A poll for people who watch movies at home

I have a DVD player and I love watching movies at home. Like many people I would not watch a colorized movie. Also I prefer to watch a film in it’s original format. (letterboxed)

But many of the films coming out on DVD have been altered from the original format and nobody seems to be raising a big stink about it.

What I’m talking about is the sound format.

Many films that were originally released in mono sound are being released on DVD in full surround sound. There is no option on the disc to play in mono and you have to mess with your sound system to get the sound ‘right’.

IMHO the sound format is just as important as the type of film stock and the shape of the image.

Who’s with me?

Umm… not me.

Of all the evils in the world, I’m afraid I just can’t get worked up over basic stereo channel separation. Remastering sound to suit the new level of technology available in most homes simply seems… considerate.

Colorization changed the very nature of the film; any cinematographer knows you have to light and shoot a film very differently for black and white than you do for color. Remastering sound, if done well, simply enhances the soundtrack, making it more audible. It’s not like they’re adding laugh tracks, or background music.

Not me either.

I’m not a particularly discriminating viewer. I watch to be entertained, scared, or transported away from my hum-drum routine. As long as I can see and hear what’s happening on the screen, I don’t much care about the rest.

However, I think colorized movies look cheesy and I find them distracting. What’s wrong with B&W? A good story doesn’t need fancy embellishments!!

Stereo channel seperation is probably the least troubling thing about the DVD medium. Getting fanatics like me to buy multiple copies of films we love by releasing “Special” or “Ultimate” editions . . . now that’s a problem. Damn your black soul, George Lucas.

Why not just buy a mono TV? They do still make them, if it’s that important to you.

What MrVisible said.

I know what you mean. I bought Se7en and a few weeks later they released the “Special” or whatever edition with commentaries and stuff. DAMMIT!

As to the OP:
I’d much rather hear a movie in surround sound than in mono.

While there is some parallel to colorization, I think that mono sound was a technological limitation that allowed for no real artisitic “use”. black and white shots were still designed to emphasize elements of contrast, shadowing, tint, etc. Mono sound has no analagous elements which allowed the filmmaker to play. Nothing is “lost” by the addition of stero (or surround) sound.


Would you take a silent film and dubb in the dialogue becasue technology makes it possible.

What we lose is the way the film was presented to the original audience. Somehow these films remained in the public’s mind with out the benifit of stero sound so why do we need the enhancement?

No, that would change the entire nature of the film (which is why I’m against colourization as well). However, as others have said, enhancing the sound to make for a better experience is quite alright with me.
And not all of the films that are being released on DVD have remained in the public’s eye. Many of them are getting a second life on DVD. Many people simply won’t buy DVD’s that don’t have high-quality sound.

I can understand your point, but I think it is improving the experience of the movie. Some film has been left to degrade so badly over the years that a remastering is one of the best things for it (thank you Criterion…). Also, many are supervised by the directors, sound engineers on the orginal, or other experts/people associated with the movie. That way, the director’s original intent is not lost.

Anyways, you’re not viewing it as the original audience viewed it at all in the first place. I could make the same argument for the better picture quality on DVD (digital is not film). If I wanted to see it the way audiences originally saw it, I’d get the film out from my school library & watch it on my projector. I know that not everybody has such easy access, though.

If it really bothers you, set your stereo to mono for cripes sake. I didn’t spend all that time setting up my surround sound system for nothing.

I’d prefer it if they offered the option to veiw a movie in the original B&W, though.

I agree with Zebra. I’d much prefer the soundtrack to be presented in its original format. Although I’m thankful that many films are getting much needed restorations (another thanks to Criterion) due to the meteoric rise of the DVD format, there’s sometimes a thin line between restoration and revisionism. As Rob stated, many films have deteriorated badly, often missing original elements completely. This can lead to some questionable practices.

Take Jaws for example. Universal recently released a collector’s edition with a restored print and newly re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. However, some of the original soundtrack recordings were damaged beyond repair. To get around this, they simply re-recorded the foley effects and a few incidental musical passages, mixed them into the surviving soundtrack elements and got a close approximation of the original. BUT, it’s only an approximation. A very good mono track on the pre-existing laserdisc was sadly ignored.

I believe that studios should strive as much as possible to present the movie in its original form. Granted, re-mixing soundtracks isn’t a crime on the level of colourizing or panning & scanning but there is certainly a parallel. The irony of this debate is that since DVDs have such huge storage capacity and mono soundtracks are tiny compared to DD5.1 or DTS it would be simple to include both. Problem solved.

Hodge[sub]who’s still pissed off about Jaws[/sub]

I’m afraid the level of purism necessary to insist on mono sound on DVDs is beyond me. I understand that it’s not the way that the original was viewed, but then the original wasn’t seen on televisions at all, either. And was probably shown with short features, and meant to be enjoyed by large audiences, not small families.

I love film, from the silent classics to the most novel use of modern technologies, and I agree that preserving the intent of the filmmaker is paramount. So to speak. But I’d be interested in seeing any evidence that the intent of the filmmaker is somehow violated in the process of stereo separation.

There are films made in the color era that have been deliberately produced in black and white, and to excellent effect. There have been silent movies made since the advent of sound. Both indicate a recognition on the part of the filmmaker that the limitations of that era of the medium could be used to enhance their message.

And Hodge, the example you gave is not a conversion to stereo, it’s a complete recreation of part of the soundtrack, which, I agree, should be avoided if at all possible.

