Audio Glossary

“What’s a Binky?”

Larry Blake’s Handy-Dandy Film Sound Glossary • The Complete A-to Z Guide

One of the most common requests that I have had over the years has been for an all-encompassing, one-stop glossary of the arcane film sound terms that pepper my column each month.

 

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWX-Z

Glossary – A

A-2, A-4, A-7

See Voice of the Theater.

ab reel

Term for a 23-minute or less (max 2,050 feet, including head and tail leaders) reel of film that is shipped to theaters and that may originally comprise two “1,000-foot” edit reels. AB reels are also known as “big reels” or “2,000-foot” reels. Projection reel 1AB would have been “small” reels 1 and 2 during editing and mixing. In the event that reels 1, 2 and 3 together add up to less than 2,050 feet, the first projection reel might be called 1ABC, although this is rare. Sometimes films are edited in AB reels, a practice that is becoming commonplace due to the reduction in number of 35mm mag film units, which are very cumbersome to deal with as 2,000-foot loads on editing benches.

This is not to be confused with AB-roll printing, in which the camera negative is cut in two strands, allowing for simple optical effects such as fades and dissolves to be made when making original-negative prints (see ek neg) or interpositives. This process is not limited to two (A, B) rolls, but can be as high as desired. Thus, a camera negative cut in four strands would go up to a “D” roll.

Academy curve / Academy mono

The name of the standard mono optical track that has been around since the beginning of film sound. Standards were not codified until 1938, although they have “improved” slightly over the years. The response is flat 100-1.6 kHz, and is down 7 dB at 40 Hz, 10 dB at 5 kHz, and 18 dB at 8 kHz.

Academy theater

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Considered one of the best-sounding theaters in the world, and the neutral, “reference” theater for the Hollywood filmmaking community. Contrary to popular belief, voting for the Best Sound Oscar doesn’t take place as a result of Academy members having seen the nominated films there. (All nominated films are screened at the Goldwyn Theater during the month-or-so voting period subsequent to the announcement of that year’s nominations in mid-February.)

a-chain

The part of the motion picture reproduction system in a theater that contains the sound transducer (such an optical analog track reader or digital sound format decoder), preamp, noise reduction and matrix decoding (if applicable). The B-Chain comprises the main fader, room EQ, crossovers, amplifiers, speakers and the influence of room acoustics on loudspeaker response.

Acmade

British manufacturer of edgecoding (op. cit.) machines. The company so dominates the market that edgecodes are often referred to as “Acmade codes.”

AC-3

Dolby Laboratories’ low-bit-rate coding scheme that is used in its 5.1-channel Dolby Digital film and television formats.

ADR

Automated Dialog Recording. The act of recording another reading of a production track in post-production. Usually the actor will be looking at the cut picture on a screen and will hear a series of beeps in a headphone giving a countdown to the beginning of the line. See looping.

airline version

A remixed (and possibly re-edited) version of a film removing curse words, sex and violence. Airlines are an even tougher “room” than the broadcast networks, and so a version that passes the airline censors will almost always “fly” on TV.

“all-digital”

An advertising claim used frequently in the ’80s. Now considered meaningless and rude.

Ampex

Former manufacturer of videotape recorders, analog tape recorders and magnetic tape products. Ampex was also responsible for the sound system of the 70mm Todd-AO format. Name is an acronym based on the founder’s name: Alexander M. Poniatoff EXcellence.

anamorphic

The camera/projector lens system which “squeezes” an image (usually to a 2:1 ratio) onto film during shooting, and unsqueezes it during projection. The viewed image has an aspect ratio twice as wide as what was recorded on film: If the image on the print is 1.2:1, the screen aspect ratio will be 2.4:1. See also CinemaScope, flat and ’scope.

answer print

The composite print of a film with final mixed track(s) and final picture color timings. In many contracts the delivery of the approved answer print is specified because it means that post-production has ended and release printing can begin, although the majority of prints are usually made from an internegative. Should always be distinguished in conversation and film labeling from a blacktrack answer print, which contains no soundtrack.

aspect ratio

The width-to-height ratio in which an image is intended to be shown, most commonly expressed as width relative to height which has been scaled to 1 unit. Standard television screens are 1.33:1, flat U.S. theatrical films are 1.85:1, and anamorphic films are 2.40:1. Ratios are also sometimes expressed as whole numbers; in this manner TVs are 4×3 and the new widescreen TVs are 16×9 (or 1.78:1).

a-track

The primary dialog track cut by the picture editor. The B, etc., tracks will just be used for overlaps.

A-type

The original Dolby noise reduction process, introduced in 1965 for professional recording. A-Type splits a signal into four bands for processing, while B-Type noise reduction, introduced in 1968 for home use, only affects high frequencies above 5 kHz.

Avid

Nonlinear picture editing system.

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Glossary – B

baby boom

a) The nickname of the Dolby 70mm process that dedicates two of the six tracks on a 70mm print to low-frequency information below 250 Hz. No longer used due to the existence of a dedicated subwoofer track in digital release formats. b) Post-World War II period of vigorous sexual activity followed by frequent child births. Generally considered to end in 1964.

backfill

To edit fill between words so that the whole length of a scene (including sections where the take or angle in question is not being used) is contiguous.

backgrounds

Sound effects that sonically define the time and place of a location. Called “atmospheres” or “atmos” in the UK. “BGs” are considered sound effects, and should not be confused with room tone.

bake off

Hollywood colloquialism for the meeting of the Sound Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in which the members hear 10-minute clips of the seven films that have made the semifinals of the Best Sound Effects Editing award.

b-chain

See a-chain.

bench

Film sound slang for the editing table, which consists of hand-cranked rewinds handling reels of 35mm picture and mag film, a sprocketed synchronizer that keeps the reels in sync (in addition to providing a count) and a “squawk box,” which is used to hear the tracks played back from heads mounted on the synchronizer.

binky

Film sound slang for a mixing “top sheet,” indicating the layout and content of pre-mixes. The layout is usually one column per premix.

b inputs

Additional set of inputs to a console channel that allow either additional (but usually not simultaneous) tracks to be assigned, or, more commonly these days, a different source of the same information that is appearing on the A inputs. This latter technique allows a sound editor to work offline on a workstation while the mixer is adjusting overall EQ and level in automation and playing back from another copy (often on multitrack tape). The material is recorded, after switching inputs, when the editor is finished.

blacktrack print

Silent answer print of a film, made from the original camera negative. The first answer prints are usually “blacktrack,” in order to proceed with the color timing even while post-production sound is not finished.

blimp

Solid cover for a motion picture camera designed to contain camera noise completely. A “barney” is a padded cover designed to reduce camera noise while still allowing hand holding and portability.

