialogue just to change some songs and keep the lawyers happy. That might have changed a lot of the mix. Been a different soundtrack. And the director probably would not have been involved in that remix. So on "Lawrence," you had the director available, and were reconstructing for aesthetic reasons. What differences would come up between sound effects today and twenty five years earlier?

RA: Winston Ryder, the Grand Old Man of British sound effects, had done a beautiful job on "Lawrence" in 1962. it's a great achievement in the style of the time. You have to understand how sound effects style has changed. Today, we tend to cover all the little things in sound effects a lot more thoroughly.

MSNL: Every move is Foleyed, the backgrounds are multi-layered, effects are sweetened...

RA: Yes, and even a great picture like "Lawrence" is thinner than that. It has a lot of looping, and you see wind and stuff but you hear this real quiet track. There is a good reason why contemporary tracks are denser, busier. We have, with high-tech recording equipment and noise reduction systems, the ability to layer a lot more stuff without building up unpleasant noise and losing clarity. In the old days of optical sound you just couldn't do too much. Even in early magnetic stereo there was no noise reduction, and you had a lot of tape hiss. Also, I think having separate speakers for different sounds tends to make things read more clearly.

MSNL: How did you actually recover existing sound effects from the original tracks?

RA: Today, we tend to put dialogue all in the center speaker, and effects and music more on the left and right. So if it had been a modern mix, I could have swiped some effects from the side channels when I needed to extend, say, background effects. But I discovered that the way they mixed dialogue, although louder in the center, all the channels had some dialogue in them. It was quieter in the left-center and right-center positions, quieter still in the extreme left and right, but it was there. So I couldn't get "fill" material from the sides.

MSNL: An example?

RA: Well, there was a scene near the beginning where we first see Lawrence. If you see the short version, you wonder who he is, before he goes on this mission. We know he's a lieutenant in Cairo, but what the hell does he do? Well, in the original version we see he's a cartographer. He's drawing a map! That was a scene where we kept going back and forth between the original and the added material. All the added material was part of the mono optical track we had. In the six-track version, on the sides you hear the hawkers in the bazaar and all that kind of stuff. So this "Arab Walla" in the six-track is on the left, although it's married to some of the dialogue. So when you're in the original section it's on the left, but when you're in the new section it collapses toward the center. I may be the only one that it bothers. I tried, but I could never find a piece long enough that I could loop and make it work.

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