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A Call for More Isolated Scores on Home Video Releases

Posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 12:00 PM by Scott Jentsch

As I was writing the Journal article about the live orchestral performance of Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, I was reminded about an issue that I've often wished would happen on home video releases; the inclusion of the movie's score as an isolated soundtrack, so that you could listen to just the score while watching the movie.

The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (The Complete Recordings) [BOX SET]The event in Virginia later this month is a perfect example of why it would be a great thing for movie studios to include isolated scores on home video releases. The audio CD releases of scores and soundtracks never sell very well (in relation to most music releases), and it's surprising that the companies involved are still creating them. The scores for the Lord of the Rings movies have been released in multiple iterations, including the most recent, and excellent, Complete Recordings series. Fans of Howard Shore's work anxiously awaited the release of the score for each movie and they were rewarded with some great music.

If one were to be able to watch the movie with only the music playing, I think it would bring a new level of enjoyment to both the movie and the music. With the Internet connectivity made possible by HD DVD players and Blu-ray players with BD-Live capability, such scores could be downloaded for a small extra fee, which would make distribution less expensive than a separate CD release, and the additional fees for securing the music rights wouldn't have to be included in the original price of the movie.

There is a precedent for isolated scores to be included with movies. Some movies released on DVD have had isolated scores included. My first experience was with L.A. Confidential, where the score could be selected as the desired audio track (right along with the English Dolby Digital and French audio tracks), and you could watch the movie without the dialog and sound effects present. It was a neat way to experience the movie, and I found it more interesting that most director's commentary tracks that are included so often with movies.

The web site Soundtrack.net has a section devoted to tracking isolated scores on DVD, and every once in a while, the issue gets raised in the various home theater and music forums out there. It appears that the latest release of You've Got Mail retained the music-only track from its original release, but I don't have the recent one to verify that. Clearly there is some interest in the concept, and it's one worth exploring further, in my opinion.

So, how about it, movie studios?

I think movie fans would be interested in having isolated movie scores included as a feature (either included or available as a BD-Live style download), and having that feature would increase the likelihood that people would buy a movie instead of rent it or (heaven forbid) download it from unapproved sources.

The first movie release to do this on Blu-ray would get a lot of free publicity from the enthusiast community, and it would help take the sting off that $39.95 list price that comes with so many new releases on the Blu-ray format!



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