BNC Blimped Newsreel Camera

The 35mm Mitchell Camera model, which was the industry standard for over 30 years. See blimp.

broom

To not use a sound during a mix. “Site brooming” is when a director rejects a whole group of effects, often causing days of work to go down the drain.

boom

a) The pole that holds the microphone when recording production sound. b) An outmoded name for the LFE channel. See also baby boom.

BTSC Broadcast Television Systems Committee

The FCC committee that decided the MTS standards for stereo television sound in the United States.

buzz track

Alignment film used to set the lateral alignment of the “slit” in photographic (optical) sound reproduction systems.

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Glossary – C

C.A.S. Cinema Audio Society

Los Angeles-based organization of film and television recording personnel; founded in 1964.

“Cat 43”

The Dolby Laboratories “single-ended” noise reduction device that turns a Cat. No. 22 Dolby A-Type noise reduction module into a 4-band “noise fighter.” The precise frequencies of the bands are optimized for production sound problems and differ from those used in standard noise reduction applications. In 1991 Dolby formally introduced the SR-based 2-band version called the Cat. No. 430.

channel A

complete, self-sufficient recording setup. A “production channel” would include a recorder, mixer, microphones, headsets, etc. A “transfer channel” would include a 1/4-inch tape deck, a 35mm mag recorder, a resolver and a monitoring system.

chain

The group of equipment (frequently comprising dip filter, graphic eq, de-esser and compressor) that a re-recording mixer will have patched together in series, either inserted in a channel, on a console bus or in a reassign buss. See iron.

changeover projection

See projection.

Cinema Digital Sound

The name of the theatrical reproduction format introduced by Optical Radiation Corporation, a division of Kodak, for digital sound on 35mm or 70mm prints. First used in 1990 for Dick Tracy, the format lasted two years and is now obsolete.

CinemaScope Widescreen

camera system developed by Twentieth Century Fox, which was responsible for popularizing the anamorphic format.

Cinerama Widescreen

system comprising three cameras/projectors running in interlock with 7-track mag film. Now obsolete.

commag

Laboratory term for “composite magnetic print.”

comopt

Laboratory term for “composite optical print.”

composite print

Film print that contains a soundtrack.

Comtek

Salt Lake City-based company that makes portable wireless transmitters and receivers. “Comteks” have become the generic term for wireless headphone feeds to directors and for wireless timecode feeds to slates.

conform

a) To re-edit sound elements to match a new version of the picture edit. b) To assemble sound elements (from their original sources) to match their location in a picture edit, often with the assistance of an Edit Decision List supplied in a computer-readable file.

container

Film sound slang for Dolby Laboratories’ peak limiter designed specifically for controlling the dynamics of program material during sva printmastering.

cps

Acronym for “cycles per second,” cycles being the obsolete term for what is now referred to as Hertz (Hz).

cross-mod

Short for “cross-modulation test,” which is a means of determining correct exposure on a track negative to result in minimum distortion on a positive print. Tests are conducted to determine the relationship of specific optical cameras to specific laboratories.

C-type

See Spectral Recording.

cue sheet

A guide for mixing that gives locations of sounds on a track-by-track basis, either in film footages or in timecode numbers.

cut effects

Sound effects that are pulled from a sound library and edited; usually as opposed to foley, which is recorded specifically for each film.

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Glossary – D

dailies

Uncut footage shot each day during production. If picture edits from a nonlinear edit system are conformed on film, with picture and synchronized mag film, those elements when edited together become the workprint and worktrack.

dbx

noise reduction system for analog recording. Type I is used for professional applications, while Type II was optimized for lower-speed consumer use. The name, properly spelled as dbx, refers to founder David Blackmer.

decoding

See encoding/decoding.

digital dubbers

Film industry name for multitrack (usually eight channels per unit) digital recorders that use removable hard drives or magneto-optical drives as the recording medium. The term is partly a misnomer since previous film sound terminology had used “dubber” to distinguish from “recorder.”

digital sound in film theaters

There are three standard, non-compatible formats for showing 35mm theatrical motion pictures with digital soundtracks: Dolby Digital, DTS and SDDS.

dip filter

Parametric equalizer with an extremely narrow bandwidth (“Q”) and that is designed to remove noises, such as those from a camera or a light, whose offending frequency range is very narrow. See Little Dipper.

direct positive

An optical sound recording that, when processed, results in a track that can be played and edited. A now-obsolete process.

discrete

Refers to a 1:1 relationship of recorded tracks on a print and the resulting number of speaker channels. For example, a 4-track magnetic print will be reproduced through four channels–left-center-right-surround–in the theater. Obviously, the surround channel has more than one speaker. Discrete playback is often contrasted with matrix encoding/decoding.

discrete 6-track

Traditionally means the five-speakers-behind-the-screen system made popular by the Todd-AO 70mm process (although it was first used for Cinerama). In the current vernacular, though, discrete 6-track sometimes means six non-matrixed tracks, assigned left, center, right, left-surround, right-surround, and subwoofer.

DLT

Digital Linear Tape. Stationary-head, tape-based computer backup format.

dme

Dialog, Music, sound Effects. The three basic food groups of film soundtracks. Originally referred to the 35mm 3-track master mix of Academy mono films.

Dobly

The system that would have saved Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove album from oblivion.

Dolby Digital

The 5.1-channel digital format created by Dolby Laboratories. In current usage applies both to the company’s 35mm theatrical format (which contains the data printed optically between the sprocket holes) and their video formats (such as DVD, laserdisc, and DTV). First used in 1992 for Batman Returns.

Dolby, Ray M.

The founder and sole owner of San Francisco-based Dolby Laboratories.

Dolby Stereo

Many meanings! In the broadest and most common sense, the trademark that appears on movie prints, advertisements and posters means that a given film has been released in prints that employ Dolby A-Type noise reduction encoding.

  • There are two tracks on 35mm stereo optical prints, referred to as Lt and Rt, which are matrix-encoded to contain four channels of information. The 4:2 encoding is done during the printmastering, with the 2:4 decoding occurring at the theater.
  • In their standard form, Dolby Stereo 35mm prints are encoded with A-Type noise reduction. Beginning in 1987, Dolby Laboratories has made their SR (see spectral recording) process available on 35mm stereo optical prints, with the advantage of greatly reduced optical noise and increased low- and high-frequency headroom.
  • All of the stereo optical prints–Dolby Stereo (a-type), Dolby SR, DTS Stereo and Ultra Stereo–occupy the same area as standard mono optical prints and are capable of mono-compatible performance. The exact degree of mono compatibility is mix-dependent.
  • Dolby Stereo on 70mm usually means four discrete primary channels (left, center, right, surround), with the left-center and right-center tracks dedicated to “boom” information below 250 Hz. The four primary tracks are normally A-Type encoded, although selected films since 1987 have utilized SR encoding on 70mm prints. The use of Dolby 70mm ceased along with the introduction of Dolby Digital in 1992.
  • The first Dolby Stereo films was Lisztomania in 1975. The first Dolby 70mm baby boom film was Star Wars in 1977.

