Who invented Dolby Atmos

"Blues Brothers" for the first time in a German long version and in Dolby Atmos

Five years ago "Blues Brothers" celebrated its Blu-ray premiere in the long version; Universal is now announcing a new German version on Blu-ray Disc for the beginning of September. But the cult film from 1980 is not simply pressed onto silver discs again; on the contrary, Turbine Medien has produced a lovers' edition with revised images and sound. For the first time, fans will get the full version dubbed in German.

The reinserted sequences of around 15 minutes in length come from a 70 mm screening copy that was ringed through the USA as part of a roadshow in the early 1980s. The cinema operator who last played it just kept it - which apparently nobody noticed at Universal. It was only when the cinema operator in question died in the late 1990s and his son tried to sell his inheritance on eBay that the copy caught the eye of the studio's lawyers.

At the turn of the millennium, the Blues Brothers had already appeared on DVD in the long version in Germany, but the additional material was added in English with German subtitles. The change between the original sound and the dubbed version tore the audience out of the film again and again - which probably meant that the version was no longer produced. For the new Blu-ray version, Turbine Medien brought in the original speakers again and re-recorded the dialogues for the additional scenes.

The new German dubbed track can be found on the disc in 5.1 format, just like the original English version; in addition, the film is released for the first time with a (German-language) 3D soundtrack. This is not least because the film was originally shown in mono in the cinemas. It is precisely this fact that is likely to attract some critics.

c't took the opportunity to talk to Christian Bartsch, technical director at Turbine Medien, and Nils Wulkop, director of the CSC studio in Hamburg, about the work on the soundtrack before the release. In addition, c't could already listen to the Dolby Atmos mix of the new release; You can find the result in the current issue of c't 12/16 on page 34.

c't:How does an indie like Turbine Medien get a cult film from Universal?

Christian Bartsch:The idea came up in 2012 when Universal and Turbine first met. The approach was to take titles that a major owns but cannot handle in "indie fashion" due to time and cost reasons.

As a rule, the home theater editions are made in California, where the studios are located and where the film is also made. In Europe, however, there are very few major productions. The local branches of the studios often only take care of the sale, a production apparatus is rarely attached to it. It was against this background that the aforementioned exploratory talks took place.

c't:But the new edition of Blues Brothers is also distributed by Universal?

Bartsch:Yes, the discs are prepared by us and then run through the Universal distribution. There will be co-branding on the cover. Turbine did not acquire the license.

It is true that every major license titles that they do not market themselves to other companies. Turbine now also obtains a larger part of its portfolio from providers such as Universal by acquiring a classic license and then manufacturing products itself. The actual studio then has nothing to do with these products.

On the other hand, there are a lot of titles that the major does not evaluate himself, but which he cannot out-license either - precisely because they are crown jewels that clearly belong to the studio.

c't:Many readers will now wonder how a film that was shown in mono in the cinema can now have 5.1 sound.

Christian Bartsch:What the fans often do not know is that not all sound recordings are necessarily thrown away. With a German synchro it is something different, which is usually only available as a sum. But in the archives you can still find original stems from many films.

Basically there were all the individual elements from 1980 for Blues Brothers - every bang, shot, creak, footsteps, everything that can be heard in terms of effects. And from this, between 2003 and 2007, Universal created a new 5.1-channel IT ["International Track", ready-mixed soundtrack of the film without dialogues, editor's note], which can be used as the basis for international versions.

You have to say that someone on the Universal side has put a lot of effort into creating the 5.1 version. That was done with great attention to detail. We found a few artifacts where we noticed that they were being cheated. But on the other hand you noticed that they were cheating because they had to cheat in order to be able to present the film that way.

For the Blues Brothers we received this so-called "M&E", ie "Music and Effects" from Universal. These are separate music and effect tracks that were premixed here in 5.1 without voices, and to which you can synchronize. Unfortunately, it was only available for the theatrical version; the one for the long version was destroyed in a fire in the Universal archive in 2008.

c't: But now there will also be fans who still regard 5.1 sound as sacrilege.

Bartsch: Today we also scan old films in HD; you could also say "Blues Brothers is from 1980, so it should also be released on VHS". In this respect, one can argue that if you show the picture in HD, then you can also mix the sound in 5.1. We would always love to be able to offer the original sound. We do that with other titles, but it didn't work with Blues Brothers.

Afterwards I tried to marry off the finished 5.1 version at the new places as a mono downmix with the rest of the old mono version in order to create an authentic, authentic mono version. But that failed because the old mono version had to be edited for the 5.1 version. Due to the longer sequences, the music in the 5.1 version and the mono version does not always run synchronously, but sometimes a little further ahead and sometimes a little further back - and then even longer. That means, there are other clock points that you suddenly have to put right in the middle. And then you have an old mono version where language and music are married. If you want to put it there, you suddenly notice that two pieces of music run against each other. But the language has to be there so that it fits the picture.

c't:The challenge at Blues Brothers was that there was no more M&E for the new positions, only for the rest of the film.

Bartsch:But that alone was helpful because some elements - such as a passing train - could also be found in other parts of the film. That means that many noises could be "fished", that is, fetched from another place and used. In very few cases, however, had to be repaired. Then we listened to what it sounds like in the original English version and had to make a similar noise - or like Nils crawling over the asphalt in a district of Hamburg at night and making and recording any footstep noises.

