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-
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-
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-
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.