by steve harvey
Full-service audio post house Chace Productions has become a world leader in sound restoration and the re-mastering of major motion picture soundtracks. Utilizing proprietary technology, the company specializes in the conversion from the original mono or stereo soundtrack to discrete 5.1 audio.
Established in 1984 and at its present location in Burbank, California since 1992, Chace Productions boasts 11 audio suites and offers a wide range of audio transfer, restoration, noise reduction, stereo conversion, and surround mixing services. In 1997, the company added an optical sound department and a 9 00-square-foot THX-certified theatrical re-recording stage in a nearby building. The stage is named the Rick Chace Theatre in honor of the company’s founder, who passed away in 1992.
The company recently refitted Mix 1, a modestly sized studio, for the production of multichannel film mixes for the domestic and international broadcast and home presentation markets. Chief engineer Joe Edwards and his staff worked closely with acoustician Ron Lagerlof of Visioneering Design Company to upgrade Mix 1’s audio facilities and to acquire THX pm3 certification for the room.
Central to the upgrade is a Sony DMX-R100 automated digital mixing console. “Our guys really love it,” comments Chace president, Bob Heiber, singling-out the console’s dedicated bussing and comprehensive automation functions for particular mention. “For this environment, it’s a dream. The one thing we audio guys have to be happy about is this digital revolution, especially in terms of what it’s done for affordable technology.”
Mix 1’s custom furniture also houses a TC Electronic System 6000 multichannel effects processor and several TASCAM DA-88’s. “We’re trying to stay as digital as possible in this room,” affirms Heiber. “We’re also pretty enamored of the [TASCAM] MMR-8 and are using that at 24 bits, 48 kHz for our restoration work.”
An Apogee Sound/THX MPTS-1 film theater monitor system is positioned behind the 10 x 5 Stewart Microperf screen to handle the LCR and LFE channels, with six JBL 8330 speakers and Bryston amplification accommodating the surrounds. An Oxmoor equalization system, a recent acquisition, is being set up to accommodate the Surround EX format.<
Chace Productions began converting mono soundtracks to stereo in 1986 with its patented Chace Surround Stereo processor. The mono-compatible 4-channel process provides true directional LCRS stereo and has reportedly been used on over 600 films to date.
The company now offers 5.1 discrete stereo with stereo surrounds via its Chace Digital Stereo (CDS) system. CDS, which is compatible with AC-3, has become Hollywood’s preferred method for the conversion of archived mono, Lo/Ro stereo, Lt/Rt matrixed stereo, or LCRS dialog, music, and effects tracks into 5.1 channels for theatrical or DVD release. Although the system’s DSP technology is capable of processing 600 million instructions per second, it is equally important that a skilled programmer place, audition, and adjust individual 5.1 cues, which can number in the thousands for each film.
Chace’s unique processes has been used on many high-profile reissues, from classics such as The Bridge on the River Kwai to cult favorites like the Rocky Horror Picture Show and This is Spinal Tap.
At Chace, the journey from the archives to DVD typically begins with the compilation of the source material. As with the repurposing of music recordings for 5.1 release, film studios often take the opportunity to restore missing or never-before-seen footage to the release, which is where Chace’s experience pays off.
A recent example serves to illustrate the complexity of the restoration process. For the re-release of the 1954 musical A Star is Born, starring Judy Garland, Warner Bros. planned to restore the movie to its original 182-minute length. The film had been reduced in length in response to complaints from theater owners, first to 155 then 135 minutes, following its premier.
A variety of sources were assembled at Chace Productions, including stereo German and French language versions, stereo music and effects mags, and Cinemascope versions of the two edited releases. The film was the first stereo release from Warner Bros., but the only material available of the correct running time was on a mono English mag version.
In collaboration with Warner Bros., all of the magnetic tracks were transferred and Chace’s restoration engineer, James Young, edited the sources into place using an “Academy-approved” 176-minute version compiled by the late film historian Ronald Haver as a template. Outtakes, production stills, and Garland’s home movies were used to fill the gaps. After processing through Sonic Solutions’ NoNoise software, the material was passed to Chace’s chief stereo products specialist, John Blum, for the creation of the 5.1 stereo cues. Young then performed the final mix at the Rick Chace Theatre.
“That’s the power of this company,” says Heiber proudly. “You can just have a truck back up and drop off the material, because the guys who understand what might be hiding where and what it’s supposed to be are right here.”
Contact Chace productions at 818-842-8346 or visit them www.chace.com for more< information.