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Any Love for the Sin City Audience Track?

Old 12-29-05, 03:42 AM
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Any Love for the Sin City Audience Track?

A little history…
I love movies. When I was 9, my family went to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Avco in Westwood a few days after it opened. We waited in a line around the block for hours and when the lights in the theater finally went down, the place erupted into applause I’d never experienced before. In that second, my life changed. Movies became my primary passion and, ultimately, my profession. I’m completely intolerant of casual talkers, but find myself giddy when surrounded by cheers and laughter. I’m very particular about where I see movies (the Westwood staples, as well as the Chinese and Cinerama Dome in Hollywood) and I’m rarely, if ever, disappointed in the experience around me. I’d prefer a sold out opening night show to an empty house every time. I would give dearly to be able to relive, in some small way, that original experience I had at the Avco in May 1980.

Which brings us to the topic at hand…

For years, I’ve been trying to get a studio, any studio, to allow me to create an authentic 5.1 audience track for one of the DVD titles I have been involved with. The general response was, “Why would you do that?” Just days away from being able to finally do this for an upcoming title, I saw the announcement that Robert Rodriguez had done the very same thing for the 2-disc Sin City. After the initial disappointment that another disc would beat me to the punch, followed by additional disappointment when the studio decided against doing the track on the disc I was working on, I became eager to hear the Sin City track. When the disc finally came out a few weeks ago, I immediately picked up a copy and rushed home to watch the entire film again with the audience track. I was glad to find that it gave me exactly the same rush I often experienced at the theater.

Since the release of the disc, I’ve been disappointed to find no discussion of this feature, and even more disturbed to read review after review of the disc call the feature “odd, superfluous, pointless, unnecessary, a curiosity, etc…” Nearly all of the reviews I’ve read seemingly missed the intent of its creation. Only Randy Miller’s review here at DVD Talk seemed slightly positive about the track.

So, can I be the only one (besides Robert Rodriguez, of course) who sometimes finds the experience of seeing films as magical as the films themselves? I fear that if I try to push this feature forward on another title in the future, I’ll only be doing it for myself and the studios will be even more against the idea of doing something they don’t totally understand, given the lack of enthusiasm over the Sin City track.

In a nutshell… Did NOBODY enjoy this feature?

Cliff
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Old 12-29-05, 03:46 AM
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I haven't watched it with the audience track, but I do appreciate it. ET had a good one as well I thought.
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Old 12-29-05, 03:50 AM
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It's an interesting feature but I'd rather the space be used for a DTS track if possible.
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Old 12-29-05, 03:50 AM
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Since I normally go to great lengths to avoid audiences, whose intelligence generally seems to be the average IQ of its members divided by their number, I confess to having pre-judged this feature as being unusually stupid and unnecessary. It was hard to imagine the circumstances under which I would want to listen to it.

After reading your post, I will at least give it a try.

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Old 12-29-05, 04:05 AM
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The track was recorded at the Austin premiere, which took place in the lovely Paramount Theater. Suffice it to say that the audience wasn't comprised of your typical megaplex, ringing phones and chatty cathy moviegoers. Plus, when it was recorded, everybody was electric with excitement about a movie that hardly a one of them had yet seen. As such, having not seen the uncut version with the audience track, I still feel confident in saying that you'll hear all of the good and very little of the bad that comes from watching a movie with an audience. I got a chance to talk with Robert Rodriguez a few months ago, and this Sin City re-release came up in our short conversation. This audience-track was the one feature that he seemed almost giddy over. I look forward to listening to it once I get around to buying this release.

-JP
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Old 12-29-05, 04:16 AM
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Originally Posted by rdclark
Since I normally go to great lengths to avoid audiences, whose intelligence generally seems to be the average IQ of its members divided by their number, I confess to having pre-judged this feature as being unusually stupid and unnecessary. It was hard to imagine the circumstances under which I would want to listen to it.

After reading your post, I will at least give it a try.

