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Remasters of the First 6 Star Wars Soundtracks now available (Shawn Murphy / Disney Records 2018)


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Brilliant Holko, thank you!

 

 

Amazing they found the 16-track of the unused takes, but not all the proper film takes

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The Phantom Menace arrived today. I've only had a chance to briefly A/B the first two tracks (Main Title/The Arrival at Naboo and Duel of the Fates) against the 1999 release, but my first impressions

What a massive bummer that he cut the film takes straight out of the multi-track masters. Didn't the same thing happen with Dracula? Mike found that amazing quality source but discovered it was missing all the film takes because they spliced them directly out of the master for the film mix.

 

Safe to say those are long gone if they were misplaced after 1977; they wouldn't have been stored properly for four decades. But at least the rest of the elements (circa 1997) seem to offer plenty of options?

 

Maybe they opted for the 4-track masters due to the conversion to stereo? Probably easier than 35mm LCR masters (which sound like the superior source, if Mike himself preferred them last time). Sucks that some cues were apparently missing/damaged on that element... could also explain why Throne Room & End Titles came from the 1/4" four-tracks.

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Chris Malone and I find that the STAR WARS SE edition sounded the best and most accurate in terms of the mix. As Jeff Bond pointed you could almost see the resins come off the cello during the 'The Throne Room/End Title' track.

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Those cutaways with 4trk and such in the name you can only see when pausing may have just been random pap for marketing purposes, not the actual workflow, I could certainly imagine them archiving everything digitally just to have it just in case, then pulling up some random thing to get a cutaway shot nobody will look at, done.

7 minutes ago, Jay said:

IMO the 1997 SEs from those 1/4" already sound acceptable.

Just to be pedantic, according to Malone, the SE used the original live mixed 35mm 3-track, and the 16-track for the alternate. 35mm is 1.37 inches.

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42 minutes ago, crumbs said:

What a massive bummer that he cut the film takes straight out of the multi-track masters.

 

Yea, nobody does that any more!  Still, CE3K and Superman came out fine despite this.

 

42 minutes ago, crumbs said:

Didn't the same thing happen with Dracula? Mike found that amazing quality source but discovered it was missing all the film takes because they spliced them directly out of the master for the film mix.

 

No, that's not right, I think you have some stories conflated.

 

42 minutes ago, crumbs said:

Safe to say those are long gone if they were misplaced after 1977; they wouldn't have been stored properly for four decades.

 

Who knows!

 

42 minutes ago, crumbs said:

Maybe they opted for the 4-track masters due to the conversion to stereo? Probably easier than 35mm LCR masters (which sound like the superior source, if Mike himself preferred them last time). Sucks that some cues were apparently missing/damaged on that element... could also explain why Throne Room & End Titles came from the 1/4" four-tracks.

 

They might have transferred the 35mm source for this new project too; Who knows!

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Hopefully they just scanned all the tapes then worked out the rest digitally. Seems like a near impossible task to achieve any other way, because you really have no way of knowing which source would result in the best possibly AQ unless you have it scanned in and cleaned up.

 

Not to mention some elements would be missing cues, missing fragments of cues (film takes), have damaged sections that can't be repaired, etc. It sounds like Mike wouldn't need to recreate all the performance edits if they're already covered on the 3-track mag, but he might prefer to do it if there's a superior source discovered.

 

10 minutes ago, Jay said:

We've talked about that scenario over drinks more than once!  I volunteered to help with the archaeological dig, he indicated many people had already offered themselves before me :)

 

I'm sure almost everyone at Lucasfilm, Disney Records and JWFan would help with that task also! Probably millions of Star Wars fanatics as well. I do think Mike is the best placed person to find those 16-track offcuts, if anyone's going to. But you never hear positive things about the quality of Lucasfilm archiving, especially when it comes to the original film elements. The OCN was in rough shape over 20 years when they did the SE, apparently.

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I just happened to have the three 1997 SE sets on my desk this week, as I was planning on listening to them as part of a project I'm undertaking where I go through and listen to my entire collection physically.  Anyways, this is what is says in the booklets
 

SW:

 

"35MM magnetic elements transferred at the North Room, Zanuck Theater, 20th Century Fox Studios, Los Angeles, CA, April 1996

16-track analog elements transferred at Trax, Hollywood, CA May 1996"

 

TESB: 

 

"24-track analog elements transferred at the North Room, Zanuck Theater, 20th Century Fox Studios, Los Angeles, CA, April 1996"

 

ROTJ: 

 

It doesn't specify :(

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@crumbs, not to nitpick, but you tend to use the word "scan" in reference to the process of digitizing analog audio tapes.  I believe "transfer" is the correct term, or at least a more accurate term.  I've never heard "scan" used in this reference before.  I immediately think of an optical process when I hear "scan", and that certainly isn't what's happening when an analog tape is digitized.