Dolby Pro-Logic

The Dolby Laboratories trademark used for home surround decoding devices that meet more stringent standards, and offer such features as band-limited pink noise for aligning channel balance, plus a separate, matrix-derived center-channel output.

Dolby Surround

The Dolby Laboratories trademark used for surround-encoded material on non-film uses such as videocassettes, videodiscs and television broadcasts. Also, for home surround decoding devices that do not have matrixed center-speaker output.

Dolby Digital Surround EX

The digital release format developed by Dolby Laboratories and THX for, and first used on, Star Wars: Episode I–The Phantom Menace. Three surround channels are derived by matrix-encoding them into the two previously existing surround tracks. Should not be referred to as a 6.1-channel format because the additional surround channel is not a discrete, recorded track.

“Dolby was just here”

Standard answer given by projectionists to the question, “When was the last time this theater was aligned?”

double system

a) Projecting a film with the picture, on 35mm film, in interlock with the soundtrack, most commonly on mag film. b) Film or video production that utilizes sound recorded on a separate tape recorder, such as a DAT or Nagra.

downmix

A mix derived from a multichannel (usually 5.1) source to create a compatible version of fewer channels. Common use today occurs in consumer Dolby Digital products to play back a 5.1-channel DVD either via Dolby Pro-Logic decoding or in standard two-channel stereo (for headphone listening, for example). In those instances, an Lt-Rt or an Lo-Ro, respectively, are the result.

DS4

The name of the original Dolby Laboratories recording/monitoring unit used by re-recording stages during a Dolby Stereo mix. Prior to the 2-track printmaster, the unit is used for 4:2:4 (op. cit.) monitoring purposes: encoding a 4-channel composite mix into two tracks and decoding it back into four channels.

Later variations in the Dolby product line include the SEU4 and SDU4 units, which offer, respectively, the ability to encode and decode printmasters, although without the container or the optical track simulation featured in the DS4. (A SPU4 unit is available to add those capabilities to studios that have SEU4/SDU4 units.) The DS10 contains a magneto-optical recorder for theatrical Dolby Digital mixes. It also records the Lt-Rt SR-encoded printmaster with AC-3 coding.

Neither the DS4, the DS10 or the SPU4 can be purchased, rented or leased; their use is free on films that have paid the appropriate license and trademark agreements.

DTS

The 5.1-channel system developed by Digital Theater Systems that utilizes a CD-ROM interlocked to a 35mm or 70mm print with timecode. Audio on the CD-ROM utilizes apt-X 100 low-bit-rate coding. First used in 1993 for Jurassic Park. See also 70mm.

DTS 5.1 tracks can also be found on laserdiscs and DVDs, utilizing proprietary low-bit-rate coding.

DTS Stereo

The SVA encoding process developed by Digital Theater Systems.

dub

In the most general sense, to dub is to copy, although in film sound vernacular it has acquired many similar shadings. It can refer to the act of replacing dialog (usually via the ADR process), either in the original language or in a foreign language. “Dubbing” is also the common name for re-recording, at least insofar as Hollywood and New York are concerned.

dubber

Film sound term for a playback-only mag machine. See digital dubber.

dub masters

See final mix.

duo-bilateral

The technical term for the variable-area photographic soundtrack format used for almost all 35mm mono and stereo soundtracks.

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Glossary – E

earwig

Small earpiece used to give actors an audio reference (frequently a guide music track) so that their live audio, such as singing or music playing, can be recorded live. See also thumper.

edgecode

Inked numbers applied outside the sprocket holes on film prints and mag film, used for synchronization reference. See acmade.

85

The sound pressure level when pink noise is sent through one speaker (left, center or right) at 0 VU bus level, which is the equivalent of —20 dBfs in digital recording. (Measurement is at the console, with an SPL meter set to C weighting and slow response.)

88

The sound pressure level for Dolby Stereo SR films. If a film has been monitored at 85 during the final mix, the stems will be lowered 3 dB when making an SR Lt-Rt printmaster to accommodate for the increased monitor level.

EK

neg Laboratory colloquialism for “original camera negative;” used in film vernacular to describe a release print made from the original negative. “EK” stands for “Eastman Kodak,” although the term is used without regard to a film having been shot on Eastman stock. Also called “OCN.”

11

The highest number that can be found silk-screened on electric guitars and guitar amplifiers.

encoding/decoding

In audio, encoding refers to the altering of a signal prior to its being recorded or transmitted, with decoding during playback/reception resulting in the best possible reproduction of the original signal considering the limitations of the recording or transmission medium. In motion-picture sound this can have one of two meanings: Matrix encoding/decoding, used in 35mm Dolby Stereo, encodes four channels into two in the studio, with the resulting optical print decoded from two tracks into four channels at the theater. For an explanation of encoding/decoding with regard to noise reduction, see noise reduction.

equalization, room

The process in which a speaker system is aligned by playing pink noise into a room and adjusting an equalizer to obtain the selected response when viewed by an RTA. Common room EQ utilizes 1/3-octave controls, with 31 knobs spaced across the audible frequency range, although parametric equalizers are also used. Most room equalizers also have an overall “bass” and “treble” adjustment. See X-Curve.

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Glossary – F

50% Level

The standard reference level for optical sound recordings that corresponds to the width of the track at 50% modulation, or 6 dB below clipping. In practice, there is about 2 dB of additional headroom available, assuming a perfectly aligned projector sound head.

fill

The sound between words in a production track that is used both to replace undesirable noises on the track and to create “handles” extending the track at the beginning and end. Handles enable the re-recording mixer to crossfade smoothly between shots with differing background tones. See also room tone.

fill leader

The film that is inserted into units of mag film in order to keep synchronization during silent sections. Fill leader is usually made up of recycled release prints.

film footage

There are 16 frames per foot of a standard 35mm film image (running vertically through the camera and projector), each lasting four sprocket holes (perforations or “perfs”). At the standard rate of 24 frames per second, film runs at 90 feet per minute, or 18 inches per second. One film frame is the equivalent of 1.25 30 fps timecode frames.

final mix

The act of mixing the sound for a motion picture (or television show) into separate dialog, music and sound effects stems, which, combined and played at equal level through the monitor, represent the finished soundtrack. In a stereo film (or surround-encoded TV), it is most common to record the dialog, music and sound effects stems on three pieces of 4- or 6-track magnetic film, utilizing Dolby SR noise reduction. (The choice of which noise reduction system is used at this stage–SR, A-Type, or even dbx–has no relation to what printmasters might be made.) Final mixes are also frequently recorded on analog or digital multitrack tape or on digital dubbers.

These stems, also known as “dub masters,” are then used to create the printmasters, the M&E, the mono mix and possibly even an airline version.