RichC
Trust me when I say that I completely agree with you. Before moving to LA, I lived in Colorado, where people generally treat movies as what they're doing when they have nothing better to do. Los Angeles is a completely different experience. But as I said, I'm particular about where I see movies. I'll completely and without hesitation avoid neighborhood theaters and any theater with "A, M, or C" in its name (Sort of ironic since the Avco is now owned by... better not to speak their name). The Village in Westwood is an exceptional place to see a movie. People talking to others or on their cell phones will be dragged out and beaten there. But the audience is always "electric" (to borrow a phrase from NatrlBornThrllr).

It's an interesting feature but I'd rather the space be used for a DTS track if possible.
But on Sin City, there's also a DTS track, so it really doesn't have to be one or the other.

ET had a good one as well I thought.
ET would have been even better if they had mixed the audience a bit louder. The audience recorded on the ET track was more of a side effect of recording the live orchestra. If they'd have had a way, you probably wouldn't have been able to hear the audience at all.

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Old 12-29-05, 08:42 AM
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I did see the film with the audience track and quite enjoyed it.
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Old 12-29-05, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffStevenson
Since the release of the disc, I’ve been disappointed to find no discussion of this feature, and even more disturbed to read review after review of the disc call the feature “odd, superfluous, pointless, unnecessary, a curiosity, etc…” Nearly all of the reviews I’ve read seemingly missed the intent of its creation. Only Randy Miller’s review here at DVD Talk seemed slightly positive about the track.
Actually, I liked it and called it "a curiosity" too.

I didn't mean "curiosity" in the sense that it's a throwaway track, though---only that most viewers might not watch it the whole way through (or more than once). I thought it was a terrific idea that translated well to DVD, and I'm also surprised that most other reviews criticized it so bluntly. It's not the only unique feature on this release, either, which only furthers the case that the creativity of bonus features far outweighs their quantity. I'm glad Rodriguez took the time to include this.

By the way, I share your pain of thinking up cool ideas and getting beat to the punch. About ten years ago, I dreamed of one day working on an animated film based on my own characters (one of which is my avatar, actually), and I thought it'd be neat to include little animated "bloopers" during the credits. I was only a teenager back then---so they were more like daydreams, really---but I thought it was a cool idea. Of course, Pixar started that practice soon after...unless, of course, earlier examples exist that I haven't seen.

Last edited by Randy Miller III; 12-29-05 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 12-29-05, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffStephenson
Since the release of the disc, I’ve been disappointed to find no discussion of this feature, and even more disturbed to read review after review of the disc call the feature “odd, superfluous, pointless, unnecessary, a curiosity, etc…”
I didn't dwell on it in my review, but I did refer to it as "Kinda fun in small doses, actually".

Personally, I'd prefer a commentary to provide salient background information, but the audience track on the recut Sin City was indeed a hip, well-executed concept.

I just don't want to listen to an entire film that way. Not enough hours in the day. And even with a strong commentary, I would still just prefer to watch the film without any extraneous chatter.

Last edited by Pointyskull; 12-29-05 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 12-29-05, 09:07 AM
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I like to watch my movies in two ways:

1) The original audio track at high volume (to pick up all the sounds you miss by letting typical background noices bleed the track dry).

2) With commentary (and only if it is a good commentary).

I try to stay away from audiences, because I would rather hear the next line spoken by the actor than hear the audience laughter.
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Old 12-29-05, 09:45 AM
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Howdy Cliff. Since I've yet to pick up the new Sin City SE set, I cannot comment on this track, but I think, if the movie is appropriate, an "audience reaction" track could be a whole lot of fun. Crowd-pleasing comedies like The 40-Year-Old-Virgin or raucous horror flicks like Saw could lead to some really fun audience commentary, I suppose.

Good luck getting a good audience track into one of your next projects!

(For those who'd like to check out Mr. Stephenson's handiwork, you should immediately rent, nay, purchase, the Swimming With Sharks SE and click directly into the extra features.)
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Old 12-29-05, 10:57 AM
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I listened thru it. Seems like a novel idea, still does, but was pretty lame IMO.
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Old 12-29-05, 11:23 AM
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I thought it was dorky as hell.
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Old 12-29-05, 11:34 AM
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I'll have to check it out.