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4 minutes ago, Jay said:

ROTJ: 

 

It doesn't specify

 

Someone posted recently a message from Mike specifically on that subject. It was in the last few weeks but it's the only instance (that I'm aware) of Mike addressing the sound issues with ROTJ in the SE. Apparently it was the best available source at the time, and different to whatever they used for the Anthology.

 

2 minutes ago, thx99 said:

@crumbs, not to nitpick, but you tend to use the word "scan" in reference to the process of digitizing analog audio tapes.  I believe "transfer" is the correct term, or at least a more accurate term.  I've never heard "scan" used in this reference before.  I immediately think of an optical process when I hear "scan", and that certainly isn't what's happening when an analog tape is digitized.

 

Thanks for the correction, I didn't realise. I come from a photography/visual background so I've just been conflating the two formats (as 'scans' would be an apt description for film reels in a telecine, etc.)

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And they've found better sources since, I remember that being quoted too. So if they didn't bother looking for better than garbage sources for an entire bloody score, the missing 16track SW bits being archived well somewhere they couldn't be bothered to look is not out of the question at all. Or the missing Jabba reel.

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3 minutes ago, crumbs said:

Thanks for the correction, I didn't realise. I come from a photography/visual background so I've just been conflating the two formats (as 'scans' would be an apt description for film reels in a telecine, etc.)


Makes sense then, given your background.  :)  It's all good.

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Somebody - maybe MM - wrote in to Star Wars Insider Magazine in the letters column in the late 1990s discussing the sound on ROTJ.  All of my old issues are long since recycled, but I remember the brief letter very clearly.

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7 minutes ago, Holko said:

And they've found better sources since, I remember that being quoted too. So if they didn't bother looking for better than garbage sources for an entire bloody score, the missing 16track SW bits being archived well somewhere they couldn't be bothered to look is not out of the question at all. Or the missing Jabba reel.

 

And sadly the missing Jabba reel is still unknown. They might have used the album master for the fragment on the Demasters, it's inconclusive (and the spectogram looks similar to the track on Sony's releases, which used the album masters).

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1 hour ago, Holko said:

 

Here's another interesting piece of info from that PDF:

 

Quote

 Alan Snelling recalled that the three-channel film mix was also routed to tracks 1-3 of a Studer A80 16-track 2” recorder, also encoded with Dolby A. Major sections of the orchestra were isolated on tracks 4-15 and a 50 Hz pilot tone allocated to track 16 for synchronisation with the motion picture. “I remember this so well,” reflected Alan Snelling with great fondness, “because I pressed that record button to record the ‘Main Titles.’”

 

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And another:

 

Quote

Williams prepared his soundtrack album at the Warner Burbank Studios Groves-Rice complex with senior engineer John Neal.

 

[...]

 

Williams carefully selected and edited 74 minutes from his 88 minute Star Wars score by cross-fading cues and presenting a memorable listening experience that often avoided strict chronological order in favour of musical diversity. John Neal adjusted the sound for home phonograph technology of the time. Stereo image was periodically refocussed, reverberation added and a forward bass-shy equalisation applied. It is surmised that reverb was employed to cover analog splices, mask studio noises and reposition the soundstage at a further perspective to account for the difference between cinema and home listening environments.


Although important, today John Neal’s contribution to the original album might better be referred to as editing and mastering rather than a complex remix. “I did the mixing on everything for the film down to three-track,” confirmed Eric Tomlinson. “So it’s just a matter of transferring that three-track straight across – and diminishing the centre track a little bit – and you’ve got your two-track.” 33 The author also expresses his concerns of the frequent misuse of the term “remix” in sleeve notes for albums – when working from three-channel material the process should ideally be referred to as “transferring” or performing a “reduction.” The reduction here does not always present a level balance between the three channels – stereo image has been narrowed periodically to draw focus to a particular solo. For example, the french horn statement of Luke’s theme at the conclusion of “The Robot Auction” emanates predominately from the centre compared with left of image on subsequent reissues and within the film itself. Generally, the left channel has a slightly elevated level in relation to subsequent releases and this is most evident in “Ben’s Death.”

 

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The 16-track tapes of SW containing the correct takes were found a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. I didn't know they used 4-track for the 2018 release.

