[movie] Fire, Ice & Dynamite (1990 Willy Bogner)

Here’s a ridiculous project I recently completed. I did this project strictly for myself, so I wasn’t even going to post it to YouTube, but I thought there might be one or two people out there who might be entertained by this movie, so here it is.

I have a confession to make- I’m a sucker for ski movies. Which makes sense, because I’m an avid skier as well as a pro audio/video engineer. The old ones are cool; the new ones are cool. I tend to prefer the big mountain / ski porn type flicks, so I usually head straight to the films from Teton Gravity Research. Matchstick Productions or even the old Greg Stump videos are cool. Sure, there are the old Warren Miller standbys, and I’ll watch those as long as I can mute the audio.

This one, Fire, Ice & Dynamite, isn’t a ski film in the same style as those ones I mentioned. This one is an action/sports flick with a super ridiculous plot, but a plot nonetheless, which includes a bunch of skiing, but also some other, so-called ‘extreme’ sports like downhill mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, wall climbing, and bungie jumping. That all sounds pretty tame by today’s standards, but back in 1990, this was the gnarly stuff. And even by today’s standards, some of scenes in this movie are pretty nuts- the wall climbing on the face of a dam, the fast mountain biking on a narrow cliff ledge, the skiing down a mountain with no snow on it, just a bunch of rocks and gravel.

In fact, I just saw a FB post the other day (in Feb 2018) from the Teton Gravity Research people who were hyping somebody who had combined mountain biking with paragliding, using the bike to build up some speed and launching with a paraglider ‘chute on. Definitely a cool idea, which Willy Bogner employs in this movie (48:20-50:00), released almost 3 decades prior to that post. Willy Bogner was waayy ahead of the curve.

Any way, I first saw this movie when I picked it up on VHS for a buck at the old Tower Records (RIP) outlet which was just a couple doors down from the old Knitting Factory (also RIP) in Hollywood. For no other reason than it had this amazing cover-

Fire, Ice & Dynamite

And if you haven’t seen this movie, you can trust me when I say nothing in that image is false advertising. All of that is actually in the movie.

But, of course, those were the old VHS days, and the movie not only was in 4:3 pan-and-scan, but also the audio was in mono. Total bummer. I’d heard that it had come out in the 90s on DVD, in widescreen, in Germany, but I was never able to track down a copy.

Now, I see that somebody has finally uploaded a widescreen version to YT (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXWxYR45tIY&t=2910s), although it has some problems. First, it’s tiny- 640×262. Although that’s a standard dvd rip, yes? 640 across the top? I have no idea what software they used to rip the dvd, but their version on YT looks pretty rough.

Second, there’s some guy translating the entire movie in Russian (Turkish?, not sure). He’s literally speaking every character’s parts through the entire movie, even during that super cheesy song that the woman performs in the club. That’s actually all reasonable and understandable, because for their purposes, they were just uploading the movie for all the well-informed Russians who are into this sort of thing. But it’s a total bummer for my purposes, because you can hear in the underlying English audio track to their version, that audio is in stereo. If they could have just posted a second, clean version without the translator, I wouldn’t have had to do any of this work.

But, here’s what I did- I took their video, and applied the audio from my English version to it. Sucks that it’s in mono, but this is my best and only option.

And of course, there was more work to it than it sounds.

The first thing I did was remaster the English audio version. Sometimes I’ll have to go through a whole bunch of plug-ins to really dial in how I want it to sound. I forget how much trial and error went in to this, but I ended up throwing on a T-RacksS CS by IK Multimedia, and pulled up the FM Broadcast preset. I always throw on a FabFilter limiter at the end, to avoid any redlining at all. That was pretty much all it needed.

The only audio I could use from the Russian version was the outro song. I could have used the English version, but the Russian version not only is in stereo, but the translator guy doesn’t talk over it. So obviously, I’m gonna use that one, right?

Well, not so fast. In listening to it, I heard some really weird phasing going on. I didn’t necessarily fix that, but I minimized it by pulling in the stereo separation of the two channels, from 100% to 55%, using Stereo Tools by Sonalksis.