The exact format and track layout of the stems is up to the post-production sound crew; if a multitrack or digital dubber is used, then additional tracks are opened up at no additional cost and little trouble. With these formats it is easier to record an additional set of stems, keeping, for example, the foley, the background sound effects, a laugh or crowd track, or special creature voices separate, to allow for greater flexibility in the final mix , during printmastering and the M&E mix.

If the project is a non-surround-encoded stereo television show, then the stems might be in standard 2-track stereo format, although this is not recommended due to the use of 5.1-channel stereo in Digital Television. And, of course, mono films only require from three to six tracks, usually on the same piece of film or tape.

5.1

Stereo format utilizing three primary channels (left, center, right), two surround channels (left surround, right surround) and an LFE channel, which is the “.1” channel because it uses approximately one-tenth of the bandwidth of a full-frequency channel. Pronounced “five point one.”

flat

With respect to film projection, refers to non-anamorphic lenses. In the U.S. it’s considered synonymous with 1.85:1 widescreen.

FM sync

The 13.5kHz frequency-modulated sync pulse recorded on Nagra IV-S recorders.

Foley Sound

effects recorded in synchronization to edited picture in post-production. Named after Jack Foley, who was the head of the sound effects department at Universal Studios for many years. Contrary to popular myth, he did not invent the process. Foley is often expressed as “Foleys” in New York. Likewise, what is called the “cloth” track on the West Coast is referred to as “rustle” back East.

foreign version

See M&E.

4+2

Four Plus Two. Film sound slang for a 6-track element (usually mag film) that contains a 4-track M&E, one track of material which may or may not be needed in a foreign-language mix, and one track of the original dialog as a reference.

4:2:4

Four Two Four. Film sound slang for the act of monitoring a mix through matrix encoding (4:2) and decoding (2:4). This means that the effect of the matrix encoding will be heard (which they would not be when monitoring discrete), and adjustments can be made accordingly.

Fox holes

Small perforations on 35mm release prints that allowed for the addition of mag stripe for the CinemaScope process, which was developed by Twentieth Century Fox. Whereas one had to be careful in the old days to ensure that sprockets that pulled the film through the projector could accommodate Fox holes (standard sprockets were too big and would tear them), all sprocket mechanisms today can handle Fox-hole prints with no problem. (This is ironic since the process has been used on less than a dozen films since the coming of Dolby Stereo in 1975.)

fps

Acronym for “frames per second.”

fullcoat

See mag film.

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Glossary – G

gaffer

a) On a film set, the head electrician; since the early 1990s the term “Chief Lighting Technician” has been more common. b) In general film industry usage, the head of a crew, as in “gaffing mixer” to note the re-recording mixer in charge. Thus, “to gaff a mix.” An older Hollywood phrase for the gaffing mixer was the “gunner.”

gink

Hollywood film sound vernacular for “to screw up.”

gnat’s nut

Distaff mixer equivalent of RCH (op. cit.).

graphic eq

Multiband equalizer utilizing slide pots for each band, with the resulting boost or cut forming a “graphic” representation of the sound. Generally considered to have been invented by Fred Wilson of the Samuel Goldwyn Studios sound department.

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Glossary – H

hang

Film sound slang for the act of playing back a given element during a mix, as in, “We won’t premix the foley cloth but will hang it at the final mix instead.”

hot hole

Slang for the projector gate itself, where the picture start mark in the leader is threaded up at the beginning of a session.

HX Headroom eXtension

The Dolby Laboratories process used during recording only; it varies the bias current according to program needs. Now superseded by HX-Pro.

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Glossary – I

in-band gain

The standard for adjusting subwoofer response, such that the subwoofer sound pressure level, within its operating range, is louder than a full-range screen speaker in the same range. All of today’s digital theatrical formats use 10 dB of in-band gain.

internegative

Laboratory film element that is made from an interpositive and is used to make release prints not only at high speed (because the color is balanced and there are little or no splices to worry about), but more importantly because the EK neg is protected.

interpositive

Laboratory film elements made from the original camera negative in preparation either to make an internegative or to be used in a telecine machine to transfer the film image to tape. (Unless they are the only extant elements of a film, standard release prints are never used for video transfers.) Also known as an IP, an interpositive contains shot-to-shot color correction so that internegatives can be made with no further color adjustments, although further adjustment is always necessary when doing film-to-tape mastering. If the camera negative was cut in AB rolls (see AB reels), then the IP can incorporate first-generation fades and dissolves.

iron

Pejorative term for “equipment” in the context of its effect on sound quality: “He has so much iron in his chain it’s a wonder that we can distinguish between men and women on his dialog premix.”

ITC Intermittent Traffic Control

Film production term for the presence of traffic control during location shooting; very helpful for quality production sound recording.

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Glossary – K

key numbers

Numbers on the side of film stock created during film manufacture that are visible on the developed negative and positive prints made therefrom.

kirsch

Film sound slang (popularized in Northern California) for when a director will request a change in the sound and will give his or her approval to what in fact was no change at all (either accidentally or deliberately) on the part of the mixers. Variants such as a “self-inflicted kirsch” in which the mixer will adjust a knob without it being in the signal path or will listen for a change while the pec/direct paddles are in playback (as opposed to input).

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Glossary – L

layback

A transfer of a mix (usually a printmaster) to a video master.

LCRS

Designates a recording in which four tracks are to be assigned, respectively, to the left-center-right-surround speaker channels. Thus, other variants such as LCRC, when the fourth track is to be assigned to the center, or even CCCC, as in a center-channel dialog premix.

leader

The head leader, at the beginning of each reel of a film, comprises a thread-up section that contains information about the reel’s content (such as film title, reel number, etc.). The countdown section begins with the Picture Start frame, which is considered the “start mark,” followed by a numbered rundown, totaling 12 feet or 8 seconds. The last number is two seconds (three feet) before the beginning of the active picture (“first frame of picture”).

The Academy leader contains one number per foot following the Picture Start, with 11, 10, etc., leading to three. As projected, numbers are upside down. The SMPTE Universal leader is designed to be used primarily for video uses and features a sweep hand counting down from eight seconds.

LFE Low Frequency Effects

The low-frequency track assigned to the subwoofer in theatrical stereo formats. For home video formats, the subwoofer will frequently contain low-frequency information from the main channels in addition to the original LFE track.

LFOP Last Frame of Picture

Film industry acronym for the length of a given reel. In its standard meaning includes the head leader up to and including the last frame of the reel. Because it is standard to start counting with the “Picture Start” frame of the leader as 0000+00 (zero feet and zero frames), the actual running time of a reel can be calculated by subtracting 11 feet and 15 frames to account for the 12-foot, 8-second leader. The two-pop is at 0009+00 The first frame of picture of a reel is at 0012+00. Sometimes also referred to as LFOA, for “action.”