 

http://filmscoremonthly.com/board/posts.cfm?forumID=1&pageID=3&threadID=101432&archive=0

Quote

I was at a Star Wars-related convention in L.A. maybe 6-8 years ago where Dan Melson had a booth trying to sell these tapes he got from the John Neal estate—he's been trying to unload them for years. He has every right to own and sell the master tapes, even though he does not own the intellectual property recorded ONTO the tapes. He always asked a fortune and, not surprisingly, people were not interested, seeing as how the tapes are worthless except for the "cool factor." He had a lot of rock stuff too. Of the film music, the tapes are basically dub-downs of little importance except for the Star Wars 2" 16-track masters which contain the edited "selects" Williams and Ken Wannberg chose—I remember when they did the Star Wars Special Edition CDs, they had the 16-track masters, but all of these master takes from the original album had been snipped out! So that's where they went, making those 16-tracks are highly important. Now, the good news: at that Star Wars con was Matthew Wood, a sound editor for Lucasfilm (voice of General Grievous, I think?) and he and I were like, WTF?! I am quite sure he subsequently coordinated to have the 16-tracks digitized at Lucasfilm (in exchange for a tour or something for Melson)...whatever. I think it's all OK, so people should RELAX.

 

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2 hours ago, crumbs said:

What a massive bummer that he cut the film takes straight out of the multi-track masters. Didn't the same thing happen with Dracula? Mike found that amazing quality source but discovered it was missing all the film takes because they spliced them directly out of the master for the film mix.


It might be Superman: The Movie that you're referring to, not Dracula.  I was just re-listening to Matessino's interview on The Legacy of John Williams regarding the LLL Superman: The Movie release, and when he talks about the Rhino 2-CD release, he mentions having to "Frankenstein" the restoration as best he could from the masters and the film mix (or something like that).

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I think there was some source combination on Dracula too: better sounding but already edited film dubs plus unedited but worse sounding elements. Album was too different a mix or something. He mentioned To Scarborough being especially patchworky and that it was hard to make it feel consistent. I think.

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20 minutes ago, phbart said:
Quote

I was at a Star Wars-related convention in L.A. maybe 6-8 years ago where Dan Melson had a booth trying to sell these tapes he got from the John Neal estate—he's been trying to unload them for years. He has every right to own and sell the master tapes, even though he does not own the intellectual property recorded ONTO the tapes. He always asked a fortune and, not surprisingly, people were not interested, seeing as how the tapes are worthless except for the "cool factor." He had a lot of rock stuff too. Of the film music, the tapes are basically dub-downs of little importance except for the Star Wars 2" 16-track masters which contain the edited "selects" Williams and Ken Wannberg chose—I remember when they did the Star Wars Special Edition CDs, they had the 16-track masters, but all of these master takes from the original album had been snipped out! So that's where they went, making those 16-tracks are highly important. Now, the good news: at that Star Wars con was Matthew Wood, a sound editor for Lucasfilm (voice of General Grievous, I think?) and he and I were like, WTF?! I am quite sure he subsequently coordinated to have the 16-tracks digitized at Lucasfilm (in exchange for a tour or something for Melson)...whatever. I think it's all OK, so people should RELAX.

 

 

Oh man I had forgotten about that story.  It makes sense than the 16track 2" of the selected film takes remained with John Neal, since he used them to make the OST album master.  I guess he never gave them back ,and no one ever asked him to?  I REALLY hope those WERE indeed digitized by Lucasfilm as the LK  suggests, though I don't know why Lucasfilm wouldn't have offered the dude the money to just buy them back while they were at it...

 

This also doesn't explain why that screen shot showed them using a 1/4" source for the 2018 demasters.  Well, maybe it was only to patch something that sounded wonky on their transfer of the 2"

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2 minutes ago, Jay said:

I REALLY hope those WERE indeed digitized by Lucasfilm as the LK  suggests, though I don't know why Lucasfilm wouldn't have offered the dude the money to just buy them back while they were at it...

 

I was thinking the same thing, but then I remembered George's known to be cheap... and he prefers digital anyway.

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Yeah, again, I wouldn't be sure at all that these are the actual workflows and used files, not some random bits imported just for these very likely later recorded quick cutaways.

 

At 5:29 they're looking at 16-track and 3-track breakdowns dated 5-3-77.

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Thanks for pointing it out, fellows. I was just watching it, and it really gives me the creeps to see those old people with hearing loss holding such a responsibility that is restore the master tapes.

 

One other thing. It's confusing as to what source they actually used for SW. This screencap clearly shows "Mag" written in file name, which could mean they used the 35mm magnetic elements, which is 4-track

 

20200430_150817.jpg

 

However this screen here shows what seems to be a 16-track channel log.

