Every film, from a Mini-DV short to a $130 million-budgeted Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster, is hard to make. And while the gap between conception and execution is wide for everyone, some filmmakers not only set near-impossible goals, but succeed spectacularly in the process.
Stanley Kubrick labored for four years making 2001: A Space Odyssey, virtually inventing modern special effects. The budget and schedule for Jaws more than doubled while Steven Spielberg kept his eye on what would make the film tick. George Lucas redefined visual effects nine years after 2001 with Star Wars, putting the film on the screen for less than $10 million.
But in terms of sheer drama, no film’s production and post-production holds a candle to Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. From the changing of the lead actor one month into shooting, to sets being destroyed by a typhoon two months after that, to the heart attack of his next lead actor… principal photography dragged on in the Philippines for 238 days over 14 months. It wasn’t finished by any stretch, with post-production lasting a still-record 26 months. Oh, yes, did we mention that Coppola was personally responsible for more than half of the $30 million budget? When all was said and done, the film that was released on August 15, 1979, was well-received by the filmgoing public and film cognoscenti alike.
The reception by the film sound community was unanimous in its praise, and to this day the sound job is regarded as the ne plus ultra in terms of creative use of the medium. The track was crafted in San Francisco by a large crew headed by Walter Murch, whose “Sound Design” credit was accorded “billing block” status on posters. (It read “Sound Montage and Design” on film prints.) The picture and sound departments were staffed by more than a dozen future luminaries in film sound, among them Richard Beggs, Mark Berger, George Berndt, Jay Boekelheide, Doug Hemphill, Pat Jackson, Michael Kirchberger, John Nutt, David Parker, Jerry Ross, Tom Scott, Leslie Shatz, Dale Strumpell and Randy Thom.
This month, Apocalypse Now will have its first theatrical re-release in more than 15 years. While most of the original film remains intact, 49 minutes of deleted scenes have been put back in, resulting in a definitive version, now titled Apocalypse Now Redux.
THE ORIGINAL MIX
As the release date of Apocalypse Now was set and moved back many times during the extended post-production period, some ended up working on the film for over two years. Led by supervising sound editor Richard Cirincione, Apocalypse‘s sound crew comprised top editors from San Francisco, New York and London. During this time, a partial music score was composed and then discarded, while the sound team recorded more than 200 rolls of sound effects. Because the Department of Defense in no way assisted Coppola in the production of the film, the intrepid editors would say that they were working for their own companies in order to gain access to Army training exercises.
The eight-month (yes, this is also probably a record) re-recording schedule resulted in what can certainly be called the first 5.1-channel mix, in that it makes full use of stereo surrounds and low-frequency enhancement. (Although the Dolby 70mm 6-track “split surround” format was developed for Superman in 1978, that film played in less than a handful of such engagements worldwide.)
Apocalypse Now was mixed by Murch, Berger and Beggs in circumstances quite in contrast to the then-standard practice in Hollywood. In Southern California, most of the consoles were by Quad-Eight, most of the rooms were huge, automation was used infrequently, and, perhaps most importantly, the lines were drawn quite dramatically between picture editing and sound editorial and re-recording.
Up in San Francisco’s North Beach district, Murch’s initial work on the film was as picture editor (along with Richard Marks, Gerald Greenberg and Lisa Fruchtman). Beggs was not only the music re-recording mixer, he also recorded the narration and was one of the six synthesists who “realized” the score by Coppola and his father, Carmine. Almost everyone was involved at some point with recording sound effects, much of which recently became available in a Hollywood Edge CD set.
The Pacific Avenue mix room at Coppola’s American Zoetrope was designed by Jeff Cooper in the only space available, a long, thin area with a relatively low ceiling. The mix room was 20×40 feet long, and the MCI JH-500 Series console was only about 15 feet from the screen. Because the board had only 28 automated, full-featured inputs, extensive premixing was required to whittle down the 175-plus tracks cut for the busier reels. Furthermore, because the machine room only had seven mag film dubbers, edited 35mm stripe and 2-track stereo cut elements were “regrouped” seven units at a time onto dbx-encoded 24-track, 2-inch tape to allow the console to be filled up during premixes, which also utilized dbx noise reduction.
