A Question About Old Movies

I’m a huge fan of old movies-especially like the “film noir” stuff from the 40’s and 50’s. I also like a lot of the 30’s stuff as well. Anyway, I understand that before about 1949, the sound tracks on films were optically encoded on the film, and the sound reproduction was rather poor. After this, they switched to magnetic sound recording.My question:the prints of these old movies (that we see today on AMC)-how have the soundtracks been transcribed?There seems to be a LOT of noise on these old soundtracks!

On a lot of them, they just record the sound off the film into another format. Since the source is so badly scratched, it’s difficult to get a clean copy. You also have to remember that early sound recording equipment was poor, too. Remember the scene in “Singin’ In The Rain” when Gene Kelly’s first talkie premiered? That was a pretty accurate representation of how early sound recordings worked.

Actually, film sound now is read optically (with the exception of DDS which is on a seperate disc) and I believe magnetic is the older format, which I’ve only seen used on 70mm prints, which themselves have nearly gone the way of the eight-track. I’m not sure if magnetic sound was used first, as the oldest print I’ve personally worked with was I think an old print of “State Fair” (the old one, not the Pat Boone one) from around I want to say the late 40’s/early 50’s. The image ratio was the old, sorta square one (the exact ratio escapes me) but the sound was optical. I was working in a theater at a time when we played an original print of “Oklahoma!” in 70mm. I didn’t handle the film myself except to thread up but I do recall it was in Todd-AO (different speed/frame to sprocket hole ratio) format and the sound was magnetic. I don’t know if magnetic sound is purely limited to 70mm projection. I’m sure there must be some sort of technical website with all this sort of information; boxoffice.com is usually a good place to find out about NEW developments in sound and picture, but I don’t know where you’d look for info about the past.

Okay, educate me. I thought the only film ever released in Todd-AO was “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Doug–nope. I did a search on the IMDb and got 59 matches, from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Zebra Force.” The first movie released in Todd A-O was “Oklahoma” (1955), one year before “Around the World in 80 Days.”