That, actually, was the easy part. The difficult part was syncing. Here’s a shot of my final edit in Presonus Studio One-

presonus screenshot


You see all those vertical blue lines on the English track? Presonus calls those Audio Bend Markers. Those are really easy to use, but it’s time consuming to have to match up the soundwaves on the English track to those on the Russian track (which I call Turkish, because I wasn’t listening to the foreign language too closely). Word by word, second by second, for the entire length of the film. All those markers designate a place where I had to stretch the audio one way or another to get the English audio to match up with the timing of the Russian audio. You’ll also notice at the end where I crossfaded the English audio out and the Russian video in for that outro song.

Once that was exported, it was time to import the Russian video and the remastered and retimed English audio into Final Cut Pro X.

The work in FCPX would have been very straight forward and easy, except I wanted to make a couple edits.

First, there’s a weird bit at 48:55 where a short clip is in fast motion. You can see it in the Russian version if you want to. That little clip, even though it’s only 2 seconds long, always bugged me. So I fixed it- I slowed it down to something that looks closer to real time, and then shortened it to fit in the same 2 seconds and 11 frames as the original sped-up clip, just so that the timing of it works out and I don’t have to re-sync all the audio that follows that scene.

The second edit was just a mistake on the part of the original editors / filmmakers. There’s a scene at 54:07 that shows the inimitable Marjoe Gortner (as sports announcer voice guy Dan Selby) in the helicopter clearly moving his mouth, saying some words, but yet there are no words in the soundtrack. You can also see that one in the Russian version. Curiously, in my English VHS version, that scene isn’t there. There’s just another b-roll shot of the dam.

Luckily for me, after I edited that shot out, the two adjoining scenes weren’t too much of a jump cut, so I didn’t have to do any fancy footwork to make that work, either with the video or the audio.

Here’s a screenshot of my FCPX edit-

fcpx screenshot

I know I didn’t have to type out all of this. I could have just posted the video and said, ‘hey, here’s a cool thing I did. I matched up the English audio with the widescreen video. Enjoy!’ But I figured some people might like to know some of the technical stuff that goes into projects like this. And honestly, they’re usually much more complicated than this one. This one was relatively simple.

But in any event, enjoy!

Brian / Humorless Productions.

[movie] Demons (Dancu version)

Demons (1985)

Lamberto Bava, director. Original music by Claudio Simonetti.

Additional music, sound effects, sound design, incidental music, atmospheres, video editing and recoloring by Brian Albers of Humorless Productions aka Dancu in 2016-2017.





Ok, so here is my version of Lamberto Bava’s classic proto-zombie flick Demons from 1985, where I re-scored it- added a bunch of music, atmospheres, sound effects and sound design.

I actually did all the work on this a couple years ago. This was the first movie I re-scored. The second was Elves (1989) which you can see here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcAtRHzCP-E).

All audio done in Presonus Studio One, with way too many synths and signal processors to list.

All video work done in FCPX and Adobe Premiere.

If you have any questions about what I did or how I did it, ask below. Here are some basic notes-

First I edited out the fat- I took out the three or four short scenes of the quartet of punk rockers driving around Berlin. Those characters do enter the movie in the second half, but these scenes in the first half that I axed were totally irrelevant to the movie as a whole, so I dropped them.

I went to a screening of this movie sometime in the 2000s in Los Angeles with a Q&A with some of the actors. Geretta Geretta was there, the black woman with the braids who becomes the first demon in the movie. Somebody asked why they chose to shoot the movie in Berlin instead of somewhere in Italy (where most of the actors and crew lived) or New York, which was all the rage with Italian horror filmmakers at the time. She fielded the question and said that Berlin was simply the super hip place in Europe in those days, and I think that’s why those scenes were included in the movie. But in retrospect, they’re 100% inconsequential to the story, and the film works just fine without them.

Bobby Rhodes was there too, and 35 years after the movie, he looked EXACTLY the same. Didn’t even looked like he’d aged a day.