I just figured it'd be hard to top the audience participation track for Rocky Horror Picture Show.
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Old 12-29-05, 11:48 AM
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Totally lame IMO. Audience noise is the worst thing about going to the theater. Why do I want to hear it at home on my DVDs?
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Old 12-29-05, 11:49 AM
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I too thought this was a great feature to add to a DVD, but have yet to pick up the disc, so it will have to wait till I experience Sin City with an "audience".
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Old 12-29-05, 12:09 PM
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I was disappointed that I didn't hear no wolf whistles or excited gasps when Lucille makes her introduction.
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Old 12-29-05, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by TomOpus
I just figured it'd be hard to top the audience participation track for Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I can't remember if it's in 5.1 or not, but Freddy Got Fingered also has an audience track.
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Old 12-29-05, 01:34 PM
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You know, I love that I saw all the SW prequels and LOTR films at midnight. It is a lot of fun to view a movie with 1000 other people who are as jazzed to see it as you are.

But, I don't have any real interest in an audio track of an audience that I wasn't in. But I will also state that I had to wait to see the aforementioned films a second time to hear all the dialogue and such. The opening night audience is an experience, but it's an experience that loses most of its potency when bottled.

It's a unique idea, but quite frankly I doubt it will catch on. Plus, in my case, if I ever watched a movie more than once with an audience track, it would always ring false because it wouldn't be like a "live" experience anymore-I'd keep hearing the same cheer in the same place, same pitch, etc. Honestly I don't see how this is any different than a laugh track for a sitcom-almost like you're being told where to cheer, etc.
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Old 12-29-05, 01:40 PM
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If you want to hear audience tracks, there are a lot of releases with them floating around on the internet. Pretty much every major movie.

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Old 12-29-05, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by bunkaroo
You know, I love that I saw all the SW prequels and LOTR films at midnight. It is a lot of fun to view a movie with 1000 other people who are as jazzed to see it as you are.

But, I don't have any real interest in an audio track of an audience that I wasn't in. But I will also state that I had to wait to see the aforementioned films a second time to hear all the dialogue and such. The opening night audience is an experience, but it's an experience that loses most of its potency when bottled.

It's a unique idea, but quite frankly I doubt it will catch on. Plus, in my case, if I ever watched a movie more than once with an audience track, it would always ring false because it wouldn't be like a "live" experience anymore-I'd keep hearing the same cheer in the same place, same pitch, etc. Honestly I don't see how this is any different than a laugh track for a sitcom-almost like you're being told where to cheer, etc.
I'm with you. Here here!
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Old 12-29-05, 03:01 PM
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Look, I'm not diluted enough to think everyone is going to love this idea, but (and this is not directed at anyone in this thread) I'm always a bit thrown off by people who love movies but hate the experience of movies. I get the feeling that they are continually subjected to the wrong experiences and I feel badly for them. However, there are always going to be people who just don’t like seeing movies with other people. This track is never going to be their cup of tea.

I try to stay away from audiences, because I would rather hear the next line spoken by the actor than hear the audience laughter.
But movies aren't necessarily designed to be autonomous experiences. Directors are constantly commenting in commentaries and documentaries about reediting their films to not only increase audience laughs, screams, and cheers, but also to cover them as they play out.

I just figured it'd be hard to top the audience participation track for Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I can't remember if it's in 5.1 or not, but Freddy Got Fingered also has an audience track.
Both of those tracks were, I feel, backwards (and 2.0 stereo). The audience was recorded, but the film was barely audible in the background. Those are attempts I think are better categorized as "curiosities."

Honestly I don't see how this is any different than a laugh track for a sitcom-almost like you're being told where to cheer, etc.
And yet, some television shows wouldn't work without the laugh track. Adam Corolla's Comedy Central show is a perfect example. When it started with a live audience, I felt it was mildly entertaining. When they took away the audience, it became a painful, embarrassing thing for me to sit through. Conversely, I think a laugh track would ruin Arrested Development.

