Star Wars Trilogy Audio Fiasco

As some of you are aware there are some audio glitches with Star Wars IV: A New Hope in the new Star Wars Trilogy boxset.I first read of the news on The Digital Bits and than Jonathan reported in our forums.We’re now seeing more and more reports on this issue. I’ve compiled what I found while doing some research today.Read on for more… As it was reported on The Digital Bits:

In all the hype over the DVD release of Star Wars, I’m afraid to say there’s a bit of bad news about the discs (or at least one of them) from a quality standpoint. We’ve discovered what we believe are serious audio defects on Episode IV – A New Hope. We’ve updated our DVD review of the set accordingly with the details as follows:1) The familiar Force theme trumpet fanfare that used to play right after Red Leader says: “This is it!” and just as the X-wings start diving towards the Death Star’s surface has been dialed back in volume so that it’s almost inaudible – it’s almost completely buried in the surround mix. 2) The audio quality varies wildly as Tarkin says the line: “You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system.” – almost as if the master sound element was damaged. It’s very distracting. 3) Possibly most critically, John Williams’ entire score for the film has been flipped in the rear channels, so that what should be the left rear channel is playing from the right rear channel (and vise versa). What this means is that the rear channels don’t match the front channels – instruments heard from the front right channel come from the left rear instead of the right rear. Again, this is very distracting once you notice it. These problems are certainly severe enough in our opinion to merit a repressing/exchange of the disc. We’re waiting to hear back from Lucasfilm on this issue and we’ll update this review with the details as soon as we do.

The Bits contacted LucasFilm Inc. and received the following statement in return:

“We are always impressed with how closely fans listen to the many different sound mixes we have made for the Star Wars movies over the years. It is flattering to know that, indeed, the audience is listening. Consequently, each mix comes out differently and any changes that you hear on the all-new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX tracks on the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set are deliberate creative decisions. We can confirm that there are no technical glitches as reported.”

Neil S. Bulk from John Williams Fan Network reports this:

During the first dive to attack the Death Star (1:14 into Chapter 45 or 1:46:13 into the movie) the music is completely dialed out of the main channels and is inaudible during the movie. This is a section of music that previously had a very prominent role in the action. The remnants of the music (a grand statement of the Force theme) can be heard in the surround channels, but with all of the channels engaged in a properly calibrated home theater, you cannot hear this music. The next fifteen seconds has the music coming and going as finally the music seems to come back in fully at the 1:46:27 mark (1:29 into the chapter), but that fifteen seconds is enough to make anyone question this new re-mix and really miss the music that was always there.The other problem with the music lasts throughout the entire 124 running time of the film. The music that is mixed into the surround channels is reversed, completely throwing off the music sound stage. The front speakers have the music mixed into the proper channels. The error with the surrounds can be most easily heard during the opening and closing titles as well as the Throne Room. A section that I’m fond of occurs in chapter 7 (2:16 into the chapter, 13:38 into the film). It’s a very close mic’d recording of a tuba. It should come from the right side of your home theater, but instead the sound comes from the right front channel and the left surround channel! And this is not an isolated incident.Keep in mind that all of the sound effects that come from the rear speakers are mixed properly. This flaw only effects John Williams’ Oscar winning score.Neil

And then DVD Journal‘s Alexandra DuPont received an email from John Takis who is, according to DuPont, a film-score nut who specializes in lengthy online dissertations on John Williams had this to say, and if you think there isn’t a problem wait until you read this:

“A good friend of mine has brought to my attention the fact that John Williams’ awe-inspiring Star Wars score has been severely mishandled on the new DVD. “The score has been flipped in the rear-channels. Not the sound-effects, which are properly placed. Just the score. Not in the front channels. Just the rear channels. “This is not a minor or superficial detail. Readers will recall that the entire PURPOSE of stereo and surround-sound in music is so that the various instruments are correctly positioned. Violins on the left, cellos on the right. Percussion on the left, low brass on the right. And so on. Instrument direction matters in music, especially orchestral music … if it didn’t, there would be no reason to consider stereo or 5.1 recordings superior to mono. “Just go to chapter 49 on the new “Star Wars” DVD — the “Throne Room” scene. Violins come from the hard-right on the surrounds, cellos hard-left, while the front-channel mix is correct. Many people will not be sensitive enough to notice this flaw. That doesn’t erase the flaw, or make it less significant. It is essentially a 124-minute audio glitch. And it’s not simply a case of crossed speaker-wires … as I said, the sound-effects are correctly positioned in the surround channels. It’s just the music that’s backwards. “And this is just one flaw in a highly questionable sound-mix. We also have missing sound-effects (it’s possible they were left off intentionally in some cases), dialogue-quality that varies widely over the course of a single line (“You would prefer another target, a military target?” — crystal clear; “Then name the system!” — old and cruddy, with no attempt to balance or smooth the transition), and — perhaps most annoyingly — dialed-out music. Remember the awesome fanfare-version of the Force theme that kicks off the Death Star battle? Good luck hearing it this time around — it’s virtually inaudible.”Aren’t these supposed to be the DVDs of the century — as close to perfect as DVDs can get? OK, I understand … lots of people are going to be so happy to have these films on DVD in any shape or form, or are insensitive enough, that they won’t care about these mistakes. Good for them. Nonetheless, seeing as everyone under the sun is raving about how absolutely top-notch incredible the audio on the new DVDs is, it would be nice to have some balance. They ain’t perfect, people! Far from it! A little more sophistication and attention to detail would have gone a long way. Mistakes were made, and the professionals in charge shouldn’t get a “pass” just because it’s Star Wars.”

Well with all that out of the way I can say I did notice some of the issues (like Tarkin’s line), but I didn’t pick up the score flaws until I’d read Takis’ editorial.The two remaining questions now are: Is there actually a glitch with Ep. IV? If so, will LucasFilm Inc. take a hit and re-issue the A New Hope DVD with a corrected audio track?Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t could on it. Especially, with their comments above.

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