To interlock the multitrack machines with the Multi-Track Magnetics film chain, Zoetrope chose the Minimag system manufactured by API, which used a proprietary timecode different from today’s SMPTE/EBU standard. The Minimag system controlled the capstan of the Ampex MM-1100 machines, with locations fed by a reel of 35mm mag containing the timecode.
The sound effects premixes, of which there were up to six per reel, were not spread out in clearly defined groups as is customary today, with backgrounds, Foley and hard effects of various flavors each commanding one or more 6- or 8-track premixes. Some films today have up to 20 of these premixes playing at the final mix.
Because their effects premixes were a quilt of many different colors, with speaker assignments changing constantly, the Apocalypse mix crew had to keep detailed notes as to what elements were occupying a track at any given moment. For example, on reel 6 (the second part of the helicopter attack), effects premix 1 contains Foley, fire, surf, PBR (Patrol Boats, River: the type of boat the crew is on) and verts. (“Verts” was Murch’s term for “vertical effects,” which are essentially one-off events, as opposed to “horizontal” effects that occur throughout the film, such as backgrounds, PBR and helicopters. To bring a flow and consistency of style, sound editors were assigned specific elements instead of doing everything for a given reel, the then-standard practice in Hollywood.)
Higher math shows that neither the board nor the machine room would allow for all premixes dialog, music and effects to be hung at the final mix. The solution lay in dubbing the five effects premixes into one or two 6-track effects “combines,” while the near-final music, dialog and narration were playing on the small faders through the monitor only, having themselves been regrouped to 2-inch to free up the dubbers. A similar technique was used during music premixing, with dialog and effects combines or premixes playing in the monitor while music was folded down from multitrack to 6-track mag.
The engineering staff at Zoetrope, which was at that time headed by Wayne Wagner, performed extensive modifications on the console to adapt it for film mixing, among them retrofitting the MCI automation with four “quad” joysticks. All four could be used if only four quadrants (left/center/right/mono surround, or left/right/left-surround/right-surround) were needed. If 5-channel panning was desired, then two joysticks were used in series. The first panned through left, center and right, with the fourth quadrant feeding the second joystick, two of whose outputs were assigned to left- and right-surrounds. Automation data for Apocalypse was recorded on a separate piece of 3-track mag, bouncing between tracks. (An early investigation to record the data on hard drives came up with a $10,000 estimate!)
While automation had been in use previously in Hollywood and New York (mostly in the form of the Quad-Eight CompuMix system), it can safely be stated that Apocalypse was the first time that a complex stereo film mix used, and ultimately depended on, automation to such a degree. The level of fine-tuning that the crew was making throughout the eight-month mix period having to step back and update complex premixes and, especially, effects combines with additional elements, for example would have been nerve-wracking at best without automation.
During the last week of the mix in August 1979, the crew created two identical 6-track printmasters. One was sent to MGM Studios in Los Angeles as the “sounding master” for the initial 70mm prints, while the other was kept in San Francisco as the vault master. It was also used to create the initial 35mm stereo optical mix.
Although the 6-track mix was noted for its creative use of surrounds, the 1979 Lt-Rt of Apocalypse contained no (intentional) surround information, so great was Murch’s fear of the downside of badly aligned surrounds.
The first special video version of Apocalypse was the one prepared (read: sanitized) for broadcast on ABC in 1982. The standards and practices department had Lt. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) refer to himself as a “goofy guy,” because they were afraid that someone might mis-hear his original “goofy foot.” (One wonders if anyone at ABC was aware of Jim Morrison’s repeated “fucks” during the performance of “The End” in the reel 1 montage.)
The real movie was first revisited in 1991, when picture and sound were remastered for release on laserdisc. This mix was made 2-track only, creating a new Lt-Rt on a DASH ¼-inch deck, incorporating the stereo surround channels into the matrix format. At this time, the staff at Coppola’s American Zoetrope realized that the two first-generation 6-track printmasters had disappeared; they have never been found despite a worldwide search. The unthinkable possibility no extant version of the 6-track mix of Apocalypse save for what could be transferred from worn 70mm mag stripe prints was avoided by a bizarre, fortuitous circumstance.