 

20200430_150849.jpg

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The 35mm was a 3-track live mix and if you watch the video further, that shot pans to the right where you can see the 3 track breakdown too.

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They clearly used both the 35mm mag AND the 16track, like they did for the 1997 sets as well

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10 minutes ago, Holko said:

The 35mm was a 3-track live mix and if you watch the video further, that shot pans to the right where you can see the 3 track breakdown too.

Yes, I was going to mention that. I also remember Chris Malone mentioning that the 35mm mag was a live recording made alongside the 16-track tape. So it could be that those 3-track breakdowns are just a guide as to how the live 3-track recording was configurated. Who knows.

 

20200430_152312.jpg

 

But it's a strong indication that all the 1st generation elements are preserved. It's just a matter of getting someone who knows how to handle them.

 

 

10 minutes ago, Jay said:

They clearly used both the 35mm mag AND the 16track, like they did for the 1997 sets as well

I believe they only used the 35mm mag for the 1997 sets. The 16-tracks with the goodies were not available to them at the time.

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We've been through this, we founf the Malone doc, quoted shit and everything. The 16-track they had had all the film takes missing (and they didn't bother to go search for them at the time), they could only use it for the Binary Sunset alternate.

5 minutes ago, phbart said:

So it could be that those 3-track breakdowns are just a guide as to how the live 3-track recording was configurated. Who knows.

What else would it be?

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13 minutes ago, phbart said:

I believe they only used the 35mm mag for the 1997 sets. The 16-tracks with the goodies were not available to them at the time.

 

We know, they used the OTHER 16 track source, the one with the unused takes, that's where the binary sunset alt came from.  Read this page and last, we've discussed all of this!

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22 minutes ago, Jay said:

We know, they used the OTHER 16 track source, the one with the unused takes, that's where the binary sunset alt came from.  Read this page and last, we've discussed all of this!

No need. The Malone pdf doc mentioned this already. I think what's been discussed here is what source they actually used for the 2018 release, not the 1997, now that it's clear the 16-track tapes with the goodies were indeed located, but unclear what was made with them (bought back from the seller, or just borrowed and digitized, or if they were in good shape, etc).


While the video shows what seems be the 35mm mag tape transfer, judging from a random file name, AND a 16-track channel mapping log along with a 3-track one, it's not clear what they had in their hands. Those 16-track logs could very well be the same one they had in 1997, that is, from the set of tapes that weren't the goodies. There are endless possibilities, and we're just doing what we do best here: theorize about ALL of them. :)

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I kinda prefer the sound on the Anthology set for even SW. The SE certainly isn't bad and the signature loud punchy sound is totally consistent with how it sounded in the SE version of the movie. On that note, the lifeless SE releases of ESB and ROTJ sound nothing like they did in the movies. 

 

That being said, the Anthology mix is more relaxed, I suppose and less fatiguing. SE is very bright and loud. Again, it suits it, but it isn't as pleasant to listen to.

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With so many mixes currently existing for these scores, I wonder if a new mix can even be created that will please everyone for a potential future definitive edition release?  What should Mike strive for? A mix that pleases 80% of the audience? 90%  Or just a mix that he feels is right?

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11 minutes ago, Gruesome Son of a Bitch said:

I kinda prefer the sound on the Anthology set for even SW. The SE certainly isn't bad and the signature loud punchy sound is totally consistent with how it sounded in the SE version of the movie. On that note, the lifeless SE releases of ESB and ROTJ sound nothing like they did in the movies. 

 

That being said, the Anthology mix is more relaxed, I suppose and less fatiguing. SE is very bright and loud. Again, it suits it, but it isn't as pleasant to listen to.

As an extended edition, the Anthology is the way to go. Too bad they didn't have time and proper guidance to put together the music with the correct takes.

 

The SE is just not a pleasant listening experience. It's very well put together, but the sound is just... too much.

 

 

9 minutes ago, Jay said:

With so many mixes currently existing for these scores, I wonder if a new mix can even be created that will please everyone for a potential future definitive edition release?  What should Mike strive for? A mix that pleases 80% of the audience? 90%  Or just a mix that he feels is right?

As long as they don't sound like the original albums...

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34 minutes ago, Gruesome Son of a Bitch said:

The original album of ROTJ sounds better than most JW scores I've ever heard. Every release since was a sonic downgrade.

Jedi OST sounds fine because they used the original engineer's mix. I don't think the Anthology and the 2018 releases of Jedi are a sonic downgrade.

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The last 2 pages is certainly a rollercoaster of information. So the lost fragments of the multi-tracks (the most important tapes of the whole lot) were being flogged off at some random convention over a decade ago but we have no confirmation that Lucasfilm recovered or digitised them, just that Matthew Wood was aware of who had them at the time. At least if Lukas was aware of that, Mike would also know, so he would know where to start looking if Lucasfilm never followed it up.