Lightworks

A nonlinear picture editing system.

Little Dipper

Nickname of the popular dip filter previously manufactured by UREI (Model 565).

little old ladies with umbrellas

Colloquial expression in the film sound community for how loud a film can be before movie patrons will complain. Therefore, the top end of the dynamic range available to mixers is defined not necessarily with regard to a theater’s ability to reproduce a mix. See also popcorn noise.

looping

The process of post-production dialog replacement using identical-length loops of picture, guide track and record track. The line to be replaced would thus repeat over and over, and the actor would go for a take when they were ready. Also referred to as “virgin looping,” when recording onto a blank piece of mag film. When optical sound was used, the recordings were made sequentially on a roll and later manually synched to picture.

Although this process is not used these days (see ADR), the act of replacing dialog is still often referred to as “looping.”

Lo-Ro Left only-Right only

Indicates a standard left-right stereo signal that has been downmixed from a discrete digital signal (such as a Dolby Digital 5.1). Because the surround information has been incorporated into the signal without matrix encoding, a Lo-Ro cannot be decoded back into the surround format.

Lt-Rt Left total

Right total, not Left track-Right track. Indicates the presence of matrix encoding of four channels on a 2-track stereo master. See also DS4, 4:2:4 and encoding/decoding.

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Glossary – M

mag film

Short for “sprocketed magnetic film.” Can have either an acetate or polyester base, and from one to six tracks, depending upon the head stack used. Three-track head gaps are 200 mils wide, the equal of half-inch 2-track tape; 35mm 4-track is 150 mils wide, and 6-track is 100 mils wide, where 8-track 1-inch or 16-track 2-inch are 70 mils. (For point of reference, 24-track 2-inch head gaps are 43 mils wide.) The oxide coating is very thick, varying from 3 to 5 mils.

There is also “stripe,” which has two magnetic stripes on a base of clear film. One stripe is large and contains a single track of audio (in the same size and location as track one of a 3-track), while the other stripe is smaller and exists only to make the film pack evenly when wound together, hence the term “balance stripe.” The balance stripe is sometimes used to record timecode from 1/4-inch or DAT timecoded production masters.

Fullcoat is mag film that is covered edge-to-edge by the magnetic oxide.

mag stripe print

A 35mm or 70mm print with magnetic oxide stripes painted lengthwise down both sides of film on either side of the perforations. These formats are now obsolete.

M&E Music and Effects

Standard motion picture practice today entails creating a minus-original-dialog element that can be used to create a foreign-language mix by adding only the newly recorded foreign-language dialog. This requires that all sound effects that are otherwise included in the dialog stem be copied across to this element. If these production effects are not clear of dialog, then they must be replaced either by Foley or by cut effects. Once the effects are “complete,” the track is said to be “filled;” thus, contracts specify “music and filled effects.” Also known as the “international” version.

matrix

See encoding/decoding.

mil

Short for one-thousandth of an inch. The width of standard 35mm single-stripe and 3-track head gaps are 200 mils, or 1/5-inch. Mils are a good increment to deal with for films since there are 999 of them between the sprockets.

mos

Scene shot silent, i.e., without sound rolling. Derives from “mit out sound,” as in “ve vill shoot mit out sound,” allegedly spoken by a director of Germanic descent to his Hollywood crew. Pronounced “m-o-s.”

Moviola

The upright film editing machine that was the standard for picture editing until the ’70s, when it was replaced (although not entirely) by flatbed editors. Remained the standard for sound editing until the early ’90s, when it was gradually replaced by digital audio workstations.

M.P.S.E. Motion Picture Sound Editors

Los Angeles-based honorary organization of film and television sound editors; founded in 1953. Every spring the MPSE gives out it Golden Reel awards at its annual banquet.

mts

Multichannel Television Sound.

mufex

See M&E.

multitrack

A non-sprocketed tape recorder (analog or digital) that records and plays back eight or more tracks. The most common analog format is 24 tracks on 2-inch tape, frequently with some form of noise reduction. The digital world is shared between the DASH (Digital Audio Stationary Head) format, with 1/2-inch tape recording either 24 or 48 tracks, and the PD (ProDigital) format, recording 32 tracks on 1-inch tape. Modular digital multitracks use video cassettes to store 8 to 12 tracks of audio. Locking together multiple transports can provide up to 128 tracks in a standard configuration.

music cue sheet

Not a standard cue sheet but instead a list of music used in a film, along with its type of usage (source, background instrumental, visual vocal, etc.), composer name and publishing information.

MUT MakeUp Table

The motor-driven bench designed to load and rewind film. In the acronym form usually refers to the setup that drives a large reel of mag film during a double system preview screening.

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Glossary – N

Nagra

The name of the line of professional 1/4-inch tape analog and digital recorders manufactured by Kudelski S. A. of Switzerland. Their battery-operated portable analog recorders, especially the 4.2 mono and IV-S stereo models, have been the standard of the motion picture industry for over 30 years. Nagra means “recorded” in Polish, founder Stefan Kudelski’s native tongue. Use of a stereo Nagra on location is almost always to record two separate tracks simultaneously, and does not usually mean a stereophonic recording.

Nagramaster

Equalization curve developed by Nagra which uses high-frequency boost during recording and de-emphasis during playback to increase the signal-to-noise ratio at 15 ips.

neopilot

The sync pulse system used in Nagra mono recorders (such as the 4.2), recording the sync pulse (usually 50 or 60 Hz) twice, out of phase with each other. The sync signal will not be heard when played back on a full-track mono head.

noise reduction

In audio, recording a signal onto tape or film utilizing a device that will modify the signal before recording it (encoding), and then perform the opposite modification (decoding) during playback, the purpose being to avoid the noise inherent in the transmission medium.

The best-known noise reduction processes are Dolby Laboratories’ A-Type, B-Type, C-Type, S-Type, and Spectral Recording; dbx Type I and Type II; and telecom Cd4.

None of the above processes removes noise already present in a recording.

Norvalizing

Hollywood slang for the act of playing a sound effect at a lower level in a vain attempt to hide the fact that it is not in sync.

N.T. Audio

Santa Monica, Calif.-based sound facility which is noted for its half-speed mastering of optical soundtracks.

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Glossary – O

1:1

One to one. In standard usage, a copy of the edited worktrack onto another roll of stripe so that sound editors and mixers working on a film will have access to the worktrack. In general, though, it stands for any single-track-to-single track identical copy, and thus has variants such as 3:3, 4:4, etc.

optical track

The analog sound recording medium on film which utilizes, in its classic form, an exciter lamp focused through a narrow slit onto a photocell. The track area on a 35mm print takes up a total width of 100 mils, which being one-tenth the space between the sprocket holes, displaces the centerline of the image on the film 50 mils. Because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences codified this standard back in the late ’20s, this has become known as the Academy centerline.

