Original MCA E.T. soundtrack CD - AAD or DDD?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Chris Malone, Oct 6, 2005.

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  1. Chris Malone

    Chris Malone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Australia
    I have a question with regard to the original John Williams' E.T. soundtrack on MCA CDs from the mid 1980s. [With newer issues in more recent years we now know that the original LP/CD contained many "concert" versions of cues however it is the original MCA releases I'm interested in.]

    There appear to be two versions. MCAD-31073 is listed in Steve's credits as being mastered by him but is noted on the CD artwork with a SPARS code of "AAD." The second is MCAD-37264 denoted as being "digitally recorded, mixed and edited."

    I understand that the sessions were recorded at MGM in Culver City by scoring mixer Lyle Burbridge. Bruce Botnick presumably connected a digital recorder to the mixing desk outputs and captured a two-channel version for the LP and subsequent CD, similar to what was done for STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE back in 1979.

    Were there two different masters prepared? Are the two CDs actually different? Anyone have more information on this?

    Cheers
    Chris Malone
     
  2. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northern, OR
    I thought Bruce Botnick engineered and mixed the E.T. soundtrack. IIRC, the score was recorded and mixed in analog.
     
  3. Chris Malone

    Chris Malone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Australia
    Lyle Burbridge mixed POLTERGEIST, E.T. and THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, all recorded at MGM. Bruce Botnick made digital recordings of them and prepared the albums. Not sure whether he worked from multi-track or 2-track material. As is common in film music recording, I'm sure other formats were also employed -- most likely live film mixes to 8-track analog and a discrete 24-track path for any remix work.

    For STAR TREK TMP John Neal was the resident scoring mixer at 20th Century Fox at the time. Botnick recorded a digital 2-track feed off the mixing desk specifically for the album and apparently had a hell of a time editing the thing together!
     
  4. davenav

    davenav High Plain Grifter

    Location:
    Brooklyn, USA
    Just to muddy the waters a bit, I have an MCA cd from '96, ET: Special Edition (MCA 11530). Mastered by Patricia Sullivan. It's a gold disc. Anyone heard it? How does it compare with the earlier ones?
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    ET was recorded on four channel 1/2" analog tape at 15 ips Dolby A with a split "mixed" feed to Botnick's two-track digital machine. From that he DIGITALLY edited the soundtrack album onto a 1610 digital master.

    I prepared a DDD CD release for Uni in 1984 from the Botnick digital master (without the gaps for the side split) but I have no idea if it was used or not. The filed LP cutting master tape was 30 ips analog DUBBED at Whitney Studios from the 2 track digital tape as prepared by Botnick at Digital Magnetics in '82 (or was it '83?) So the tape marked "master" is really a dub of the digital edited U-Matic tape.

    Confused? Well, I have never heard the ET soundtrack on CD so I can't help you. HOWEVER:

    Listen to the beginning. If there is any tape hiss on there it's the analog safety. If it's quiet as a mouse AND it doesn't sound like noise reduction was used then it is from the tape I prepared which was completely DDD. I did it at DM under Botnick's supervision. Heh, my version had a whopping 80db of dynamic range which was almost too much for the playback gear of the time to handle. For most of the opening piece the VU meters didn't even MOVE! The analog dub was limited down to 20db which was still pretty radical for an LP cut in the early 80's on poor vinyl. I bet they had a lot of returns..
     
  6. Chris Malone

    Chris Malone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Australia
    Thanks for the info Steve!

    I'm playing MCAD-31073 now, the "AAD" one. It is as quiet as a mouse throughout each track, including tails. You're right about the dynamic range! I noted around 42 dB in the second track. So this is probably from the DDD master and a packaging error. I can't find any other dates other than 1982 listed. Hmmm, just looked at the inner ring of the CD and it lists MCAD37264 - ie the "DDD" marketed one even though the top side of the disc says 31073! Sounds great.

    Now to compare with the 1996 Pat Sullivan mastered one prepared by Shawn Murphy.

    Chris Malone
     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Let us know; I'm curious now.
     
  8. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northern, OR

    I've always been stunned by the dynamic range of that recording. I have the remastered version of the E.T. Soundtrack that came along with the boxed edition of the DVD. Sounds great IMO. No doubt that they used the digital master for the transfer. Dave Collins at Marcussen Mastering did the 2002 remaster.
     
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    I had the privilege of watching them record some of the E.T. score. Nothing beats the sound of a live studio orchestra. Nothing. Up close and personal, no "hall" to get in the way. A truly wonderful score.
     
  10. gener8tr

    gener8tr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, WA USA
    Steve, not trying to kiss your *** by any means, but there's nothing I enjoy more on this forum than reading your stories. PLEASE do us all a favor and continue to post in such a detailed manner... it's great!
     
  11. nukevor

    nukevor Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    I just got the hybrid SACD version. Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.
     
  12. BIG ED

    BIG ED Forum Resident

    Deja Aja!!!
     
  13. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northern, OR

    Wow, that must have been incredible to have witnessed that! I still think the score from E.T. is one of John Williams' best works. Especially the last 10 minutes of the score with the FBI chasing the kids, and when E.T.'s ship takes off, still gives me goosebumps and brings me nearly to tears.
     