 

Shawn Murphy's comments in 2015 are even more confusing now, unless he was referring to the tapes from ESB or ROTJ. We still have no confirmation about the missing sessions from ROTJ.

 

Seeing paperwork for the 16-track masters doesn't necessarily mean those tapes were usable either; the same paperwork has the breakdown of the LCR 35mm masters which don't seem to be lost (but could be damaged, judging by the use of 1/4" four-tracks).

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Yep. Pretty much that's about it. I also would love to know if the complete set of 24-track tapes from ESB were located. According to the Malone pdf, for the 97 SE, only the cues that were on the 1980 OST album were available in the 24-track masters. All the other cues came from the variety of inferior sources used for the 93 Anthology.

 

I sort of lost the "Shawn Murphy 2015 comments" part. What were those?

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1 hour ago, phbart said:

I sort of lost the "Shawn Murphy 2015 comments" part. What were those?

 

Some discussion about finding the masters here with Dann Thompson (Skywalker Sound employee who found the LP masters at Lucasfilm, also worked on the Disney releases) and Shawn Murphy:

 

Specifically on finding the album/LP masters for the original trilogy:

Quote

Dann Thompson: The most difficult was actually finding the elements. The archives is a big place and some of the earlier episodes... it was harder to find. As time went on and after the albums were made, multiple copies of things get made because they go to different... there's a European release, there's an American release... and so there's different masters for things. So, it took a little while to sift through all those elements to find the definitive ones.

 

And on the film masters:

 

Quote

Dan Thompson: The archives building at Skywalker is climate controlled. And there's a section for audio tapes and they're lined up by episode. But they were there, although there were multiple copies of things with different dates and so, trying to find the exact ones to use took some time and a little research on when things were recorded, things like that. Jokingly I think I found one of the reels leaning up against this crate that said Ark of the Covenant on it... No, it wasn't really there but it's nice to think of it that way.

 

Shawn Murphy: Well, the thing you have to remember too, there's a lot of different masters. I mean, Dan found stereo masters for 4, 5, 6, which were original LP masters but there are film masters and there are various iterations of film masters. Original scoring masters, dub units, final print masters on film, or now on ProTools or whatever the format was. And a lot of those masters are in boxes, not in the vault -- they're in the salt mines, or they're stored away some place, who knows.

 

You'd probably have to open a thousand cardboard boxes to find all of it. And a lot of that material is our best existing version of these scores because, especially in the early years of Episodes 4, 5, 6, we don't have existing multi-track masters of all that material. We do have mix masters and Eric Tomlinson and I did live mixes, so you have a good representation in Eric's mixes of what was there. But those are on MAG film and they were used for dubbing. And they're in a box in the salt mines some place that Dan never found and I certainly never found. We know they exist but... you know... it's a bit of a trainwreck to know what we've got and where it is.

 

This video was around the time The Force Awakens was released, so 4 years ago. It seems to contradict what we know from the SE releases (unless he's referring to just ROTJ, I think those multi-tracks were entirely missing back in 1997).

 

There's also an explanation from the Sony rep, and we've heard similar things from Mike about various projects:

 

Quote

Bernie Grundman: Also, part of the issue is that the ownership of the music has changed hands many times, so you never really know when company B purchases from company A. Are they really getting everything that company A has? And then, company C, you know... so it's tough to keep track of that stuff. And that's true of so many projects and recordings. The reel masters, the multi-tracks and all that, they're just scattered all over.

 

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Nice info. Seems like they are having a hard time telling if a tape reel is a dub or a master or a film synch mix. Seems like they don't even know where they are, what they're doing, where they're going, where they've been...

 

Doesn't look good.

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13 minutes ago, crumbs said:

They just need to hire Mike Matessino to fix this mess once and for all. 

 

I have this sinking feeling that we'll still be posting comments like this in 2025 :shakehead:

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Maybe Disney will release music streaming service, Disney Audio+, and the expanded music of Star Wars, remastered directly from the 16-track tapes (found in a random display booth of a convention) will premiere there...

 

...or wil gonna have to wait for the 50th anniversary in 2027.

 

Anyways. We know there are 16-track masters of SW, partial 24-track masters for ESB (OST cues only), but I don't think it was ever mentioned about a 24-track masters for Jedi. The Malone pdf says it was recorded that way, but I don't remember been mentioned that it was ever available or used in any of the re-releases. Only 2-track, 3-track and what have you, was mentioned.

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