Sound Workshop

Sonia Campanini (Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies of Goethe University Frankfurt)
Restoring Film Sound Traces: Theoretical Issues and Practical Approaches

Over the past several decades film restoration rose in relevance amongst archival practices, in part due to improvements in digitization technologies and to a great extent thanks to audience reception at dedicated festivals and events. While film restoration has become an academic discipline, research has focused primarily on the image, with sound largely left out of theoretical and practical discourses: film sound restoration is thus still not considered a proper subject for study, teaching and research. In this paper I elaborate on selected theoretical issues and practical approaches in the restoration of film sound. In particular, I focus on the concepts of noise and signal, in order to frame these notions in the work aimed at digitizing and restoring film sound traces.

Sonia Campanini is Professor of Film Culture at the Institute for Theatre, Film and Media Studies of Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main, where she is responsible for the Master’s program Film Culture: Archiving, Programming, Presentation. Her research and teaching interests encompass film history and theory as well as film archiving and film curatorship, with a particular focus on film sound restoration. She co-edited L’archivio/The Archive (2012) and is in the process of revising her monograph Film Sound in Preservation and Presentation for publication.


Oliver Danner (Bundesarchiv)
Modern Soundtrack Scanners for Historical Soundtracks?

Historical soundtrack scanners are hard to come by. Let us therefore assess the strengths and weaknesses of modern soundtrack scanners, including their market availability. How and why did optical soundtracks scanner  change over time? It is known that the scanning parameters of modern soundtrack scanning systems cannot compete with historical soundtrack scanners; this directly affects reproduction characteristics in terms of audible distortion. Based on research and experience, I would like to explain why the parameter of slit height is of such importance in this respect.

Since 2010 Oliver Danner has been working with analog optical soundtracks for the Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv). Since 2016 he has been operating a Resonances soundtrack scanner. He also preserves audio media as a freelancer and has 19 years of experience with sound engineering. He holds an MA degree in the conservation and restoration of audiovisual cultural assets as well as a BSc in media production and technology. His Master’s thesis is entitled “The Scanning of Analog Optical Soundtracks as part of Film Preservation” (HTW Berlin, 2015).

Michal Fricman (Slovak Film Institute)
Are We Doing It Right? Audio Restoration Pitfalls in Practice

Many of us already understand that static background noise, clicks and drop-outs do not present the toughest challenges in audio restoration. With acquired practice and knowledge comes awareness of further important relations. Primarily, we will take a closer look at the very first, and sometimes underestimated, stage of digital audio restoration: de-clipping. Recommended usage of de-clip tools may create unwanted artifacts and modify sound character significantly, which might be just as dangerous as inappropriate restoration interventions or over-processing. What is its relation to digitization? What should we be aware of? Are we doing it right? This presentation will incorporate a Q & A session in order to locate and discuss various solutions.

Michal Fricman is a sound engineer and expert at the Digital Audiovision Department of the Slovak Film Institute, specializing in audio digitization and restoration. Since 2015, he has digitized over 450 film objects using a Sondor/DFT Resonances soundtrack scanner, including various elements carrying optical and magnetic soundtracks focused on sound negatives and he has been involved in the restoration of many such artifacts.

Katarína Gatialová (Národní filmový archiv, Prague)
Rediscovering the Magnetic Past of Czech Cinema

For decades, the story of Czech cinema has been plagued by myths associated with the production of sound. One of the most persistent myths is that magnetic tapes and film stock never survived its original life cycle and that the mixing and master tapes for most of Czech cinema were either lost, destroyed or re-used as material for new film productions. However, the past several years have shown that this might not be the case. Národní filmový archiv is currently in the early stages of examining existing archival materials. This presentation focuses on why these materials are of crucial importance for future researchers. Furthermore, it poses the fundamental question of what standard should be adopted for 35mm tape digitization in order to maximize the transport of essential data. Last but not least, I will also address the question of what to do with the tapes once they have been digitized.

