Hi! My name is SonicAdventure. Usually, I don’t do covers, at least not the ones you can see below. I’m a mastering engineer by trade; that is my hobby, my passion and sometimes my job. You’ve probably encountered one of my remasters before, after all, I collaborated with Heidl numerous times: he does the covers, I do the sound. But that hasn’t always been the case.
A decade ago I started out doing everything on my own, including the covers. The reason for designing them was simple: I wanted to print them out and put them on the shelf alongside official releases. Just so that my own versions wouldn’t look stupid or “home made”. Since I lack any formal graphic design training I always had to look towards the work of others for inspiration and technical advice. Because of that I became quite adept in copying designs. Luckily, I have a little taste, an additional help has been encountering Photoshop more than 20 years ago.
I don’t think my covers are any good; they’re boring, bourgeois and only serviceable – if at all. You see, I don’t prefer to do them, to me they’re just a necessity and I’d rather work on the sound. Oh, and the work involved… ugh. Re-arranging vertical designs so that they would fit a square format, cutting something out, cleaning something up…, I’m just a lazy bastard who doesn’t want to spend time with this. Because good design (something that looks gorgeous and is equally functional) is work, plain and simple. Something I’m – most of the time – not willing to do. But Poltergeist has always been one of my favourite movies, so maybe this was a reason to create so many covers.
I saw it for the first time on July 5th, 1986 on German TV. It was a Saturday night, my parents were away on some birthday and I was home alone babysitting my little brother (who was fast asleep). I wasn’t 11 yet and was completely blown away. The movie was an emotional rollercoaster, I was terrified and deeply moved, all at the same time. It would take a few years until I realized that my conflicting emotions were partly caused by the brilliant music Jerry Goldsmith composed. Imagine my disappointment when I wasn’t able to buy the soundtrack, it simply didn’t exist wherever I looked. Remember, this was a decade before the rise of the internet, you couldn’t just order something. My parents however had a friend who regularly visited the U.S. and one day in 1996 I asked him if he could look for the soundtrack to Poltergeist while being away on one of these journeys. I forgot all about it and one day, when returning home from Uni, the soundtrack was suddenly waiting on the kitchen table. And it wasn’t just any normal CD, no, it was the first expanded treatment done by Rhino! I was overjoyed and to this day this CD is a reference for how I expect score expansions to be treated. It had everything beside all of the music: good sound (albeit a tad noisy), good artwork (for the front cover) and a generous amount of informative text within the booklet. And even though I’ve replaced it with the edition done by FSM 13 years later I simply cannot part with it. I’ll never forget the joy I felt when setting eyes upon it for the first time in 1997.
A few weeks ago I decided to remaster it, I’ve never been happy with the slightly timid sound of the FSM version. I also wanted to create my own covers. The official ones are well done and I like them, but I thought that I might be able to improve them or at least offer some additional choices. But you, dear reader, will be the judge of that.
The first five custom covers are based on original artworks created in 1982 for the movies’ promotional campaign. The original poster, used to this day in several variations, is quite iconic. It features a large black background with – much smaller – Carol Anne kneeling in front of a TV that receives no signal (something which younger readers won’t remember). Most home video releases have focused on this design.
Cover #1  is based on the DVD/Blu-Ray variant which enlarges the TV/Carol Anne combination, adds a blue tint and TV lines. I just added the movies’ logo (the gloss effect was done by hand) and the rest of the information. Cover #2 is based on one of the SteelBook designs, while cover #3 imitates the design of the first LaserDisc. Since I didn’t have it in colour combined with high resolution, I colourized it myself.
Next is cover #4 which is an alternate design that was used predominantly outside the U.S. Since it, in my opinion, looks fairly anachronistic I decided to turn it into a vinyl cover.
I also created a variant of the same design (#5) and gave it the Deutsche-Grammophon twist (something you’ll see again). I just love the big yellow DG emblem, it always looks classy, either old-fashioned or timeless (the typeface choices determin the assignment to a specific era). I translated everything English to German, going as far as calling the city of L.A. “City of Angels”.
But now off to the covers based on alternative poster designs, my personal favourites.
The first one (#6) was apparently designed at Universal for the “Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights“. I just love the idea that Carol Anne is now on “the other side” and therefore not sitting in front of the TV anymore.
The next cover (#7) is probably the eeriest and craziest cover I ever made. It’s based on a breathtaking design by Orlando Arocena, whose art style is called “Mexifunk” and it pays homage to the “Dia De Los Muertos“. Since it was a vertical design I had to take it apart in order to use it, cutting it in half, enlarging the mouth and turning several parts into seperate pieces so that I could place them freely. A lot of work but worth it.
Next is a tribute to… well, I don’t really know (#8). I wanted to use the artwork by Angga Agustiya and since it was drawn from the character Robbie (the families’ son) and looks a little like naive art, I decided to turn it into a children’s vinyl. The fake title reflects that intention, yet at the same time I reference my remastering by using the “Living Stereo” banner. Though an audio drama aimed at children likely wouldn’t feature the best audio fidelity.
Cover #9 is based on a character poster by Sara Deck. It’s not ideally suited for the square CD cover format so I added a little structure (TV lines & stars). With Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein), yet another character from the film is featured on cover #10. It was created by designer duo WeBuyYourKids and features a nifty reference to “the other side”. Chairs moving on their own (sitting on a table) are shown on the next one (#11) which is based on a design by Adam Rabalais while coffins are a menace beneath the Freelings’ house on cover #12. That one was taken from the Mondo vinyl edition of the score, released in 2013. Again, WBYK designed the original artwork, I just combined back and front and colourized it.
Cover #13 is based on a design by Godmachine, heavily altered, adding rays of light and several layers of different blurs. You may think it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie yet it is showing “The Beast”, similar to how it looked when it emerged from the cupboard. Initially, it wasn’t even part of this set, I did it at the last minute while I was writing this blog post.
The last cover was done specifially for heidl. I found the design while I was searching for images I could use and since he has created so many fantastic covers for Stranger Things 2, I thought I would add one more. It was probably done by a Netflix team, at least it was used to promote the second season of the series and it’s a nifty tribute to the original.
This concludes my series of Poltergeist covers. Heidl has been instrumental in getting these done, he constantly provided suggestions how to improve them, what typeface to use, etc. Without him, I couldn’t have done it. He is the best teacher one can imagine: he points out flaws, suggests ways to get rid of them and then leaves you alone. Brilliant. A big thank you goes to heidl who provided me with the chance to show off. I hope the decline in quality compared to his work is not too big, I wouldn’t like him to lose viewers because of some sub-standard artwork done by some know-it-all like me.