Steve, questions: Your time at Warner Bros. Pictures restoring movie & cartoon scores

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by CardinalFang, Dec 31, 2007.

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  1. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member Thread Starter


    In The Searchers thread, you said:

    I never knew you were at Warners. Can you tell us a little about your time there, and some of the more fun/interesting projects you worked on?

    I'm sure other members might have some questions for you too. :)
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host


    I was an independent contractor hired by WB to do some archive work on their mag "Music Storage" reels back in the early 1990's. It was understood that I would work evenings, weekends and I could do most of the work at my house. This saved WB a zillion dollars by doing it that way. Little did I know when the Warner Bros. truck pulled up to my driveway and unloaded 60 giant reels of THE MUSIC MAN alone (containing every take of the orchesta, the singers, the background singers all UNSYNCED) that I wouldn't last too long at it. Quite overwhelming. At any rate, I was well paid and got to listen to some great music. Just to be able to hear Robert Preston NAIL TROUBLE in one amazing take was reward enough! Some of the songs in GYPSY like Mr. Goldstone were recorded live on the set with three cameras running in sync, like I LOVE LUCY style. Wow. Live to three track mag.

    A bit of background, the Music Storage vault at WB had the magnetic efforts from around 1954 to about 1967. This was music score original material filed by DATE OF RECORDING, all takes from each movie, short subject, TV show, cartoon and anything else that was recorded on the famous Warner Bros. Scoring Stage including some radio commercials! Please realize that WB and all studios were dragged kicking and screaming into the "Hi Fi" era. Before mag everything was recorded on optical film and would have continued to be done that way forever but Television came in and the studios needed to get people back into the movies so the wide-screen thing started and the soundtrack had to improve as well. Instead of using magnetic recording tape the studios had to use 35 mag stock to record, dub and edit in the usual way. Much better fidelity with the mag stuff.

    As I wrote in the Searchers thread:

    The mag film was stored and also some nifty "bounces" to safe and secure recording tape (Scotch 111).

    I had to use a full oxygen mask when working on the 35mm fullcoat mag stuff. Almost had a nervous breakdown doing these and that is no exaggeration. I did it on weekends and nights and had to stop; the smell and the feeling of claustrophobia were too much for me. Ever tried to do an edit wearing a mask and headphones? Geez, like being under the ocean and trying to concentrate.

    I did (in this way) the complete music scores with all alternate takes of AMERICA, AMERICA, GAY PURR-EE, GIANT, SAYONARA, SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS, THE SEARCHERS, THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, RIO BRAVO, AUNTIE MAME, MY FAIR LADY, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, EAST OF EDEN, THE NUN'S STORY, DARBY'S RANGERS, THE MUSIC MAN, GYPSY, THE BAD SEED, UP PERISCOPE and others I can't remember plus a bunch of WB Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes scores by Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn.

    I found the original ROZ RUSSELL voice tracks to the songs from GYPSY (she was replaced in the movie by someone who could actually sing) and I uncovered the Audrey Hepburn vocal tracks for MY FAIR LADY as well. Quite a find.

    A score like THE MUSIC MAN had as many as 10 channels for a song: Like PICK A LITTLE TALK A LITTLE; 3 tracks (left, center, right) for the music, 3 for the Buffalo Bills, 3 tracks for the background singers, and 2 composite tracks for Preston, etc. vocals. Quite complicated to work on.

    In case you care the Warner Bros. cartoon scores I salvaged complete are as follows:

    WB Cartoon Production number:

    1378 PAPPY'S PUPPY
    1423 A STAR IS BORED
    1445 STEAL WOOL
    1465 SHOW BIZ BUGS
    1477 WHOA, BE GONE
    1481 NOW HARE THIS
    1514 CAT'S PAW

    And countless others. Also many Mel Blanc raw voice tracks that were done on the scoring stage. Amazing to hear him do his thing with all the famous characters. Also amazing to hear the comments from the director off mic giving him direction. Loved listening to that stuff.

    By the way those amazing cartoon scores (some released on CD a while back) were the most exciting scores. Full WB orchestra playing their a** off. Such amazing playing in such glorious fidelity. Loved it.

    When I was done with all of the soundtracks I removed the metal and put them all in proper cardboard boxes and labeled each tape of each movie correctly including all of the take numbers. About 2 years later a buddy of mine in Palmdale in his screening room had a reel of some WB film score and with shock I recognized my writing on it. I asked him where the hell he got the reel. He said someone found it dumpster diving in Burbank. In other words, they threw out all the original "music storage" material after I safetied them. A shame.

    The "vinegar syndrome"; thing that happens to fullcoat mag when stored in metal containers is really bad news and I must have spent weeks, months in that smell. Dreadful; my hair smelled, my clothes, urggh. Awful. The mask didn't keep out the stench. Really, the money was good but I couldn't do it anymore; I was really starting to become vinegar myself. Had to give it up! No one else wanted to work with the stuff. They dumped the entire vault soon after.