In the early ’80s, Les Hodgson, one of the Apocalypse sound team from England, was walking through Pine-wood Studios in London when he recognized the label on boxes of mag that were in a dumpster. On closer inspection, the label proved familiar, because it was from Zoetrope and corresponded to the elaborate color codes used during the Apocalypse mix. Indeed, this was a Dolby A-Type X-copy of the 6-track master that had been made as a guide to assist mixers in England when making the foreign-language versions in 1979. Hodgson rescued these elements and sent them back to Murch in San Francisco; they remain the only record of the original English-language mix.
The moves on all of the elements at the final mix (dialog and music premixes, effects combine and narration single-stripe) were recorded only to the composite 6-track English printmasters. No separate 6-track stems of the main food groups were ever made for archival purposes, in some small part because the crew assumed that they could put up the final mix elements and replay the automation. Murch remembers that “it seemed as if the automated board solved all these issues. We never figured we would need stems.” (It would be glib to say that, among the film’s many other “records,” the Apocalypse crew was the first to be bitten by too much reliance on automation, except for the fact that virtually all films in 1979 were mixed to a composite printmaster only. By these standards, they were ahead of the game with their effects combines. Stem recording became a worldwide standard practice for stereo films a few years later.)
Murch’s next opportunity to polish the mix came in 1997, when he was preparing the film for 6-track AC-3 laserdisc release. The original printmasters were not in today’s standard left/center/right/Lfe/left-surround/right-surround format. In order to get stereo surrounds from the six tracks on 70mm prints while ensuring compatibility with standard mono surround playback, Dolby Labs came up with a method of “bandpass encoding” high-frequency stereo surround information on tracks 2 and 4, “above” the space that was devoted to “baby boom” low-frequency enhancement. The standard mono surround track 6 contained low-frequency information for all mono and stereo surround playback, plus a combine of HF from tracks 2 and 4.
Because this now-obsolete bandpass encoding would have to be deconstructed every time the master would be handled, Murch decided to create a new element optimized for modern 5.1 playback. This new Dolby SR-encoded printmaster was made at the Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, Calif.
For those keeping score, this was the seventh generation for dialog in Apocalypse: original ¼-inch Nagra recording, 35mm cut element, 2-inch dbx-encoded regroup, 35mm 6-track dbx premix, 35mm Dolby A-Type printmaster, 35mm A-Type “dumpster X-copy,” 35mm SR-encoded 5.1 channel “Saul Zaentz” master. Effects went one more, with the 35mm 6-track dbx combine. Music went three generations original multitrack recording, dbx-encoded 24-track “wide” premix into quad groupings, and 35mm 6-track dbx premix prior to the final three printmasters.
In the era of DVDs (and, formerly, laserdiscs), extended “director’s cuts” of many top films from the ’70s and ’80s are commonplace. Apocalypse Now was as good a candidate as any, not only because of its classic status, but also because many film buffs have long had bootleg copies of an early five-hour rough cut.
Zoetrope has a library deals, dating back to 1998, with Paramount Pictures (which has distributed the video versions of Apocalypse) and Canal Plus of France, that if Coppola wished to create a director’s cut, they would each kick in a certain percentage of the costs up to a certain amount. However, as Kim Aubry, Zoetrope VP of engineering and technology and producer of ANR, notes, theatrical release was not initially considered. “We always just thought that it would be under $500,000 to do the editing and sound, and we thought we’d just use the television elements. But the further we got into it, the more we became convinced that once you open the door to this project, you really are back in film mode. It became obvious that we would need to deliver a reproducible film element [negative] and a new video master would need to be made.”
Murch always had doubts about going back to the film whose world he had lived in for more than two years: “I was afraid of getting off the boat and going back into that jungle, in addition to having mixed feelings philosophically and practically. Plays and symphonies have different performances, but what is a film that you then keep changing it?”
In 1998, Murch worked on the restoration of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, incorporating sound and picture concepts that Welles had written of, but not been able to execute personally. “This broke down my reserve and I was more open to the idea,” Murch says. His assistant picture editor on Touch of Evil, Sean Cullen, did preliminary investigation into Apocalypse elements in fall 1999, and picture editing began in April 2000. Murch gives special praise to Cullen and to Catherine Craig, Zoetrope’s archivist, for keeping track of all of the material. Aubry hired Michael Kirchberger, who had worked on the film as a picture assistant back during shooting, to be supervising sound editor of the restoration (which was then informally called, of course, AN2K).
