Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#1 by Timothy Duncan ( deleted ) , Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:57 am

Now I am thinking more about 16mm. Is optical sound better than magnetic as far as quality? I guess it never changes either as there is no direct contact with the film as with a magnetic sound head, right?


Timothy Duncan

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#2 by Vidar Olavesen , Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:14 am

Well, I am not sure. If film fades, the optical track would fade too, right? I watched Hennes Melodi a few days ago. Worst sound ever. Also have an 8mm optical of The Jericho Mile with same problem. Very low sound. And downside is that you can't re-record it.


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#3 by Andrew Woodcock , Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:42 am

Never in a million years! Technically it can never be, it has too narrow a frequency range.

The fact the magnetic head comes in contact with the stripe is fairly irrelevant as it isn't like a stylus on a record whereby you cannot help but get some surface noise.

Magnetic recordings, when both head and stripe are A1 and the recording has been made from an excellent source, can be extremely good indeed and by keeping the recording level as close to 0db as possible you can virtually rule out any audible hiss from the stripe.



 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#4 by Timothy Duncan ( deleted ) , Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:14 pm

Interesting answers fellows. It's something to consider if I were to move into 16mm, as I hear that most of those prints have optical sound.


Timothy Duncan

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#5 by Vidar Olavesen , Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:18 pm

Usually 16mm has very good sound. Only have one print in 16mm I think with bad sound. It's not bad, maybe it would be better with mag track, but do not think you notice anything about the sound as a problem


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#6 by Andrew Woodcock , Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:50 pm

No the sound isn't bad... not unless it was originally printed badly or the print and therefore the soundtrack is also fading.

However, if you're asking the question of whether it can compete with a decent magnetic recording, then the answer is definitely not.

I have Super 8mm optical prints which unfortunately I am forced to use on an ST1200, and if I'm honest, I am never entirely satisfied with quality of sound from from any of them. Acceptable..yes, decent...no.

Obviously 16mm optical soundtracks are better than their 8mm counterparts, but still nowhere near the best Stereo tracks on 8mm.

Nearly all 16mm commercial films (especially features) use the optical track so obviously all films can only ever be shown in mono sound.


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#7 by Vidar Olavesen , Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:53 pm

It do exist stereo 16mm though. I asked that question when I bought my 16mm Bauer P7 Synchron


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#8 by Andrew Woodcock , Wed Aug 26, 2015 5:17 pm

Indeed Vidar, but you will do well to find any films that are in Stereo on 16 mm


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#9 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:39 am

Hi All
Yes Magnetic sound stripe is "technically" better than optical sound. However I have always found magnetic tracks to be a pain in the neck at times. The oxide starts to shed on older prints leaving a pile of gunk on the sound-head. At times the paste that adhered the stripe to the print
dries out and the stripe falls off altogether.The stripe can and does wear out over time. Also you can get sound drop-out on parts of the soundtrack due to wear and tear. Add to the very
" wowy" sound quality on some prints especially on 8mm really bugs me too. All Magnetic stripe of film 16mm / 8mm is very Non-HiFi and still limited in the frequency response extremes. I have never heard a Magnetic stripe print that does not have some hiss either in the cinema or on the sub-standard domestic gauges when you crank up the volume level. Its the nature of the beast. So even though Optical sound is more frequency response limited I still prefer its sound quality. Its more "authentic" for me.
Okay Optical sound can be damaged due to print scratching and general wear and tear. I wish more films were available on 8mm Optical sound as with a bit of tailoring and tweaking it sounds very fine and mellow indeed. So give me Optical any day for all its compromises.


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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#10 by Vidar Olavesen , Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:42 am

Different views here :-)

I don't mind either way, but hate out of sync sound. If the sound is correct, I take either


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#11 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:42 am

As a "postscript" to my reply I am not a huge fan of Stereo sound on films anyway in or out of the Cinemas. I love Mono. I have always heard through the gimmick of Stereo Sound. It can really bug me.


David Hardy

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#12 by Andrew Woodcock , Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:53 am

It only tends to be some of the pasted striped films that I have experienced problems with regarding shedding and delamination.

