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The Story Behind Deep Note

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"Deep Note" is the nickname of the sound you hear when it is announced that a movie will be heard in THX, an audio certification standard developed by Lucasfilm. It was unveiled in the film Return of the Jedi in 1983, and Lucasfilm wanted an distinctive audio logo that would stick in the minds of theater patrons. It is arguably the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music ever. Listening to it can put your mind into a movie theater, no matter where you are now.

The father of the THX Deep Note was James A. Moorer, an employee of Lucasfilm's Computer Division, a pioneering skunkworks that eventually sprouted not just THX but Pixar as well. THX was Lucasfilm’s new audio certification standard, a project that sprang from George Lucas's interest in ensuring that The Return of the Jedi played in theaters at the highest possible quality. As Jedi approached release, the THX team was busy putting together a mark for THX to show before the film, and they wanted a singular sound to play with it.

The spec was vague. THX creator Tom Holman asked Moorer, who was head of the computer division's audio group at the time, to create a sound that "comes out of nowhere and gets really, really big." Not much to go by, but Moorer got to work on a massive computer mainframe that Lucasfilm had just built: the ASP, or Audio Signal Processor, which was used to mix sounds for Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and other '80s Lucasfilm productions.

To get the "right" sound, Moorer needed a lot of samples to judge, so he programmed his equipment to generate sequences randomly, and Deep Note was selected as the one to use. But that brings up the question: if your brand-identified sound is a randomly-generated sample, what happens if you ever need to generate it again? You know, if the original recording is lost? That’s exactly what happened. Read the rest of the story at Fast Company. -via Digg


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Very similar sound effect to the THX sound
in the 1979 movie WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, 4 years
before the THX sound intro was used in RETURN OF THE JEDI.
12:15 and 37:45 and 1:31:35
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