I ditched only one other scene which happens most of the way through the movie. As they’re trying to escape the theatre, a group of people enter an empty room, with brick walls and a dirt floor, and they sort of grope around as if they’re blind or as if the room was completely dark, as if they’re in some sort of trance. Then they freak out in hysterics for about 10 or 20 seconds, and then they turn around and leave the room. There are no other references to that room. So what the hell was it? I don’t know. Does anybody know? Doubt it. In any case, it’s a better movie without that scene.

I tried to lose the whole helicopter thing (that’s another total head-scratcher), but the last part of the movie would have been one big non-sequitur, with them on the roof for the big fight scene. So I had to keep it, even though it makes no sense.

Also in this process, I color corrected many of the scenes. Especially the whole intro subway/S-bahn scenes. They were really green, so I warmed them up a bit. And I fixed a lot of the stuff in the rest of the movie, too. Mostly dropping the blacks and punching up the overall color a bit.

Then I started on the music. The one aspect of this movie which inspired me to take it on in the first place, was the fact that there is no music in the two most climactic scenes of the movie- the transformation scene about halfway through, and the final rooftop climactic battle. Once I made the music for those scenes, I thought I would leave it at that. But then as I watched the rest of the movie, I kept noticing other scenes that really needed filling out, so at that point I dove in head first and went through every scene and added what I thought they needed.

I also went so far as to remaster the movie’s original audio, including all dialog, all the heavy metal songs and Claudio Simonetti’s originals.

And now that it’s done, I can confidently say that it’s a vastly better movie. It’s still mind-boggling to me why so many of the scenes don’t have music in the first place, especially those two pivotal scenes. Lamberto Bava was a seasoned pro at this point, as was Claudio Simonetti. If they were rookies, you might think it’d be plausible that they made a rookie mistake like running out of time or running out of money. But I don’t think that’s realistic. Maybe they were just going for a stylistic thing where they thought having no music in those scenes and others would be best. Well, it’s not, and I fixed it.

Hope you like it. Go check out Elves, too, where I gave it the same treatment.

I’m working on Eyes of Fire (1983) now. I’ve made some very good progress on it, but it’s still a ways from being done. I’ll let you know when I post it.

[audio] my remix of an Enduser track

This is the remix I did for the latest Enduser remix challenge thing for his Between track, but I didn’t officially submit it because I totally didn’t follow the rules.

He did a remix challenge a couple years ago for Wrong Turn. I never got around to doing that remix, but I still had the stems. So when this new remix challenge popped up, I thought it would be a good opportunity to combine elements of both songs into one massive beast.

All the work was done in Presonus Studio One, with effects by Izotope, Acon Digital, and FabFilter.


[video] Venetian Snares live in Linz, Austria, 2009

Edit: I received this message from the original recorder, and out of respect for him and Aaron, I have deleted the video.-

I am the Original Recorder (having the Original Mini-DV Tape) and I told Aaron Back then, that I would Not Upload it to YouTube. To Respect this, Please delete it from YouTube.”

Original post-

I just posted this live VSnares video from 2009. Not my recording, but I’ve had it sitting in a hard drive for years. Saw that it wasn’t on the internet anywhere. The video quality is not that good, but I fixed it up somewhat. The audio was halfway decent for just a consumer camcorder, and I fixed that up a bit, too, and it’s not that difficult to listen to.

[video] one of the movies I rescored: Elves (1989)


Here’s one of the movies for which I updated the music and sound design and sound effects and other audio stuff.

Elves (1989) is a totally bizarro horror flick starring Dan Haggerty, well after his days playing Grizzly Adams on tv, who plays a down-on-his-luck Santa at a dreary shopping mall, and who gets involved with some young woman trying to get to the bottom of something involving present-day Nazis still attempting to create the ‘master race’ and there’s a scary demon troll thing terrorizing everybody at that mall. It’s a full-on midnight movie cult flick, and is one of those movies that would never, ever get made today, because it’s just too weird.