Pre striped stock, which was used until the big 3 pulled away from camera stock, is very stable and durable in use I find, plus you can work with it if there was a problem with sound quality or recording to begin with.

I really don't like the "clacky poppy" sound generated from any of my super 8mm optical prints. There's always something not quite right about it I find.

The best sound I've found on an 8mm optical print was the sound quality on my lethal weapon print. But rising damp, She'll Follow You Anywhere, Educating Rita, Cannonball Run are just some of the ones I don't really like the sound quality of. They are simply too thin for my ears.

Wow on mag prints is a major issue on Elmo machines due to their tiny capstan roller and unstable dancer arrangement.
The same print shown on a Beaulieu or S938 or indeed a 610 can be very near Hi Fi standards if recorded well. Certainly as good as an 80's cassette deck in a separates system.

A little bit of hiss but nothing too distracting.

I think Stereo prints only come into their own when recording Musical films like the Elvis films or the Disney ones. You can obtain superb digital source material for these now and it can really enhance these films on presentation just as in the way John Clancy did by showing them sync pulsed with the digital soundtrack at the conventions.



 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#13 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:27 pm

I don't have or have any "clacky poppy" sound on any of my Optical prints. Just a bit of surface noise now and again depending on how worn the master copy was . Synch-Pulsing prints with the sound from a shiny disc or video tape source is cheating. I want to hear the sound that's on the actual stripe of the film I pay a lot of money for.


David Hardy

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#14 by Andrew Woodcock , Thu Aug 27, 2015 12:36 pm

Yes I agree David which is why I always use the mag stripe when watching my films even if the sound has been taken originally from a lossless "no noise" digital source to achieve optimum results.

Deranns recording equipment got absolutely hammered at times so quality can be all over the place. You can often achieve far better by doing the whole process again on decent home equipment I find.

Their master material also wasn't always the best.



 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#15 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:07 pm

Synch-Pulsing is to much messing about as far as I am concerned.


David Hardy

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#16 by Andrew Woodcock , Thu Aug 27, 2015 1:16 pm

For live presentation I agree, it takes complete dedication from the perfectionists out there that actually do this to watch a film.
I knew of quite a few!
For recording purposes, it's a superb tool for doing so and makes the whole process a piece of cake so to speak.

Quite a few of the more recent releases on 8 such as Titanic and The Mummy printed in Germany, rely on pulse sync as they come with no stripe at all if they are printed on Polyester. Totally mute until matched with a digital track just like the cinema finished up being on film with the arrival of DTS soundtracks.

These prints cost a fortune to purchase new. In many cases well over £1000 each, yet people have and still buy them even with all the associated hassles...just to get that screened image on reel film!

Now there's dedication!



 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#17 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 3:52 pm

Those bloody DTS Digital discs could be a nightmare to run. They had a nasty tendency to go out of synch with the pulses on the film.
A complete waste of time as far as we were concerned so we just stopped using them. Ironically DTS had a more lush and mellow sound when compared with the overall hardness of the DOLBY DIGITAL and SONY SDDS soundtracks. These mixes were always overblown to sound "impressive" to the public. I hate Digital sound. Bloody 20 foot wide sets of keys jangling about and 60foot Violins . Absolute crap.
Give me a "pure analogue" soundtrack anytime with all its flaws. The trade off is just not worth it for me.


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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#18 by Vidar Olavesen , Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:06 pm

I do love the surround sound myself, but in the "cinemas" here in our town, the sound is really hard and annoying. I love my music loud, but when the frequencies turn to pain in the head, it's just not nice. I thought I never see another movie without 5.1 sound, but after getting into film, I really appreciate the sound I get in mono (and stereo on Raiders of the Lost Ark and a couple of others) from my films

I am going more and more towards 70 and 80's. My video game preferrence is an Atari 800 from 1979, best games ever. Film is better than digital. Next I know now, is to go get a proper vinyl player and bring out my LP's


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#19 by Robert Crewdson ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:47 pm

Personally I prefer optical sound 16mm. When I bought my Eumig 810D in the 70s, it only had a tone control, and the soundtrack on some of the Mountain releases was not that good; I watched two recently, and couldn't distinguish every word. Some of the later Super 8 Sound projectors look like mini recording studios, no doubt the playback is better than on my Eumig. To be honest, it shouldn't be necessary to obtain a DVD so that you can re-record the soundtrack onto your film; at the time you expected that you should receive the best print and audio quality it was possible to give. Most of us are just stuck with whatever came with the film. When watching home made movies or those where I had added mood music, I always found the sound 'Tinny'.