ORC

See Cinema Digital Sound.

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Glossary – P

paddles

See pec/direct.

pdl

Projectionist Dummy Loader. Union terminology for person in a film re-recording facility who functions both as projectionist and as a machine room operator.

pec/direct

In film re-recording, the act of switching between playback from the recorder (either off the play or record heads) and the console bus. “PEC” stands for photoelectric cell, and originates from when monitoring off optical photoelectric cell was as close as you could get to “playback.”

pfx

Production effects, i.e., sound effects from the production track, kept separate during dialog editing and premixing for ease of integration into the m&e.

pink noise

Full-frequency noise, consisting of equal energy per logarithmic units of bandwidth (such as octave or 1/3-octave), used to align the frequency response of tape recorders and speaker systems. Pink noise can be thought of as (and indeed almost always is) filtered white noise, which contains equal energy per linear unit of bandwidth. The high end on white noise is “tipped up” because there are “more” frequencies between octave and third-octave divisions.

pirate ship

To make a copy of material for one’s library. Commonly used to refer to making a copy of good sound effects recorded in production, thus the order to “pull up the pirate ship” and to make sure that those recordings will be available after the film is finished and the masters are sent away.

platter projection

See projection.

“pop a track”

The act of aligning a start mark exactly nine feet or six seconds from the two-pop, either on mag film or a bench, or in a digital audio workstation.

popcorn noise

Colloquial expression in the film sound community for the factors (such as popcorn chewing, air conditioning noise, and bleed from adjacent theaters) in a motion picture theater that influence the low end of the dynamic range, and how soft a sound will “read” in the real world. See also little old ladies with umbrellas.

post-synchronization

Term used on the Continent and in the U.K. for ADR.

pre-lay

Usually stands for the act of editing sound onto a multitrack. This writer, for one, finds this term stupid and meaningless (not to mention demeaning), as it seems to try to make something else out of what is simply “multitrack editing.”

premix

The act of mixing edited sound elements (either dialog, music or sound effects) so that the final mix can be accomplished with less work involving level, equalization, effects or panning. With sound effects and music, there will also be a substantial reduction in the number of tracks, as in premixing 24 tracks into a 4-track lcrs premix. Dialog premixing often does not actually reduce the number of tracks that will go to the final mix, but instead just copies a cut track across with careful equalization and fader moves.

preview codes

edgecoding of edited workprint (or dupes made therefrom) and sound elements to create a new reference for a given version of the film. When the film is subsequently re-edited, the process of conforming multiple tracks can be sped up greatly.

printmaster

The final, composite (dialog, music and sound effects recorded together) mix of a film that can be transferred directly to a track negative or a mag stripe print with no further changes in level or equalization. If noise reduction is used on a printmaster, it most often matches that of the final print format, and thus can be transferred stretched to the mag stripe print or track negative. In the case of a stereo optical film, the printmaster contains two tracks, Lt and Rt, that are transferred directly to an optical sound negative.

The soundtrack of a discrete 35mm 4-track or 70mm 6-track mag print will be recorded from a 4- or 6-track printing master in a real-time transfer.

production track

The track recorded synchronously during shooting. In film it’s almost always on 1/4-inch tape or r-dat digital cassette. See also wild track.

projection

In most commercial movie theaters, all reels are joined together on a platter to form one continuous strip of film through one projector. In screening rooms equipped with two projectors, each reel is kept separate, and the projectionist will manually start the incoming projector when he sees “changeover” dots in the upper right corner of the screen. This first set of dots is the “motor cue,” with a second set of dots (a second before the end of the outgoing reel) indicating to switch over the picture and sound to the next reel.

You can have double system or composite projection with both platter and changeover techniques. Movie previews are often conducted in commercial theaters, with the 35mm workprint “built up” on a platter, and the 35mm mag temp dub on a mut.

pull

Colloquial term for adding another recorder to a system. Also describes the act of deciding which sound effects from a library will be used in a scene. See also spot.

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Glossary – Q

quad track

Track negative, and release print made therefrom, which contains all three digital sound formats (Dolby Digital, DTS and SDDS) plus a standard SVA analog track.

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Glossary – R

RCH

Smallest deflection visible in a standard VU meter; less than a needle-width. See also gnat’s nut.

reassign

Output bus designed for internal re-routing and combining within the console.

recordist

To some, a “sound recordist” is the person who records sound during shooting. This usage is more popular in the UK and on the Continent than in the U.S., where “production mixer” is more common. In U.S. re-recording parlance, the recordist is the person in the machine room who is in charge of aligning and loading the recorders and playback dubbers.

reel

For information on how reels of film are counted in motion pictures, see ab reel and film footage.

regroup

The transfer procedure in which material is copied from one medium (most often multiple units of mag film) to another in order to facilitate re-recording. For example, a facility might have only five playback dubbers on a re-recording stage, and they might transfer 20 units of mag film to a piece of 24-track tape in four passes in order to be able to hear all 20 tracks simultaneously.

release print

Usually a copy of a motion picture made from an internegative and track negative. Release prints can also be made, in limited numbers, from the EK negative.

re-recording

Also known as dubbing, the process in which dialog, music and sound effects are mixed to picture.

resolver

Device that governs the speed of audio machines with reference to either a given recording or a common, known reference, such as a crystal or AC line frequency. A resolved transfer ensures that material will always be transferred at the same speed, and in the case of motion pictures, will be in sync with picture.

room tone

The sound present in any production recording between the words. Also known as “fill.” Should not be confused (during post-production) with background sound effects.

RTA

Real-time analyzer. Audio measuring equipment used to view the whole audio spectrum simultaneously, as opposed to the voltage of a specific frequency. Typically, the display resolution is 1/3-octave.

running master

See print master.

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Glossary – S

’scope

Film industry slang for anamorphic prints or lenses. Originally an abbreviation of CinemaScope.

SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound

Digital film format that utilizes in its complete form five screen channels (instead of the usual three) plus stereo surround tracks and an LFE track. The optical digital information is printed outside the sprocket holes on the print. First used in its final format in 1994 for City Slickers II.

SDU4

See DS4.

sensurround

The now-obsolete low-frequency enhancement system for motion picture exhibition developed by Universal Studios in 1973 for Earthquake. The first film simply triggered a noise generator during the earthquake sequences, although later versions of Sensurround did record very low-frequency information on the print.

sepmag

Laboratory term for a print whose track is on a separate roll of mag film to be run in interlock with the picture. Same as double system.

70mm

The motion picture exhibition format that contains 6-track magnetic sound. In use primarily from 1955 to 1971, 70mm films usually made use of camera equipment manufactured by Todd-AO and Panavision. The camera negative was 65mm wide, with the additional 5mm outside the sprocket holes used for the magnetic stripes on release prints.