Katarína Gatialová is a cultural manager, curator and artist. She studied visual communication at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (BA) and art history at the Faculty of Arts of Comenius University in Bratislava (MA, Political Poster in Slovakia). She has served as section manager for Non-Audiovisual Collections of the Národní filmový archiv, Prague, since 2017. She focuses on collection management and especially on digital data and metadata.

Lars Gaustad (National Library of Norway)
1 + 1 ≠ 2: Issues in Film Sound Preservation at the National Library of Norway 

The paper focuses on the most pressing and common issues of sound preservation encountered at the National Library of Norway. Among other issues, the presentation will discuss the FIAF goal of reproducing the experience of the opening night”. We will touch upon the topic of disc-for-sound, Dolby tones as well as multichannel formats.

Lars Gaustad is head of moving image preservation at the National Library of Norway. The library holds the heritage collection of moving images in Norway as well as functioning as the legal deposit center for film and television. Lars Gaustad has chaired the IASA Technical Commission from 2001 to the present.

Jonáš Kucharský (Národní filmový archiv, Prague)
Zdeněk Liška across Materials (and Institutions)

Over the course of the past year, the Národní filmový archiv, Prague in Prague has been rethinking its relationship towards film sound, particularly in the context of collection policy and the acquisition of materials connected to film sound and music as well as their preservation, presentation and related research. A good example of this approach is a project focusing on Zdeněk Liška, a key European film music composer. As film sound and music research is by its nature an interdisciplinary exercise which needs to make use of approaches from different fields of study (film history, musicology, archival studies, media archeology etc.), one of the aims of the project is to create a methodology for connecting data spread between various types of material as well as across institutions. Even though the primary output of the research project is a publication focusing on Liška’s compositional methods and his use of electronics and sound design, issues of the typology of sound on film, techniques for connecting information from scores with their manifestation on film, inquiries into period sound engineering techniques and subsequent questions are of equal importance. The paper will present key research issues and methodological approaches towards integrating information from archival documents (scripts, scores, magnetic film stock) with additional data (oral history projects, Barrandov Studios archive) and a comparative examination of the final versions of the soundtracks. We thus hope to provide a glimpse of the possible future models of interdisciplinary archival care and scholarship.

Jonáš Kucharský is a graduate of the Musicology Department of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. As a part of his Bachelor’s degree has spent a semester at Humboldt University in Berlin and a year at Cardiff University during his Master’s degree. He currently works as a curator for the Národní filmový archiv, Prague, where he primarily focuses on film music and sound in their material manifestation, sound restoration and presentation and silent film accompaniment. He also works as a music journalist and programmer for Czech Radio and as a freelance music journalist. His main research topics include music, musicology, aesthetics and ideology, film sound and film music history.

Martin Ožvold (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague)
Composer, Sound Designer or Sound Archeologist?

A reflection on the creation of a documentary film soundtrack where sound must be seen as a part of culture.

The presentation focuses on key challenges involved in the creation of what I call Proto-music. Proto-music may be understood as a process of designing sounds based on historical, cultural, listening or technological conventions exiting as part of different musical and sound-based practices in experimental music. This paper proposes that these conventions are as important for situating the listener/viewer in a cultural or historical context as any other traditional musical conventions, including e.g. musical forms or harmony. This proposition thus invites us to reconsider our examination of the universe of noises as part of our cultural heritage.

Martin Ožvold is a music composer and sound designer. His work oscillates on the boundaries of documentary, found sound and abstract sound compositions. He works primarily within the intermedia contexts of film, radio documentary and theatre. Martin studied composition with Scott Wilson and Jonty Harrison at the University of Birmingham (MMus). He previously received a BA (hons) degree after graduating from Sonic Arts at the Middlesex University London, SAE Institute London (DipHe in Audio Engineering) and from the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. He is currently enrolled in doctoral studies at the Department of Multimedia Composition at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. As part of his research focusing on the concept of space and acoustic arts and electroacoustic music, he participated in a research stay at the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. His works have been presented in the Slovak National Theatre, BBC Radio and Czech Radio; he has also received numerous awards. He currently lives and works in Prague. 