There was some previously edited 35mm workprint and worktrack of the scenes being considered for the new film, and what was still around was “various shades of pink and white,” according to Aubry. Cullen and Murch’s son, Walter, reconstituted these scenes into their original daily rolls, and then this material was screened in Zoetrope’s basement theater, as “dailies.” There was also a U-Matic video copy of the film’s first assembly in May 1977. Murch avoided looking at this, as he “deliberately didn’t want to tamper with [his] brain circuitry, one way or the other.” However, when he finished editing a scene, he did look at its 1977 version as “a double-check, a security lock, to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything essential.”
The film negative of the trims and outtakes had been safely stored in the National Underground Storage facility built into the side of a mountain in Pennsylvania. The required material was shipped to San Francisco and transferred silent to Betacam SP tape at Zoetrope’s telecine facility for digitizing into the Avid. To allow for seamless intercutting of old and new, the letterbox matte matched that of the 1998 telecine that was made for the DVD release. The aspect ratio of this matte, as chosen by the film’s cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, is 2:1, cropping some of the side of the original 2.40:1 anamorphic image. This controversial decision was intended to be a compromise between proper wide-screen framing and the relatively limited resolution of NTSC video. (The cropping did come back to haunt them in one scene where a character outside of the visible frame was speaking unbeknownst to the crew during the sound edit and mix. One cheated line and printmaster fix later, all was well.)
Aubry notes that “at a very early point in this process, we conceived that the old eight [projection] reels of Apocalypse were not meaningful to us as eight reels. Instead, what was important was that we had three video acts, soon to become four.” So, where the sound elements for the original film were divided into 16 reels, with another six reels of new scenes to come, the picture and sound editorial teams decided to work exclusively in the video act format.
Because the re-editing of original camera negative is a serious and permanent decision, it was initially decided to edit together interpositives of both the new AN2K material and the 1979 film, leaving the latter untouched in its original form. However, on the urging of Storaro, it was decided to make prints in the recently revived Technicolor dye transfer process, which requires going direct from original negative to three separation matrices that cannot be edited.
Each of the four acts, as edited by Murch in the Avid, would comprise multiple theatrical reels of negative, with many of the new reel breaks different from the original locations due to the addition of new material. Murch took the opportunity to tighten up the first and last shots of reels that had originally been left a little bit loose to allow for the vagaries of changeover projection. However, with virtually all theaters today splicing reels together on platters, not to mention that the primary goal of the restoration was for home video, he cut what he felt was the best timings, period.
The sound for the shots that had been telecined was transferred from the original 7.5 ips ¼-inch Scotch 208 Nagra tapes to 16-bit DTRS at the 44.1kHz sample rate, the standard for all work on ANR. (The production sound team on Apocalypse was Nat Boxer and Jack Jacobsen. Boxer is one of a handful of lead production sound people who function primarily as boom operator and not as the mixer.)
When the picture department loaded the DTRS tapes into the Avid for synching, they discovered first-hand a well-worn piece of Apocalypse Now lore: A significant portion of the film was shot out of sync. To be more precise, the crystals on the Nagra recorder and on the Technovision-modified Mitchell and Arriflex cameras didn’t agree. The cameras were running fast (or the Nagra slow), and therefore sound had to be removed from the mag during dailies synching, approximately a frame every 100 feet.
This initially was discovered in the Philippines during dailies synching by associate editor George Berndt, who came back in 2000 to cut ADR on ANR. Everything in the shooting and transfer chain was checked and re-checked, although the exact source of the problem was never found.
The modern tools at the picture department’s disposal allowed them to calculate the drift of the offending takes and export the material to Pro Tools, where a 99.94% time-compressed track was bounced and then re-imported into the Avid for eventual OMF export. The production sound rolls were threaded up occasionally to find fill or alternate readings, and Kirchberger recalls how the voice slates were a microcosm of the mood of the endless shooting schedule: “The first were a crisp, ‘This… is Apocalypse Now, scene x, take x’ [thwack of clap stick], while the last ones were ‘This is… day… 200… what’s the scene we’re shooting…?’”
