I’m posting this for my friend Larry Blake, well-known in the post-production world as the sound supervisor for Steven Soderbergh’s movies, as well as for having written more articles about post-production sound than probably anyone else in the world. But I am also posting it because it’s a matter that concerns me deeply as a film sound professional.

Larry is very annoyed, as am I and many other people who were intimately involved in the film sound scene in the 1970s and 1980s, about some academic articles in recent years written by a man named Eric Dienstfrey. Dienstfrey is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin in its Music Department. In the articles Dienstfrey has attempted to diminish the stature of, among other things, “Apocalypse Now” as a landmark achievement, and to also diminish the technological achievements of the Dolby Laboratories during that same period.

Among the implications Dienstfrey makes that I find most disturbing are that “Apocalypse Now” and Dolby merely made modest improvements on practices and technologies that had been developed decades before and, even more disturbing, that Walter Murch and Dolby sought to construct false myths to exaggerate the value of their achievements during this period in order to enhance their respective professional standings. I judge these notions to be preposterous. They are in a piece Dienstfrey wrote called “The Myth of the Speakers.”

A later paper of Mr. Dienstfrey’s called “Under the Standard” concocts an equally preposterous thesis—this time that the Academy mono standard was arrived at to “get back” at AT&T. It does not involve people and companies familiar to most of us, but it is equally without basis in fact or context. Larry knew the man who chaired the committee to standardize Academy mono, and as is the case with the Dolby/Apocalypse article, Larry has written a rebuttal to set the record straight regarding that Dienstfrey article as well.

I join Larry Blake in challenging the technical and historical accuracy of a large number of Dienstfrey’s claims in both articles. Here are the two Eric Dienstfrey articles in question, and Larry Blake’s rebuttal of each.

 

 

 

9 thoughts

  1. To be honest Randy, I’m not sure why you even bother to respond to this Dienstfrey guy. Who is he anyway? Who cares? Back in the 80s some professor called out Danny Elfman for not being a ‘professionally trained’ composer, and look where they both are now. There’s a saying in German: “The moon doesn’t care when dogs are barking at it.”

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    1. One thing I didn’t mention is that Dienstfrey now has a contract with the University of California Press, a prestigious publisher, to write a book on film sound. We are very concerned about the amount of misinformation likely to be in that book.

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  2. In the digitally-filmed interviews I’ve conducted with Walter Murch and Richard Beggs for my upcoming documentary, “A Sound Life,” I have wonderful testimonial footage from each of them discussing their process for their work on “Apocalypse Now.” I also have photos of some of the original equipment which was used. Their personal stories certainly illuminate their genius at the time. From what I’ve gathered, the post production sound crew extracted far more from the equipment than was ever considered possible. My film isn’t solely focused on that topic though. In fact I have far more footage about it that than I can use for my film. Provided those involved consent, I’m happy to share what I’ve aquired as an educational resource for your website. If you’re interested Randy, let me know.

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    1. For sure Larry Blake is a more qualified expert to write about or to discuss film sound given his re-recording mixing body of work; as well as his numerous well-written articles on the topic. He’s an authority and an expert at both!

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  3. Randy, Colleagues: On first reading there look to be errors on both sides. I’m organizing a more comprehensive response from several of the scientific engineering leaders in the field. It’s definitely worth the discussion.

    Brian McCarty

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