It’s movies like this that are right up my alley. I love this type of movie. I love the higher quality ones like this, and also the lower budget attempts like this one. This isn’t the greatest movie ever, but it’s not the worst, and it’s certainly entertaining. Pretty funny how the wheelchair-bound grandpa is supposedly descended from Germans, and for the first half of the movie has a German accent, but as the movie drags on, it sort of morphs into a Jewish/Yiddish accent. Unintentional I’m sure; he just couldn’t stay in character.

This was a tricky one to work on. I had a VHS copy for a long time, but then I was all excited when I got a dvd rip of it. Except, for some reason, the audio (including the music) on the dvd rip was in mono. What the hell? How is this even possible? So what I ended up doing was taking the audio from the VHS rip (which also included an extended introductory song), and syncing it to the video of the dvd rip. Of course, the audio didn’t match up exactly, so I had to do a lot of stretching and pulling to make it work.

But once that was lined up, I got to work. I loaded up some low end in some spots (like at 18:40 and 48:40), cooked up a couple poundy industrial songs for appropriate scenes (at 44:10, and the big climax at 1:22:38), and touched up the atmospheres, sound design and sound effects throughout. And speaking of that intro piano song, I did some super subtle but effective techniques in the movie like adding the tremolo strings you’ll hear in that intro.

One thing about the gunfight scene in the second half of the movie-

I don’t know if they added sound to the natural, production sound of the gunshots, but in the movie they sound like toy cap guns. I’ve personally never shot a gun, and probably the only time I’ve heard actual gunshots was on New Years Eve because I lived in LA all those years. So I sorta know that guns don’t sound the way they do in this movie. So I wanted to bolster them up a bit.

But I didn’t want to go overboard with it, because on the other hand, we have a movie like the first Indiana Jones. Go back and listen to the scene at the beginning of that movie where there’s a gunfight at a bar in Siberia(?) where the Nazi guy burns his hand. Those handguns sound like giant air craft carrier cannons and it’s absolutely ludicrous. Of course, it’s the filmmaker’s and sound designer’s call to take such liberties, but once you notice that, it’s utterly laughable.

Even as cartoony as Elves is, I didn’t want to go to such ridiculous, comical lengths. So I found a pretty good middle ground, where the guns in this movie sound like more than toys, but less than cannons.

I also cropped this one into widescreen. Nothing of importance was lost. And I exploded it up to 720p. I ended up adjusting the color for a lot of it, not because I up-converted it, but even at small size, the picture was gonna need some help.

Someday I might be persuaded to post my version of Demons (1985) where I gave it much the same treatment as Elves. We’ll see…

And I think I’ve decided on a third movie to rescore. Not sure yet, but I’ll let you know.

new mixes of my Bandcamp release are up

A couple years ago I posted my first batch of original songs to Bandcamp. I always dug the music, but wasn’t really happy with how I mixed them.

So I revisited them all recently, threw all the faders to zero, dumped all the automation and started over.

Of course, in the years since their release, I’ve amassed a bunch of new synths and effects, so I ended up adding a bunch of sounds to the songs and tweaking them to new dimensions. One song I pretty much discarded and rebuilt from the ground up, and I added a song at the end.

Free / pay what you want.

[video] noisy show in Vienna- Assimilatah, Fall Into Dry Lungs, Hyperpiss

So I went to Vienna a couple weeks ago for my birthday. When I was packing my stuff for the week, I thought ‘should I bring my recording stuff or not?’ I didn’t know of any shows in the week that I’d be there, and I’d asked my Viennese friends to keep an eye out for shows that week, but there was nothing on the radar.

But my audio recording setup is just a small audio recorder, my mic and mic cable, and some small adaptors. I had room in my carry-on for that, so I threw it all in there, just in case.

Good thing I did, because it turned out that a show materialized while I was there. Full-on noise show, and it was organized by a guy I knew, Wolfgang of Hirntrust Records in nearby Linz. In fact, he was playing that night, so I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble recording the show.

Unfortunately I had only one camera with me. But that was good enough to get what I needed.


Fall Into Dry Lungs