The first order of business for sound effects editing was to load the dbx-encoded premixes and effects combines, plus the 1997 SR-encoded 5.1 master, into master Pro Tools sessions. Assistant sound editor Erich Stratmann found to his surprise that there were some digital overs, in spite of the fact that the 0VU reference level on the mags matched -20 dBfs on the Pro Tools. Although small overs are often unnoticeable, Stratmann says that there would often be many of them in succession, rendering the added distortion quite audible.
The offending sections were re-transferred at a lower level sometimes as much as 6 dB below the -20 standard and using the “Find Peaks” function in Pro Tools (which only worked for peaks longer than 10 samples; the others he found by hand), Stratmann would do precise volume automation to bring only the offending peak down, raising the rest of the material back to the reference level. He would then do a bounce of the section in Pro Tools incorporating the fix.
Stratmann created a master session comprising all extant material from the 1979 mix, with the 1997 5.1 printmaster and the original 6-track M&E, the only elements that were available for the whole film. Effects combines and premixes were available for most reels, although they could find nothing from reel 8 (the Hau Phat scene with the Playboy Bunnies). As “blind luck” would have it, according to Kirchberger, they were always able to find a way to make the joins work.
The crew used a “donut and holes” metaphor to guide themselves in communicating what they were doing. The area outside the donut was the original printmaster alone, while the donut rings were the transition points where effects premixes and combines and new material would be added to the printmaster in order to get to the “hole,” which was the completely new material. The intention was to make the donuts seamless, which usually translated to as short as possible, as in a hard scene change. But fighting against this goal, to some extent, was the brilliant way in which effects and music in Apocalypse effortlessly weave in and out of each other across scenes. Kirchberger remembers that one of the cooler transitions was during the Kilgore landing scene when the decay of the mortar covers the transition point. “Masking was our favorite friend,” Stratmann notes. “In many cases, the predubs were used as source material for the new scenes, but also to help us feather back into the printmaster when the combines didn’t provide enough separation.”
There were three other Pro Tools sessions in addition to Stratmann’s master: Foley, which was cut by Jeremy Molod, dialog, which Kirchberger cut himself, and sound effects, which were cut by Kyrsten Mate Comoglio and Pete Horner, including both old and new material.
Kirchberger says that “this show couldn’t have been done without Kyrsten; she’s an unbelievably talented effects editor. She did a cut of the ‘Conex’ scene [when Kurtz reads to Willard in the storage container], where she presented Walter with two scenarios, and he heard the first one and didn’t even listen to the second.”
Comoglio says that the second version contained “highly EQ’d sounds made to disorient the viewer, plus air movement sweeps and odd jungle calls that I volume-graphed in Pro Tools to then evolve into a more typical, grounded jungle BG after Brando opens the doors and we know where we are.
“In general, I tried to volume-graph premix all my sessions to cut down on tracks and on mix time up in Napa,” she continues. “This worked especially well for the Monsoon Medevac scene, where Walter wanted a different rain sound for each of the different materials oil drum, mud, helmet, tent, helicopter, PBR, etc. all coming and going as Willard walks through the camp. It was lots of fun.”
The effects for the French plantation were cut by Horner, whom Aubry says worked “in the original Zoetrope spirit on many different capacities on ANR. In addition to cutting effects and recording ADR, he worked side-by-side with Walter at the mix as the second engineer.”
Approximately 85% of the production dialog in the original film was replaced due to what Berndt terms “impossible” conditions on many of the locations. The batting average in the new scenes in ANR was much better, notably in the French plantation sequence. (Good planning on Coppola and Nat Boxer’s part was also a factor in preparing the M&E for that scene, which features a man playing the accordion in the midst of dialog. Kirchberger found a wild track of the performance in the production sound rolls.)
Berndt’s first order of business was often (as it was for the ADR editors in the original film) to find out “what the hell were they saying? Walter and I would listen to all of the takes to piece together the dialog in a scene.” The actors were helpful in narrowing things down.
Berndt found out from Leslie Shatz, who had supervised the 1979 ADR, that the Schoeps CMC with an MK 41 capsule had been chosen for the original sessions, so the decision was made to use it again.