My B&H 16mm has treble and bass controls, whereas some only have a tone control, so I have a lot of control over the sound. I just acquired another B&H projector, and that has 2 speakers, and there is a vast improvement .



Robert Crewdson

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#20 by Andrew Woodcock , Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:32 pm

You're dead right Robert, the sound should have better than it ever was from Derann especially for any prints made from the mid 80's onwards.

The print quality itself was often sensational due to Derann using the very best lab in the country but they put the soundtrack on them and progressively it did become worse and worse over the years due to their equipment becoming worn out. Also didn't help with what sadly happened with Derek. He kept QC much better.

You have to remember, sound tech has come a long way in the last three decades so naturally, the sound quality can be improved on prints from the masters that were available then.

It's not really a case of having to Robert, just simply a desire to make my favourite prints the best they can be.

The better projectors do indeed produce much better sound reproduction than you were describing Robert.


 
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RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#21 by Hugh Thompson Scott ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:22 pm

A loaded question really, I find 16mm sound to be very good, super 8 opt. can be a hit and miss affair, the sound on some mag prints
can be not as good as earlier prints. Remember Derek Simmonds had to "rewrite the book" to ensure we got striped prints, sometimes
there could be problems, I've encountered some of them, like low sound or fade in fade out soundtracks. Like David, I am not a fan of
stereo, a good strong mono signal does me, all this dolby stuff is rendered meaningless when we have artistes that can't speak clearly or
mumble into their jumpers, a good example of this is our own Ray Winstone, who should receive an instant refund from his elocution class. There are some prints from the '70s that have really nice clear sound, as long as I can make out the dialogue without needing
subtitles or hear the music without "wow", I reckon its a decent track. That little brown stripe has served us well over the years. As
for public shows where the sound is from another source, to my mind is slight of hand, what is wrong with the prints own track, why not just project electronically and be done, not everyone has the means to sync up discs and why should they? The whole idea surely is to
exhibit the print as is, not tart it up by other means, anyway, just my opinion.



Hugh Thompson Scott

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#22 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:32 pm

I can remember one twit of a customer blubbering on about the lack of Stereo Surround 5:1 in a Woody Allen film we were showing.
I had to explain to him that Woody did not do Stereo at the moment only MONO. He was still not convinced though. Oh Well !!!


David Hardy

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#23 by David Hardy ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:39 pm

I still think that given the resources and finance they could have came up with "State of the Art " optical sound projectors on both 8mm and 16mm film that was vastly improved quality wise. Hey - Ho that only a dream of mine now.


David Hardy

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#24 by Hugh Thompson Scott ( deleted ) , Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:27 pm

I can't complain about the opt reproduction on 16mm David, it sounds nice and clear. As for S/8, I favour the Fumeo projectors, good
separate bass and treble controls, with a "presence" filter, plus plenty of scope for adjustments if necessary.



Hugh Thompson Scott

RE: Is Optical Sound Better Than Magnetic?

#25 by Andrew Woodcock , Thu Aug 27, 2015 10:27 pm

Like all these forums, opinions differ. I like the sound to be of equal quality to the picture where possible. As said, I've experienced problems myself with pasted striped prints especially after Dereks expertise disappeared. On these pasted problematic prints, you get what you get, some I have are fine others have got some patchy sound issues especially on the tiny 0.4mm balance track.

I would be interested to try a SH30 just to see if the sound on my optical prints could sound a little better than they do but from all three variants of the ST1200's I've had, I haven't found any of them that match up to the reproduction from a good mag track.


 
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