Sara Pinheiro (Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague)
The Sound of Saute ma ville (Akerman, 1968)

At first glance, the sound of Chantal Akerman’s first short film is baffling. For many reasons: it is asynchronous, exaggerated, absent, surreal, detached. It seems lo-fi, raw and amateur. In fact, it matches the general aesthetics of sound throughout the nouvelle-vague period. At the time, recording sound in movement was difficult, with most productions being (insufficiently) fixed using ADR. However, a closer examination reveals that each component is the result of a meticulous choice. Every decision intentionally leads to a consequence in the intrinsic perception of the movie, be it subconscious or literal. Using the concepts of “Acousmatic Foley” (sound-motifs, sound-actors and sound-props), this presentation proposes a take on Akerman’s sonic approach which in fact continued across all of her works.

Sara Pinheiro (1985) is a sound-maker. Her film and video-art work includes sound recording, editing, foley and mixing. In her solo practice she creates acousmatic pieces, usually for multichannel performances, radio broadcasts installations. She is a member of the live-coding group K-o-l-e-k-t-i-v and collaborates with Barrandov CinePost Studios (currently PFX) and Bystrouška Sound Studios. She graduated from Cinema (Lisbon, 2008) and holds a Master of Music in Sonology degree (The Hague, 2012), where she currently functions as guest lecturer. She has been a member of the teaching committee at CAS – FAMU since 2013. Her academic work comprises practice-based research under the name of “Acousmatic Foley”. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the College of Arts, Humanities and Business at the School of Music and Media at Bangor University in the UK.

Jean-Pierre Verscheure (Cinevolution)
The Sound Restoration of Films in the Context of Preserving the Legacy of Cinema

The main objective of the paper is to debate the great complexity of faithful film sound restoration posed by the numerous sound systems introduced in the global cinematographic exploitation. The history of film presentation is extremely complex. The complexity of its evolution and rapid mutations make period sound reproduction devices quickly obsolete. This also means that individual works are increasingly difficult to review and to rediscover in their original form. We currently have no less than 101 different recording and sound reproduction systems for cinematographic films introduced on the farm of which there are copies in cinematheques around the world. With respect to the evolution of the Dolby systems for example, a total of 23 have been identified, which means that we will never be able to find a 1979 movie with the original sound because contemporary equipment is not designed for playing Dolby sound coded in 1979. How can you restore sounds in the original form desired by directors and producers?

The presentation will address three major themes:

1) History of sound systems introduced in cinematographic exploitation

2) Methods of identifying exploitation copies and others

3) Methods and means of reading, original listening and restoration of sound

Do we rediscover the classics of cinema history in the form desired by the directors? In order to answer this crucial question, I will discuss the absolute necessity of undertaking archeological and scientific research with the aim of restoring and preserving the legacy of the cinematic spectacle.

Born in Brussels in 1952,
Jean-Pierre Verscheure discovered cinema at the time of the widescreen, 70mm, Technicolor and already stereophonic sound, well before the arrival of the many Dolby systems. It is during this rich and dynamic period of the evolution of the cinematographic spectacle that he decided to devote himself to the study of the archeological history of the seventh art. In order to continue and expand his research, he decided to collect period equipment which allowed him to discover works in their original form. As professor at the Higher National Institute of Performing Arts (INSAS) in Brussels since 1977, he founded in 1994 a center for studies and research on the evolution of the film show: Cinevolution. The relevance of his activities quickly led him to give numerous lectures at cinematheques around the world. From Lausanne to Mexico City, from Paris to Montevideo, from Bologna to Tokyo, from Lisbon to Hanoi, from Amsterdam to Luxembourg, etc. In addition to receiving multiple honors, he is a member of several international associations including SMPTE, the Cinerama International Society and the Belgian Society of Cinematographers. He serves a member of the scientific council of the French cinematheque. With the benefit of 50 years of research, he founded with his son, Laurent Verscheure, sound engineer, a sound restoration center. The center facilitates the reading, listening and restoration of over 80 original sound systems.