Because of an extraordinary (even by Apocalypse standards) stroke of luck, no new narration by Martin Sheen needed to be recorded. Murch told Cullen that he was considering putting in some new shots of Willard reading Col. Kurtz’s dossier, and requested that he look for any additional material from the original sessions.
At Coppola’s storage facility in Napa, Cullen came across 35mm trim boxes that were labeled “Willard VO Trims and Outtakes,” and contained a dozen small rolls of mag stripe. Meanwhile, Murch had found old workprint of dossier material scenes, and, of course, they happened to be of the same material. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Sheen’s voice doesn’t have the gravelly quality of the original narration.
Sheen did have to be brought in for standard ADR for ANR, as did most of the crew of the Erebus PBR: Duvall (Lt. Colonel Kilgore), Sam Bottoms (Lance), Albert Hall (Chief) and Frederic Forrest (Chef). (Everyone is probably relieved that Laurence Fishburne, née Larry Fishburne in the credits, was not needed to loop any lines for Clean, so much has his voice changed since he shot Apocalypse in his teens.) Both Berndt and Murch were greatly impressed by how well the actors slipped back into their roles. “The first line that Bobby [Duvall] did required shouting, and he got right back to the hoarse Kilgore,” Berndt says. Murch found that he had to pitch-shift ADR both up and down to help bring the actors 23 years back to shooting (and the original ADR sessions).
Further ADR was done by Aurore Clément (Roxanne) for the French plantation scene; it must have been strange for her to work again on a film that she was cut out of two decades ago. Coppola’s son Roman supervised her session in Paris. James Keane, who plays Kilgore’s gunner, was the last principal ADR talent recorded. Keane was also called on to re-voice the late rock impresario Bill Graham, who plays the agent of the Playboy bunnies in the original film.
The final ADR sessions were recorded in Zoetrope’s basement facility in North Beach. The necessary lines for the Vietnamese woman and several soldiers at Kilgore Beach, and for the remaining G.I.s at Medevac, were performed by volunteers recruited from among the Zoetrope extended family and recorded by Pete Horner.
Re-recording for Apocalypse Now Redux took place in August 2000, on Coppola’s Napa, Calif., estate. The mixing facilities of American Zoetrope moved there from the Pacific Avenue location in 1983, with the console changing to an Otari Series 54 in 1990 for the mix of The Godfather Part III. The VCA-automated console has 50 full-featured inputs and 50 automated small faders with limited EQ and busing capabilities. In spite of having primarily used moving faders for the past 10 years, Murch said the VCA automation was “like getting back on a bicycle.”
Murch spent approximately two weeks premixing the dialog and effects for the new sequences. Five 8-track premixes were created, two for effects, one for backgrounds, one for Foley and one for dialog. These were recorded as Akai native projects, then converted to Pro Tools 4.3 sessions and Track Transferred into Pro Tools 5.0.1. Premixes were played back by a 32-output Pro Tools system on the mix stage, plus an Akai DD8 playback dubber.
All premixes and their subsequent stems were “empty” when the film was in a section that was untouched, with modulation on the new material beginning and ending at the in and out points. In preparation for the final mix and eventual printmaster, Stratmann made a file convert of the 6-track printmaster of each act to the Akai format. Not only did this avoid any further AD/DA generations or a needless pass of the signal through the console, but it also gave Murch a definitive way to verify, during premixes and finals, that the tie-ins would indeed match exactly. It was as if they were starting the mix with most of the printmaster already recorded, and that was what would be punched into during printmastering.
The issue of generation loss was a factor in Murch’s taking the napalm strike from the original premixes; the subsequent four generations had removed the impact far from what they had heard on the mix stage back in 1979.
This first printmastering stage was, of course, in the 5.1 format and was used to make three subsequent printmasters: the non-noise reduced Lt-Rt for home video use (recorded in full acts) and the new theatrical AC-3 Dolby Digital 5.1 and SR Lt-Rt, which were printed to the Dolby MO drive as 10 new film “AB” reels. The by-act printmaster was carved into reels in the Akai utilizing the editing functions in the DD8.