    Any other questions? :wave:
  3. pencilchewer

    pencilchewer Active Member

    far and away
    None here, but Happy New Year, Steve, and thank you for this forum!

    I now return you back to topic.
  4. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member Thread Starter

    No, but what an image! :yikes: I can only imagine.

    Did any of your work appear on the Stalling CDs that were released around that time?

    Now that would be a nice CD for WB to release. I'd eat that up! :D
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    The thing is, there was a guy at WB that was itching to hear this stuff. I think that's the main reason he got a budget for this. He picked the titles, etc. Some of my work appeared on Laser Disks and DVD's as bonus material (MY FAIR LADY, etc.) but most of it is probably sitting somewhere in a room like at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

    On the Carl Stalling CD the hi fi stuff is my work (can't remember the cartoon titles but they were in the mag era). You can tell because all of a sudden the fidelity becomes amazing on the CD; the switch from optical to magnetic film....

    The WB MUSIC STORAGE vault was a great thing and in retro I guess it's amazing that it lasted into the 1990s at all. But, all good things come to an end.. That vault is probably used now to store all the episodes of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD..
  6. Oh my God :love:

    Thank you for sharing! Do you know if any of this was used on the Looney Tunes DVDs?

    By the way, regarding the orchestra - I recently got the first Animaniacs DVD, and they talked about using the same WB orchestra hall for the show, which I guess is no longer in use or gone. Thinking back, that made a huge difference - the music on that show really put it above other cartoons of the time and brought back a little of the Stalling awesomeness.

    A shame much of this stuff is just thrown out - what will be used for future generations of releases?
  7. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member Thread Starter

    Which Stalling disc? I have the first one, dating from 1990 but you're not in the credits (but the noise reduction engineer is :rolleyes: ).
  8. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Did you create any stereo mixes?
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    DVD? Don't know, could be. We found the STEREO mag for WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? and the cartoon department went crazy with joy, I do remember that they were quite happy (after I was revived on the floor of the old WB scoring stage from my decomposition fumes.)

    I used to eat lunch on the scoring stage sometimes, trying to drink in the ambiance. I loved to stand where Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold stood. Sigh.:love:
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Would a cow lick Lot's wife?
  12. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Mmmmmmmmmmmaybe... :D
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Doesn't really matter; none of that stuff will be released. Union "second usage" fees would kill any project.
  14. jstraw

    jstraw Forum Resident

    I have both "The Carl Stalling Project" volumes and I'm going to go get them right now. :)
  15. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    Me Too! Thanks Steve. Happy New Year.:goodie:
  16. Ere

    Ere Senior Member

    Silver Spring MD
    Did you come across any of the recordings from their work with Warner Bros.? What would the score for Robin Hood or Captain Blood have been recorded on? for the later years, did you come across anything from The Sun Also Rises?
  17. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    They were smart enough to save the good nitrate soundtrack scores recorded on optical film. I saw all the good stuff, THE SEA HAWK, ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, KING'S ROW, MALTESE FALCON, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, NOW VOYAGER, DARK VICTORY, CASABLANCA, TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, etc. sessions. Quite exciting to be that close to movie history.

    Can't remember anything from THE SUN ALSO RISES though...
  18. rmos

    rmos Forum Resident

    A lot of the old optical stuff has been released on CD from Film Score Monthly and Rhino Handmade. Look here:

    Do a search (by composer or title) under the Film Score Monthly button on the left.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    But what do the sound like? I've heard so many attempts that try to modernize the sound of 1930s and 40s music scores by adding reverb and sinister noise reduction. Some are even in pointless fake stereo. Couldn't stand to listen.

    Are these good? Made from real opticals or just beat up acetates found in collections of dead composers?

    Nitrate Optical can sound so good if done correctly but I am tired of being disapointed... Guess I'm spoiled by the real thing after working with it; it's hard to listen to such lo-fi attempts. Unless I really love the score I won't bother...
  20. runofthemill

    runofthemill Forum Resident

    Harrodsburg, KY
    I'm just glad to take away from this that the Dukes Of Hazzard episodes are safe. Now, on with my quest to seek out the preservation facts on the A-Team and Knight Rider episodes.
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Wrong studio but we get your drift...
  22. Sammy Banderas

    Sammy Banderas Forum Resident

    San Diego, CA, USA
    LOL:laugh: But all kidding aside, I think if music/movies/tv shows or any other type of art means something to anyone, it deserves to be preserved.:righton:
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Please note, as long as you can watch the actual movie, the art is preserved.

    The bi-products of the creation process are always expendable.
  24. I'm just wondering if you preserved any of the soundtrack materials from PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955)? Apparently it is coming out on DVD sometime this year with the soundtrack remixed to 5.1, so whatever they had left must've been in reasonable condition.
  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Yes, that was one of them but is the new version REAL 5:1 or some Chace revectored thing? I doubt it could be real unless they found a print in stereo mag or unearthed the four track "Print master". No such thing existed when I was there (the stereo mag with the dialogue, effects, stereo music mixed for the mag printing). Heck, they don't even have a stereo print master for AUNTIE MAME, etc.
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