Almost all films released in 70mm from 1971-1992 were originally photographed in 35mm and then blown up primarily for the 6-track magnetic sound. With 6-track digital sound now available in 35mm, there is no need to do a blow-up for sound quality, and in fact almost all newly manufactured 70mm prints in the U.S. have no magnetic track, but instead use the DTS system in the form of two players (one as a backup) in conjunction with a wide timecode track outside of the perforations.

The image, in its standard form, has an aspect ratio of 2.20:1, which is narrower than the 2.40:1 anamorphic 35mm format that is the source of many 70mm prints. However, when flat 1.85:1 films are blown up to 70mm, they usually retain their original aspect ratio, with black borders on the side.

The IMAX/OMNIMAX special venue format also uses 70mm film, although it runs horizontally through the camera/projector, and each frame is 15 “perfs” long, as opposed to the standard five perfs. Sound is always double-system, utilizing mag film or custom digital formats.

“shoot”

Film sound slang for recording. Derives from the previous use of optical sound in all film sound recording.

simuldat

A DAT recording made during telecine in which the production audio is transferred to a DAT whose timecode matches that of the videotape.

single system

The act of shooting film or video in which the audio is recorded on the same medium as the image. (Video is by definition single-system, although it can also be double system if a separate recorder is used.)

Skywalker Sound

The post-production sound company at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, Calif., approximately one hour north of San Francisco.

small-room x curve

See x curve.

smart slate

Timecode slate that contains a timecode generator. A “dumb” slate must be fed timecode constantly, either hard-wired or via a wireless transmitter. It is a misnomer to refer to all timecode slates as “smart slates.”

SMPTE curve Reproduce

equalization curve standard in the U.S. for 35mm mag film.

SMPTE leader

See leader.

sound designer

In its most common usage, the person who creates special sound effects for films. In its original and perhaps most proper usage, the person responsible for the overall sound of the film in much the same way the director of photography is responsible for picture. This person will usually supervise both sound editing and re-recording.

sounding

The act of recording sound on a mag release print. Now obsolete.

sound stage

Large warehouse-like room where sets are built and films are shot. Not to be confused with a re-recording stage.

soundtrack

The sound for a film. Should be used to refer to the CD or other release of the music that is sold to the public but should not be used to refer to the music in the film.

special effects

Awkward term often given to sound effects. “Special sound effects” is a useful description, though, for out-of-the-ordinary effects that have to be created.

Spectral Recording

The recording process introduced by Dolby Laboratories in 1986 that offers up to 24 dB of noise reduction (16 dB below 800 Hz). SR is more similar to C-Type noise reduction than it is to their previous professional format, A-Type, in that it uses sliding-band circuits. S-Type is the consumer version of SR and was introduced in 1990.

“speed”

Word yelled by the production sound mixer when the production recorder is up to speed (indicated by “flags” on a Nagra), indicating to the camera crew and the assistant director that he or she is recording. While both Nagras and digital machines get up to speed quite quickly, the term derives from Hollywood technology in which a common motor system drove cameras and film sound recorders (originally optical, and later either 17.5mm or 35mm mag) and sometimes even turntables for music playback.

“splice”

Incorrect word used by many journalists to describe what picture or sound editors do when they edit. In other words, it is bad usage, just as it is incorrect to refer to what journalists do as typing instead of writing.

split surrounds

Also known as “stereo surrounds.” The nickname of the Dolby 70mm format that gives two surround channels (left-surround and right-surround) on a mono-surround-compatible print. Also stands for the use of separate surround speakers in any sound format, such as IMAX or Showscan, both of which have two completely discrete surround tracks.

spo

The optimum viewing spot in a theater: always in the center (unless there’s an aisle there!), and usually about halfway between the projection booth and the screen (this depends on the length-to-width ratio of the room). Spo first came into usage during the mix of Apocalypse Now. Among the more common variants are “spo meter,” the Radio Shack Sound Level Meter (Cat. No. 33-2050) used industry-wide to measure SPL.

spoach

To arrive early at a movie theater and get the best seats for you and your yet-to-arrive friends. See spo.

spot

In film sound, the act of listing the sound effects or music required for a scene. Also, the general act of reviewing the film with the director to determine work that will be needed on the soundtrack. For example, spots for a car chase scene would be tire skids, auto accelerating, auto suspension bumps, etc. The next step is to audition and pull specific skids, bumps, etc., from the sound library.

SR

See Spectral Recording.

SR•D

The 35mm digital sound print format developed by Dolby Laboratories. It places five full-range digital tracks and one LFE track on a 35mm print in addition to an SR analog stereo optical track. The digital recording format–theatrical or home–is more properly referred to as Dolby Digital.

“the stage”

The re-recording room and the people contained therein: “The stage has broken for lunch,” or “This is a stage rush” (and must be transferred now so the sound editor can cut it ASAP).

stage sync

How close in (or out) of sync the foley or ADR is when it is recorded.

stems

The three or more final components of a stereo film mix, usually comprising three lcrs mixes, one each of dialog, music and sound effects that, combined, make up the final mix of a film. Minimal (hopefully no) additional level changes, equalization, etc., should be needed to create a printmaster, although of course a 6-track print master will have different requirements than a 2-track stereo optical print master.

The separation of elements afforded by stems allows domestic (English-language in the U.S.) mono and M&E stereo and mono mixes to be easily derived from the original stereo mix. The word “stem” should not be used for any other element prior to the final mix masters; it is a common mistake to refer to the various premixes as stems.

stretched

A recording that has been processed through noise reduction encoding. A stretched transfer involves making a new recording of a stretched recording without decoding and then re-encoding the material. In this manner, a stretched transfer retains the original noise reduction encoding level. As a rule, it is recommended to not transfer stretched because any response error is multiplied by the compression ratio, typically 2:1, of the noise reduction system.

stripe

Short for “single stripe”; see mag film.

string off

Copying off a track from a multitrack master, usually to single-stripe 35mm mag film, in order to facilitate editing. Can be either a noun or a verb. See regroup and layback.

subwoofer

Speaker designed specifically to reproduce low-frequency information, usually between the range of 20 to 120 Hz.

super 35

Widescreen film format that makes use of the full width of the 35mm film frame (including the area normally occupied by the optical soundtrack). Therefore, there can never be any 35mm EK neg prints from a Super 35 negative. An interpositive from the full-aperture original negative is enlarged to an anamorphic internegative when the aspect ratio is 2.40:1.

supervising sound editor

The person in charge of the sound editorial process, including dialog, Foley and sound effects editing.

surround channel

The single track that feeds multiple speakers usually placed on the walls of a theater. Today’s digital formats all have two surround channels, for the left and right sides of the auditorium. In standard motion picture practice surround channels are used for ambient information primarily.

