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POP Sound Restores Audio for ‘The Godfather Trilogy’

POP Sound in Santa Monica, Calif. recently completed audio restoration work for Paramount Home Entertainment’s release of The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration DVD Collection on DVD and Blu-ray. The five-disc DVD and four-disc Blu-ray collections include fully restored versions of The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, as well as a newly re-mastered version of The Godfather, Part III. The films were given all-new 5.1 surround sound mixes.

Under the supervision of Ron Smith, Vice President of Paramount DVD Mastering, and Jeff Cava, Restoration Project post-production coordinator, POP Sound spent nearly eight months on the project, working in concert with Walter Murch, the original re-recording mixer on The Godfather, Parts II & III. For the first two films, POP Sound worked from the films’ original mono stems, as well as the original multitrack recordings of their musical scores. POP Sound had access to the original stereo elements for The Godfather, Part III. The re-recording mixer on the project for POP Sound was the late Ted Hall, well-known for his work on such projects as Saturday Night Fever, Chinatown and The Last Waltz.

For POP Sound, the goal of the project was to use the latest technology to make the films sound as good as possible while maintaining the integrity of the original mixes. Much of Hall’s attention was devoted to eliminating artifacts that had affected the soundtrack over the years and addressing audio issues that were impossible to address when the films were made.

“We had a lot of cleanup to do to make these films sound fluid in transitions—the original mono tracks were very rough, with hard transitions,” recalls POP Sound’s Director of Home Theater, Moksha Bruno. “There was a massive amount of de-humming, de-clicking, as well as time alignment issues we had to deal with. The original laser disc mix had a constant hum that wasn’t apparent at the time, but with the better home theater systems of today you begin to hear things of that nature.”

“Essentially, Paramount wanted it to sound as if these films had been released yesterday, and with Ted Hall’s excellence, I feel we came close to achieving that.”

The picture elements of the three films were also subject to a rigorous restoration. That work was done by Robert A. Harris, renowned for his work on such classics as Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus and Vertigo. Harris went back to what had survived of the original film negatives, as well as other extant elements to attend to missing and damaged footage, in addition to problems with fades and dissolves that had been moved, added or changed during the intervening decades in error. Those restorative changes, in turn, obliged Hall to re-edit parts of the soundtrack to restore the sync to its original form.

For POP Sound, one of the best aspects of the project was the opportunity to work with Murch and to explore some of the subtleties of the films. In part of the wedding scene from The Godfather, Murch pointed out that one of Marlon Brando’s lines had been suppressed in the original mix because of the then controversial use of the term “Cosa Nostra.” In the new mix, Hall and Murch restored the line to clarity.

Another scene from The Godfather was marred by a noisy dolly that caused the production audio to be unusable. “Originally they had ADR’ed all the dialog, but it wasn’t exactly on mark, so we went back and tried to make it better,” Bruno says. “It was a challenge to rethink things yet make it look and sound right, and in the end we were able to make everything come together.”

POP Sound also prepared 5.1 soundtracks for foreign language versions of the three films. The new 6-track (5.1) restoration audio mix is being included on the 35mm restoration film prints, in addition to the DVD and Blu-ray discs.

For more information on POP Sound, visit