On the first-season Six Feet Under DVDs, why is the theme song in French in a different key than in English and Spanish?
July 4, 2004 12:08 PM   Subscribe

On the first-season Six Feet Under DVD's, the theme song on the French-language audio track is in a slightly different key/tuning than the English- and Spanish-language audio tracks (like a little less than half a step, maybe) -- why? [a bit more MI]

In fact, all the incidental music (I think) is like that -- just a little bit higher. Or lower, I forget which now and I'm away from the DVD player. Definitely noticeable, but not a full half-step. Nor is it just that the music is being played at a different speed, I think; to my ears, it sounds like the instruments were retuned a little differently and then the theme was recorded.

So... what's up with that?

Also, please, don't reference any plot events whatsover, spoilers or not (unless somehow it directly answers my question!). Thanks.
posted by evinrude to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
random guess, but could it be something to do with a slight stretch/shrink introduced when converting between NTSC(60Hz) and PAL(50Hz)..... Actually thinking about it, you could compare the lengths of the episodes to prove/disprove this.

My confidence level in this suggestion is low....
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2004

Yep--when NTSC programs are converted to PAL, they play about 4% faster. This article explains the issue.
posted by bcwinters at 12:59 PM on July 4, 2004

Although, actually, now that I re-read the question, you seem to be saying that on the *same* NTSC DVD, the speed is different when you switch audio tracks. Now that I can't explain.
posted by bcwinters at 1:00 PM on July 4, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah; same disc. Same run-time for the episodes. And to my ears, which are fairly good at things like this (though I don't have perfect pitch), there's no sign of speeding-up or slowing-down; I think it's actually a different recording of the music.
posted by evinrude at 1:49 PM on July 4, 2004

Response by poster: Well... I could be wrong. On further investigation, it seems that all the incidental music, not just the theme song, is a tad lower on the French-language audio track. I no longer trust my ears; I now believe everything on the French-language track is slowed down a little. And maybe it has to do with a PAL/NTSC transfer. But they both run for the same length... so I still don't really understand what's going on.
posted by evinrude at 2:17 PM on July 4, 2004

Do the separate pieces of music run the same lengths (ie are the inter-note timings the same)? Perhaps they've just made all the incidental music a bit longer. Provinding some care is taken using slow fade ins, this shouldn't be too noticeable or annoying.
posted by fvw at 2:24 PM on July 4, 2004

Hypothesis: When the episode was converted to PAL it ran a little bit fast, so they had to make the sound faster too. At this point they do pitch correction to make sure the audio sounds right. Now when they transfer the french audio track to an NTSC disc, they have to slow it again, but this time they forget about pitch correction.
posted by lazy-ville at 2:54 PM on July 4, 2004

I would love to hear mp3 samples.
posted by Jairus at 3:31 PM on July 4, 2004

One other odd thing is that when the title appears in the opening credits, on the Spanish track, there is vocal (the title in Spanish)--however, this isn't present on the French track.
posted by dobbs at 3:48 PM on July 4, 2004

Converting NTSC to PAL does not generally result in a speed-up or slow-down. Converting 60 fields/second to 50 merely results in having to lose/combine some fields. Even with expensive equipment you often end up with smooth camera pans becoming juddery from the decreased frame-rate, and a slightly blurry picture caused by adding another hundred lines of resolution to the screen but not having any extra information to fill it with. It's for this reason that -- if you're picky like me -- you should always buy your DVDs of TV series from their country of origin.

Converting 24fps film to 25fps PAL is what gives the 4% speed-up, but being US broadcast TV, Six Feet Under will be 30fps. Down-speeding from NTSC to PAL in such a direct way would give a 16.7% slow-down, which is much more noticeable. Just ask anyone who buys a PAL copy of Final Fantasy X for the PS2.

Just to check I wasn't spouting crazy talk I ran a PAL and an NTSC Evangelion DVD through my player and listened carefully to the intro music. Both pitch and speed are identical. So this is unlikely to be the reason for the pitch-shifted French track.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:00 AM on July 5, 2004

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