An interesting anomaly was discovered when making the matrix-encoded Lt-Rt printmasters. The first ghost helicopter (the classic sound effect that opens the film, created by Richard Beggs on a Moog synthesizer) went from the surrounds to the front as on the discrete 5.1 version, but the second one seemed to disappear in the surrounds. It appeared that Robby Krieger’s opening guitar notes on “The End” caused the 2:4 matrix decoding to steer the helicopter to the front. After much head-scratching and investigation, the crew realized that there wasn’t much to be done about this; it was yet another example of why the film sound community has welcomed the discrete 5.1 digital formats.
Because part of the financing came from France, one of the delivery items was a 6-track M&E. Stratmann prepared the M&E in the same manner as he did the printmaster, punching in and out at the same points. New foreign-language versions will be made for the major FIGS (France, Italy, Germany, Spain) territories.
It’s a tribute to the crew that they upheld the high Apocalypse Now standard in relatively little time they cut and mixed 49 minutes in three months, a mere blink in the 26-month schedule for the original 147-minute film. There’s no question that new technology was a big help, as Murch observes: “You could do a restoration like this without the technical shift that’s taken place over the last 20 years Avids and Pro Tools but I wouldn’t like to contemplate that. Once I started putting the material back, I wasn’t second-guessing anymore because of length. ‘Let my people go!’ Let the film be what it wants to be. What happened is that Apocalypse Now Redux has become much more like the script, and has all the major beats the script had. As a result, there is a greater unity to it; the arc is more consistent.”
Kirchberger says that “it was a real thrill, which is an overused phrase, going back to something you worked on 20 years ago. Walter would come into the cutting room with the lined script and it would say, ‘For more information, see Michael K.’ Do I remember what I was supposed to know? Not a chance!”
Walter Murch: “I am anxious going into every film to find the marriage point between myself and the material. In a mysterious way, where do I connect with this film at a deep level? I found it on ANR in the transition coming out of the French plantation back onto the boat. A long dissolve from Roxanne on the other side of the mosquito netting so that her image, which is already veiled, becomes more and more ethereal as the netting dissolves into the fog. The last images of her are the smile of the cheshire cat as she says her last line. Then you are in the fog, although you don’t know that yet, and you see Willard beginning to emerge, sitting there on the boat. That told me, as much as anything, that everything was going to be okay.”
Larry Blake wishes to give a hearty thanks to Dale Strumpell for his invaluable help in the graphics for this article.
BONUS MATERIALS: A NEW SOUNDTRACK
As opposed to the sound effects, from which the sound editorial team was able to reconstruct sections of the film, there were virtually no final music elements to draw on. None of the 35mm 6-track premixes were located, and of course there was no final music stem. The closest-to-final generation of music was the 2-inch dbx-encoded 16- and 24-track original recordings. However, with no mix notes and no playable automation, an impossibly huge amount of work would have been necessary to match into existing cues.
Thankfully, this was not necessary, in large part due to the fact that Murch was working as both picture and music editor, and was making his decisions fully aware of the needs and repercussions.
The new music for Apocalypse Now Redux came from two primary sources. Mickey Hart (of the Grateful Dead) and the Rhythm Devils worked much on the original film, and his cues were featured in Clean’s death and the prelude to the arrow attack, as well as threading in and out of the background of many other scenes. Hart’s 1979 recordings saw even more use in ANR in the “napalm wind” surfing scene on the beach, in the bedroom scene between Willard and Roxanne, as bookends on both sides of the French plantation scene, leading you out of the Medevac scene, and in the Conex scene.
The other new music was originally composed by Carmine Coppola for Clean’s burial at the French plantation, but was never orchestrated or recorded until 2000. It was re-created by Ed Goldfarb at the mix stage. The bugle at the end of the cue was from production and was believed to have been played by Francis Coppola.
The soundtrack album that will be released by Nonesuch Records this summer will be the same as the Elektra 1980 European edition produced by Richard Beggs (with the addition of the two new Carmine Coppola cues), not the one released in the U.S. that featured dialog and sound effects interspersed through two LPs. Beggs mixed down the film’s multitrack music masters back in 1980 to dbx-encoded ¼-inch, and, as you might have guessed, in 2001 the masters were nowhere to be found. Beggs saved the day with his protection copies.
As of press time, there was discussion under way regarding the creation of a 5.1 DVD-A soundtrack album. If this project is undertaken, Beggs will have to step back to whatever multitrack masters can be located in Zoetrope’s vaults.
— Larry Blake