SVA Stereo Variable Area

The technical term for the recording format of Dolby Stereo in optical 35mm prints. The term is not used much anymore.

sweeten

To add a sound to other, previously existing (i.e., cut or mixed) sounds. (“We sweetened the car crash with some dumpster hits.”) Should never be used in reference to mixing, although this usage is indeed common, especially in reference to television shows.

Swelltone

The motion picture sound system first used in 1991 for the film Kafka.

sync pop

A single film frame of 1 kHz sine wave tone used as a guide to synchronize sound and picture. The pop on the resulting track negative creates a visual guide to the negative cutter, who uses it to make a printing start mark. The pop occurs two seconds before the first frame of picture, and thus corresponds to the “2” frame on the sweep-hand SMPTE Universal Leader, which counts down in seconds. On standard film leaders, the number at the pop is “3,” because they count down in film footages.

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Glossary – T

TAP Theater Alignment Program

In 1983, Lucasfilm Ltd. began an organized process of inspecting selected (mostly 70mm in the early days) prints and theaters for their films and anyone who contracts their services.

telecine

The process in which film is transferred to video. Telecine occurs at three points in the filmmaking process: 1) When film is transferred to video in preparation for editing on a nonlinear system. 2) When an edited workprint is transferred to video to give sound editors a guide with which to edit sound. 3) When an interpositive is transferred to a videotape to create a master for home video release.

temp dub

Quick mix of a film made during the post-production process, allowing the movie to be screened and evaluated in double system.

thumper

A pure, low-frequency tone (around 30 Hz), triggered by a noise gate keyed to a click track. Used to give dancers the beat of a song while recording synchronous production sound, which can be used once the “thumper” track is filtered out.

THX

Specifications for motion picture sound systems and projection licensed by Lucasfilm Ltd. (Various parts of the home video chain, including laserdiscs and home theater equipment, are also licensed.) The only part of the theatrical system manufactured by Lucasfilm is the speaker crossover network; other parts, such as amplifiers and speakers, must be on the “approved” THX list. Installation procedures in a THX theater also must follow rigorous Lucasfilm specifications.

The name is a double entendre, partly being derived from the name of George Lucas’ first feature film, THX-1138, and partly as an acronym standing for Tomlinson Holman’s eXperiment, as he was the person responsible for the system design and philosophy.

To clear up a few misconceptions: THX has nothing to do with the recording of sound on a print, and therefore is not a competitor to Dolby Stereo or any of the digital release formats. Films do not “play in THX,” and there is no such thing as a “THX film.” Also, it has nothing to do with whether or not the soundtrack has been edited or mixed by the staff of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its Skywalker Sound facility.

Todd-AO

a) The 70mm widescreen process developed by the promoter Mike Todd in association with the American Optical Company. b) The Hollywood-based film sound company.

top sheet

See binky.

track negative

Standard laboratory terminology for the soundtrack negative. “Photographic sound” might be more by the book, though.

trombone gobble

Classic sound effect used when Warner Bros. cartoon characters are hit in the head.

turd polishing

Colloquial film sound term for the futility of the work undertaken by mixers in trying to make bad tracks sound good.

two-pop

See sync pop.

type c printer

Industry-standard printer, originally manufactured by Bell & Howell, for the slow-speed (up to 180 feet per minute) manufacture of film prints.

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Glossary – U

Ultra Stereo

The stereo optical process designed to be compatible with standard A-type Dolby Stereo prints.

unadvertised specials

Sounds that appear on a track but whose presence is not noted by the cue sheet.

unit

A single reel of edited mag film, corresponding to a given picture reel. The unit can be made up of either single-stripe or fullcoat mag film, and will almost always contain fill leader in certain sections in order to maintain sync.

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Glossary – V

Voice of the Theater

The theater speaker system developed in the 1940s by Altec Lansing Corp. for motion picture theaters, and the industry standard for 40 years until the introduction of direct-radiator speakers such as the JBL 4675 in the early ’80s. The basic horn-loaded design dates back to the ’30s and speakers manufactured at MGM and The Bell Laboratories. The product line included the single-cabinet A-7 and A-4, and the dual-cabinet A-2 for larger theaters. These speakers are no longer made.

voicing

See equalization, 1/3-octave room.

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Glossary – W

walla

Film sound slang for the sound of a group of people talking. “Group walla” is when a number of actors will create background crowd sounds in a studio against edited picture.

Westrex

The sound company that, along with RCA, ruled over film sound for the first 40 years. Its equipment–which encompassed the whole chain from microphones, production recorders, re-recording consoles and machines to optical cameras–was leased to studios in exchange for royalty fees. By the ’70s most licenses were not being renewed with the coming of manufacturers of specialized gear: consoles (Quad-Eight), mag machines (Magna-Tech) and stereo processes (Dolby Laboratories).

Licensees to Westrex equipment included Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century-Fox, MGM, Todd-AO and Universal Studios. RCA’s domain included Republic, Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Pictures.

wide-range curve/wide-range monitoring

See x curve.

widescreen

Film and television picture formats whose aspect ratio is wider than 1.33:1.

wig-wag

Hollywood slang for the lights outside sound stages to indicate when shooting is taking place.

wild track

A recording of dialog or sound effects on the set of a film but without the camera running. Wild tracks are frequently used to get a clean recording of dialog that was otherwise unobtainable because of the noise-production devices (e.g., wind machines) that have to be on during filming.

worldize

To re-record a track (usually music) in the space where it would naturally occur. This “worldized” track (or two) is then mixed together with the dry original.

workprint/worktrack

Respectively, the edited sound and picture elements that the picture editor cuts together during editing. They both are invaluable because of the Acmade edge numbers (placed by the editorial department on both sound and picture to guide in synchronization) and key numbers (placed on the film negative by the manufacturer).

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Glossary – X

x-copy

An exact copy of material. See 1:1.

x curve

Stands for “extended,” as opposed to the “N” (normal) curve, which is the same as the Academy Curve. The “X” curve is also known as the “wide-range curve,” and is codified in ISO Bulletin 2969. Specifications call for pink noise, at listening position in a re-recording situation or two-thirds of the way back in a theater, to be flat to 2 kHz, rolling off 3 dB per octave after that. This curve is found in all motion picture theaters and re-recording stages worldwide.

The “small-room X curve” is designed to be used in rooms with less than 150 cubic meters, or 5,300 cubic feet. This standard specifies flat response to 2 kHz, rolling off 1.5 dB per octave after that. Some people use a modified small-room curve, starting the roll-off at 4 kHz, with the response down 3 dB per octave thereafter.

x-track

Portions of production track that are split off into a separate unit (or separate track on a workstation) because they will be replaced by adr.

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Glossary – Z

Ziegfeld

Large first-run movie theater in midtown Manhattan. This is the proper spelling; it is not the “Ziegfield.”