Now, as several people have pointed out, there is the option of simply viewing it in mono on your own home system. I have to ask Zebra and Hodge: what’s wrong with that option?

I’ve never heard of a director insisting that all his dialog, sound effects and music come from a single speaker behind the screen, given the option of stereo or surround sound. That would seem to indicate to me that the limitations imposed by monaural sound do not compliment the film in any definable way.

Err…you do realize that, just as one has the ability to set one’s sound system to mono, one can also turn the color on one’s TV down so that the movie is black and white?

I agree with these points and accept that home video viewing is a compromise. Unlike many other home theatre fanatics, I try to see movies on the big screen whenever possible, but I also think compromising shouldn’t require that unnecessary concessions be made.

Well I don’t think anybody should change somebody else’s work as a matter of principle. The case of a filmaker changing his own work raises other issues such as the value of movies as popular art/entertainment vs. movies as historical artifacts. Although a filmaker may be perfectly justified in re-mixing his own work I think there is some merit to the argument that movies, as a product of their times, can provide valuable insight into those times both in their content and form.

I wondered how long it would take for somebody to call me on that. I know the Jaws example is somewhat tangental to the main issue, but the point I ultimately wanted to make was that, in their concern to give consumers more digital bang for the buck, Universal completely ignored a perfectly acceptable mono track.

What’s wrong with including a mono track? [sup]They’re Tiny![/sup] Seriously though, I think a mono track should be included if only to make the point that the movie was originally released in that format. I’m not against re-mastering & re-mixing for stereo separation, just give me the original mono track as well. Of course, if it has to be an either/or situation I’ll take the mono thank you very much.

Well, there’s Stanley Kubrick who insisted on mono tracks right up until Eyes Wide Shut.

Hodge[sub]Who, paradoxically, loves the re-mixed Vertigo soundtrack[/sub]

Errr, you do realize that the texture, the…je ne c’est que…the visual expression of a picture is noticably changed by coloring. A B&W film has a quality that is simple and attractive. Adding color destroys this quality and when you then turn your tv to B&W, you do not regain the lost quality, you just get a crappy picture.

True, but you do get some laughs out of colorization, if nothing else. I hear (since I wouldn’t stoop to watching it) that the colorization of It’s A Wonderful Life included colorizing photographs on desks and such, even though color photography wasn’t widely available at the time the movie was made and takes place…

First off realize that I put this here in IMHO and not great debates. So I consider this a less than comsic topic.

My points are this:

It is not ok to add a surround track to a film just because we can. Casablanca and Gone with the Wind both have these tracks and a mono track. However the original film makers used the tech that was available.

Some people will say that if the original film maker re-does his or her own work that is ok but I would like to point out the Star Wars Special edition.

You see an artist grows (hopefully) over time. So when you look at all the film a particular film maker has done you can see how he or she has changed as an artist. When Lucas re-did his films he was a different person and a different artist than the one who made films.

Plus there are story conventions, acting and writing styles, editing styles, camera styles that will date a film. To give a film a ‘modern sound’ with non-modern everything else is just wrong. (IMO)

As far as expierencing what the original audience did that is actually impossible. I would love to travel in time and see Casablanca and see the reaction to the singing of the French National Anthem. The audience reaction to Star Wars will never be duplicated becase for about a decade before most movies were bummers. They had downer endings and SS and GL changed that with Jaws CE3K and SW. (Think Planet of the Apes or Soleynt Green or Omega Man) So when movies started being happy again it was really something that you had to be there.

So what I am looking for is reasons that this little thing is ok to change when we don’t want other changes.

Some people have remarked that basically they spent all this money on a surround system and they want to use it. I think this is the driving factor for the change.

My reasoning behind my preference for remastered sound is that it sounds better, without changing the content of the film. Every other change debated here, (colorization, adding new scenes, recreating soundtracks) has been a significant change to the content of the movie.

Separating the stereo channels in the soundtrack simply takes what is already there (dialog, sound effects, and music) and repositions the various elements to better correspond with our stereophonic hearing. Stereo was a major breakthrough in audio technology, in that it allowed recordings that duplicated the actual experience of hearing a performance with much higher fidelity.

So, I’ve got to ask; many of the prints these DVDs are made from have been damaged over the course of their years in storage. Do you object to the common practice of digitally removing dust and scratches from the master prints? It seems like the inclusion of these flaws would be more faithful to the original viewing experience.

I have to admit, I only got my DVD player a few months ago, but already the medium has gone to my head. I saw a great bargain on Duck Soup and Monkey Business the other day, and was about to pick them up, but looking on the back of the DVD, I noticed they weren’t widescreen. So I didn’t. My film teachers would have been so ashamed of me… talk about failing your film history roll. Sheesh.

Perhaps, but see my point above about a movie’s form being part of the content as well. Zebra is making the same argument.

Re-editing a movie simply takes what is already there and re-positions the various elements. This obviously changes the movie, so why should stereo separation be acceptable and re-editing not.

Ah, but these prints would have been pristine in their original theatrical runs.

Indeed they would be ashamed, but not for the reason you suggest. Being that these Marx Bros. comedies were products of the '20s and '30s their original aspect ratio was Academy Format (1:1.37). Television was given a 1:1.33 aspect ratio to duplicate the then existing theatrical aspect ratios. Widescreen formats were not commonly used until the early '50s. Pick them up and enjoy.