It's a unique idea, but quite frankly I doubt it will catch on. Plus, in my case, if I ever watched a movie more than once with an audience track, it would always ring false because it wouldn't be like a "live" experience anymore-I'd keep hearing the same cheer in the same place, same pitch, etc.
But movies aren't a live experience. Movies are made to take you on an artificial journey. The audience audio track doesn't take you into the theater any more than the movie actually takes you into Sin City. But as a synthetic recreation, I certainly thought it accomplished what it set out to do. I think you could actually make a fairly cogent argument against 5.1 audio in the same breath. Essentially, Dolby, SDDS, and DTS are all designed to synthesize an environment around you where none does (or in practicality, should) exist. Hearing bullets whiz past my head to the left and right doesn't place me in the middle of a gun fight, but it does create a virtual environment to help involve me. The audience track wasn't designed to be the ultimate way to experience Sin City, but rather as the ultimate way to experience it with an audience after the film had finished its theatrical run. That's the distinction I think most people missed. It's an enhancement to the film, not a replacement. Nothing is ever going to be able to replace an excellent live experience in a great theater, but I do feel that you can capture a moment in a film's life and preserve it, in some small way, for years to come.

Which begs the question, why do all of you buy DVDs? You'll never be able to relive the experience of seeing it again for the first time. But you buy the disc anyway because you want to relive the experience of the story. You know how it's going to end, but you settle in from start to finish anyway. Just as a smell or a song can take you back to another time in your life, I felt the audience track did much the same. And (although a much different film than Empire) there's some 9-year-old out there somewhere whose theatrical experience of Sin City has set in motion the events of his life. I'm jealous of his ability to go back to this track in the future.

Cliff

Last edited by CliffStephenson; 12-29-05 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 12-29-05, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Scott Weinberg
(For those who'd like to check out Mr. Stephenson's handiwork, you should immediately rent, nay, purchase, the Swimming With Sharks SE and click directly into the extra features.)
Thanks Scott! Wait til you see the new one. I have another years in the waiting special feature that finally did make it to disc. It's one of those things I think some people are going to say, "Why didn't anyone do this sooner?" while others will, no doubt, feel, "It's a bit overkill, isn't it?" I'm really proud of it. It certainly takes some of the sting out of losing the audience track.

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Old 12-29-05, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffStephenson
Which begs the question, why do all of you buy DVDs?
Personally, I buy DVDs because I like movies. But I don't care much for audiences, which is why I don't go to the theater as much as I used to, and the reason I would never listen to an audience participation track.

If someone else gets enjoyment from such a thing, more power to them, but to me it's kind of like buying a used novel where the previous reader has highlighted all of their favorite sections and scribbled notes in the margin. At best it's a curiosity. At worst, it's an obnoxious distraction. YMMV.
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Old 12-29-05, 03:49 PM
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I'm about to give up seeing movies in the theater completely. No matter where I go here in the metro Atlanta area, there always is someone who fucks up the movie for me. Last week, it was a couple of assholes jabbering away throughout The Chronicles of Narnia; it ruined the experience. Today during King Kong: two crying babies, one cell phone call, two idiots playing with their cells (complete with lights), two or three kids talking incessantly and running up and down the aisle, and one girl that giggled at the wrong moments; again, ruined.

I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang a few weeks ago, and the theater was fairly decent. One thing I noticed was that my girlfriend and I were often the only ones laughing at really funny material during the first half. Maybe we were ruining it for others because we were laughing loudly. I don't know.

My father is an actor and belongs to a film society. (I think it's associated with SAG.) The movies that he goes to do not allow any food or beverages, and if you talk or use a cell, you'll be escorted out. I wish that all theaters adopted this philosophy. There used to be ushers in theaters, but that's a thing of the past too.

Do I want to hear the audience during a film live or on DVD? No. I want to experience the movie myself. Sorry for the rant...
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