  14. posieflump

    posieflump New Member

    Location:
    .
    A fascinating anecdote, Steve. I can't help wondering just how much further they managed to squeeze the pre-recorded cassette version!

    Mart
     
  15. Luke M

    Luke M New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    Looking at the tracks of my AAD 'ET' CD, there's quite a lot of quality variation. The first track is very clean and low noise. Others are somewhat noisier and some have ugly high-frequency distortion. Subjectively, it all sounds pretty good.

    The "expanded" ET releases are not as satisfying musically.
     
  16. Beatlelennon65

    Beatlelennon65 Active Member

    Steve, not trying to read your stories by any means, but there's nothing I enjoy more on this forum than kissing your ***. :)
    No really, I do enjoy the stories. They make everything seem real. You were there, so it's cool to hear first hand stories of what happened, no matter what kind of music it is.
     
  17. Chris Malone

    Chris Malone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Australia
    I noticed that the big 15 minute finale (last track on the original album) on the AAD disc seems to be peak limited and slightly overmodulated in the last few seconds and some loud parts. The same track on the 1996 edition consists of essentially the same takes and the peaks aren't lopped on that version. The 1996 version is also re-EQed to be brighter.

    Some tracks also have a peak at 15 KHz corresponding to TV flyback. Was this imprinted by the digital recorder? I presume Williams was conducting to projected film not video.
     
  18. Luke M

    Luke M New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    The TV peak is amazingly common, on all types of recordings.

    Incidentally, this gives some information on where the recording was made: 15.73Khz=NTSC (US, Japan); 15.62Khz=PAL (Europe, Australia).
     
  19. Chris Malone

    Chris Malone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Australia
    It sure is Luke! I usually filter out 15734 Hz or 15625 Hz when making my own compilations. Some CDs have a considerable signal at either of these frequencies, which can be quite fatiguing to listen to.
     
  20. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    Steve did an ET soundtrack remaster? Holy cow! I gotta find that if it's on CD.

    This is indeed one of my favorite film scores of all time. I became very attached to the original MCA release, with the edited "suites" for a few of the cues. I'm normally one for a complete score, cue for cue as it appears in the movie, but for ET the construction of each composition on the original MCA release was mostly perfection to my ears. I've heard the full score since and it just didn't have the same emotional impact. Funny how you get used to things.

    Jason
     
  21. Joseph

    Joseph Forum Resident

    Any comments yet on the SACD?
     
  22. idiotcountry2

    idiotcountry2 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Does someone have a complete list of all the viny/CD releases of this soundtrack? I opted not to get the original CD, and never got around to getting the late 90's remaster. I did get the expenaded version with the DVD box set in 2002 though. Just wondering what I'm missing :)
     
  23. BIG ED

    BIG ED Forum Resident

    That was easy. Got 31073, with the bicycle in the moon cover. Could have picked up the hands in the moon cover (plaid back cover). No hiss! However, the 'sound' of air (space) in the room palatable. And hearing EVERY little movement (change of position in their chair, shoes on the floor, holding the instruments, etc.) of everyone in the orchestra is amazing! Thanks.
     
  24. EddieVanHalen

    EddieVanHalen Well-Known Member

    My experiences with this soundtrack.

    I have all the CD (as long as I know) version of this soundtrack.
    The first MCA CD release (MCAD-31073) is not free of background noise at all, all the tracks have some amount of it (they are not "silent as a mouse" as Steve says), being very noticeable from the very first track.There's even what it sounds like analog tape hiss on the gaps between tracks. The CD I own is an European pressing (as I live in Spain) made by Warner Music (Record Service Gmbh Alsdorf), which marketed MCA records in Europe until the early 90s. I believe this might be mastered from the digital master dubbed onto analog tape as Steve says. Anyway, it sounds terrific, dynamics and bass response are very good for an early 80s recording.
    Moving to the 1996 "Digitally Remixed, Remastered and Expanded Edition" (MCAD-11494 US pressing), as Steve said the original recording was made on 4 track 15 " analogue and this CD claims to be remixed, we can assume it was sourced from this analogue multi-track master tape and newly remixed in the 90s by Shawn Murphy. For the amount of background noise it sounds like analog (mixed down to digital) to me. For stereo listening I prefer this version over the 20th Anniversary Edition (088 112 819-2 US pressing) released in 2002, which sounds flat and lacks bass compared to both earlier versions.
    For my taste the E.T. soundtrack sounds wonderful on SACD (088 112 818-2 US pressing) multichannel. Surround channels are used only for ambiance (I hate to hear instruments panned onto the rear speakers), sound is very front anchored, harp solos sound very natural giving a you-are-there feeling and lacking of digital harshness. It doesn't sound spectacular on 5.1 SACD, but very natural to me. I'd only wish low frequencies channel (0.1) had been used better as it's a bit shy on bass. I assume both stereo and multichannel versions were remixed on PCM equipment and later converted to DSD for SACD release.
    Happy new year.
     
  25. nukevor

    nukevor Active Member

    Location:
    CA
    You'll hate me, but I haven't even opened it yet. It will be soon, but since it is a hybrid and I don't yet have a SACD player, I can review the redbook layer. I'll keep my ears open for any tape hiss!
     
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