Nils Wulkop: It was about a new scene in which gas is filled into the tires of the police cars. Music is playing in the background while people are talking in the front. This is the worst possible way of carving an M&E from the original English sound of the long version. So I made the background noise there anew. And then it's not about the twittering of birds in the night meadow, but about all the body noises and sneaking across the asphalt. And since there are two protagonists, I still had shoes on my hands and walked across the street at night. That's how it was recorded - and it actually worked out quite well.

c't: In the case of a music film, the question naturally arises as to how good the quality of the music recordings was.

Bartsch: You have to distinguish between two types of music that appear in the film. Once there is the one that was made specifically for the film. These are all the songs that originally belong to the film. And on the other hand you have the so-called "source" music that appears somewhere in the film - because, for example, Elwood turns on a record.

The latter was also released and licensed on record. It doesn't matter whether I break the original soundtrack or not: It's available on vinyl and maybe CD. I can fetch it from there at any time, that's not technically the problem. There were challenges for Nils when there was a new position in which source music continued. Here he had to make sure that the transitions are not noticeable.

The other music is the one that is played in the film by the protagonists. It was available as a four-channel mix, i.e. practically quadrophonic. These were already mixed into the English 5.1 version by Universal, so you only had to put the German voices into the center channel for dialogues.

Some tracks like "Shake Your Tail Feather" had a lot of steam in the original. In Atmos, they have become a little wider, but there are no new rooms or reverbs - just speakers, which are now also played with music.

c't:Speaking of Atmos. Why is there a 3D sound version on the disc at all? Turbine could have been content with publishing a long version dubbed in German for the first time.

Wulkop: "It practically imposed itself. We actually talked intensively about the project. In itself there were enough challenges - 80, 90 percent of the entire project consisted of replacing text passages. It was a huge task to tinker with IT. The German version we had broke down when dialogues came up.

That we could theoretically do the whole thing in Atmos was an option. And Christian also said that they had thought about it, but immediately discarded it. The people who want to watch the film are not primarily after Atmos. But I thought that would be a good side effect - not just because we can do it, but because it's a very nice project. It then turned out that everyone involved was immediately hooked - and said, "I'll help out."

And so I said to Christian: "You don't really have to do anything else, we just do it - and then it's an option for you to publish it as well. Then it got a little momentum of its own: When we actually did Then we noticed that it was actually winning. The whole project can be expanded to include this dimension - and many people will certainly like that too. But I frankly admit that I didn't even have that on my screen before that it takes on this dimension.

c't:How did you get the noises for the height channels?

Bartsch:In the first step, a 3D sound premix was generated based on the 5.1 mix from Universal. An algorithm similar to that known from the upmixers in 3D sound-capable audio / video receivers was used. In fact, both approaches are related: The algorithm used for Blues Brothers comes from Ralph Kessler, who also headed the development team for the Auro-3D upmixer AuroMatic.

But now you have to say that he invented the algorithms in the AuroMatic. Of course, they also work as a commercial product without the AuroMatic. As an external employee, Kessler created this basic 3D mix for this project - and this was done on professional studio equipment. This is of course more powerful than the DSP chips in AV receivers.

First of all, the largest possible multi-channel version in the 7.1.6 format [7.1 plus 6 ceiling channels, editor's note] was created. There was way too much steam up there, but it was said: "You can always take it away, it will only be difficult to produce something later". That was then shut down and opened again in the appropriate places during the mix.

c't:Some people at the Blues Brothers may imagine that the film music is opened up a bit. But there are quite a few scenes with effects. Even the Atmos-typical helicopter overflight is not missing.

Bartsch: Blues Brothers is an action film. But you don't have that on your screen because you always see it as a musical film. Just think of the car chase, which for years was the largest and most complex of its kind with over 100 crashes in the Guiness Book.

Now you have to say: We as indies are always careful to touch such material - because we have extreme respect for distorting a work. It is always extremely important for us to present something as the director intended. In other words, this version of the film should also be available in mono in this version [on the disc]. But that does not work because there is no longer any mono IT for the newly inserted positions and it is not so easy to create it.

But at the beginning there was a lot of respect and concern and concern as to whether we actually want to take this step all the way to Atmos. But when we noticed that 5.1 was working, we suddenly got this "Why not?" Because the beautiful thing is, you only gain and do not distort it. That was the challenge that we said: “We want that to be authentic - and we would like to be able to talk to John Landis afterwards without him saying“ They distorted my film. ”As we now know, that's exactly what it is The opposite happens: John Landis thinks it's all great and is thrilled that we made this effort. But that was our top priority: We wanted to make something great with it, but not "overproduce" it. We don't want a film by Make it in 2016, but it should remain the film from 1980.

c't:On the other hand, when there are explosions in Atmos, for example, everything usually flies up acoustically. That is not the case here.

Wulkop: No. We didn't exchange sounds just because it was possible. The big difference between productions in the past and today is that today you do a great sound design and create an explosion much more precisely using many individual elements. This achieves exactly the effect that everything literally flies around your ears. But at that time a gas explosion was recorded as such somewhere. And of course the recording technique was relatively contemplative.

In two or three places we noticed that it was a bit thin and maybe even asynchronous. We then fixed that by moving the sounds to the appropriate places. In addition, elements were taken from the scenes in order to create the LFE channel [low frequency effect channel, annot. the editor]. Or we took the sequence from another part of the film, where it turned out better, and doubled it up again. But we didn't take any strange elements, they wouldn't go together.

c't: Will "Blues Brothers" be the last lover version of a universal movie?

Bartsch: There are a number of titles from the Universal portfolio that we at Turbine think are great and of which we said: A great German edition is missing because you could still do this and that. Blues Brothers is just the beginning, but it won't be the last title. I cannot go into detail at this point, however, as there are still a few unlaid eggs.

c't: Thank you for the interview!