A Few Words About A few words about...™ Lawrence of Arabia -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Nov 2, 2012.

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    Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    How many people do you know, who would take on a huge project, knowing that with one-third the effort, and a far lower cost, they could reach very close to the 95th percentile in quality?

    I can count them on the fingers of one hand, and have fingers left over.

    Most of you probably understand that I'm writing this from a unique perspective, having worked with virtually the entire cast and crew, and having examined, and worked with every frame of this film -- all 320,000 of them.

    David Lean used to joke that while it took Jim Painten and me, and our crew 26 months to put Lawrence back together again, it only took him 16 to make it. I occasionally don't see the humor in that.

    About ten years ago, Sony made a transfer (2k) based upon one of our 65mm interpositives, as the second try at a new series of home videos and for broadcast, in an effort to improve the image. While it was better, especially at 480i, when Mr. Crisp and I examined it a few years ago, along with colorist Scott Ostrowsky, it had far too many problems to be used as the basis of the Blu-ray that we desired to put into the marketplace.

    At that point, it was an absolute that a 65mm element needed to be scanned.

    But which one?

    Knowing the Pandora's Box that would be opened by going back to the mix of OCN and dupe negative that we had created in 1988, I advised working with our first IP. The second had additional dupe shots. The original negative was far too worn, scratched, torn and filled with detritus, to yield a viable image at a cost that the studio might consider bearing.

    But there was something else to consider and it only involved Blu-ray tangentially.

    Asset Protection. The ultimate protection of the original elements for the future. And we both agreed that for that purpose, our cut negative was the way to proceed.

    What some of you, who may not be positioned within the corporate world, may not immediately realize, is that moving forward with a project of this immensity, doing it toward the concept of Asset Protection, and achieving the hundredth percentile, as opposed to the ninety-fifth, could ultimately be job-affecting.

    When Mr. Crisp informed me that he intended to move forward with the OCN, I was both thrilled and concerned. Thrilled that it would have a chance to go through the centuries in it's finest possible form, and yet concerned that it might not make it through the scanner in one piece.

    From day one, the position of Mr. Crisp and studio, inclusive of Colorworks, was that nothing less than perfection would be accepted.

    Scanning in 8k at Foto-Kem yielded not only an huge file image, but one that was equally as unforgiving in terms of problems. The clean-up job, handled by a number of different vendors, was as immense of the file size.

    As time passed, having seen early tests, interim color, and then almost final results, I knew that something special was being created.

    Having seen the final image in 4k at Lincoln Center, I knew that the miracle had been accomplished.

    Today, with the arrival of "the big box," I can tell you that the miracle has been down-rezzed to Blu-ray proportions with perfection. The 88 page book, which comes with the Limited Edition box has been superbly produced, in line with the quality of the film and the restoration(s). The CD, which includes new tracks, and the 70mm frame, which has been beautifully mounted only add to the final effect. I've not yet looked at the disc of additional extras, but I have seen the extended Balcony Scene previously. That scene is a game changer, in the same way that Kong nibbling on natives and gently removing Fay Wray's clothing affects King Kong. It changes the film.

    As to specifics, image quality in terms of overall resolution is other-worldly. Color is dead-on perfect. Shadow detail, superb, along with image steadiness. Grain structure properly represents the film elements.

    The audio properly represents the original 4-track mix, and has been gently cleansed of problems, such as the original "3" pop as we move from main titles to reel 1A proper.

    At the end of the day, I'm left thinking Connolly hides, Wilton carpet, and smiles on the faces of Sir David, of Freddie Young, and the entire cast and crew behind this film.

    David Lean was not an easy man to please. Everything had to be perfect.

    And I can tell you, as an absolute, that he would be very, very pleased, were he able to place this tiny disc in a Blu-ray player that he never had the opportunity to see.

    Image - 6 (out of 5)

    Audio - 5 (out of 5)

    Extremely Highly Recommended.

    To use a phrase spoken by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in 1989. "Two thumbs up, and they couldn't be held higher!"

    As a final note, when we opened the film in London at the Marble Arch in May of 1989, Freddie and his camera crew took me aside and offered that "You're part of Lawrence now..."

    I can now offer the same to Mr. Crisp, along with a hearty, "Well met, Sir!"

    RAH
     
  2. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    While I already have the wonderful UK 2-disc pressing of this newly-minted restoration, I'm chomping at the bit for the deluxe box set...November 13th cannot come soon enough for me, Robert...thank you once again for yours and Grover Crisp's heroic work in rescuing this cinematic gem from oblivion!!!
     
  3. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    Ah, finally, the "real" few words!

    Same all the way.
     
  4. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Great news!
     
  5. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    These few words were worth the large "wait".
     
  6. JamesNelson

    JamesNelson Second Unit

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    Which 70mm frame did your set contain?
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Feisal... in Feisal's tent....

    There are no bad frames.

    RAH
     
  8. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Decided to wait for the Box set!
    I'm sure it's way too early to ask or for that matter to answer...will the Balcony scene 'ever' be placed into the film proper as there are less than 'perfect' elements in the film as it stands?
     
  9. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    The Balcony scene itself HAS been fully restored...the decision not to include it in the film proper was made on the advice of both RAH and Sir David Lean's film editor, Anne V. Coates, who gives an introduction to the scene on disc 3 of the box set!!!
     
  10. sharkshark

    sharkshark Stunt Coordinator

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    Meh, I'll just wait to watch it on my smartphone....
    *cough*
     
  11. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Perhaps we should submit you to the mercies of the Turkish Bey...
     
  12. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    Since I haven't seen the quality of the Balcony scene it's hard to make any judgment on whether it should or shouldn't be included in the film proper. That said, its been said the scene is a 'game changer' as well as one of the best scenes ever written by Robert Bolt. Shouldn't such an important and historical sequence be made available to the public buying the set via blu-ray's ability to have seamless branching? Remember that this scene was in the original version that premiered in December, 1962. And, it wouldn't completely surprise me that down the road the decision made today regarding this scene isn't reversed by being in a completely restored 1962 version.
     
  13. Doctorossi

    Doctorossi Supporting Actor

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    And how fitting, such an effort for this film, which has been the merciful recipient of such magnificent thinking more than once in the past.
    :cool:
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    It should not, as it was never approved by Sir David.

    RAH
     
  15. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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    How was...the brightness...of the frame that is? :P
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    "And in the end shall your Lord be bounteous to thee, and thou be satisfied."
     
  17. Richard Gallagher

    Reviewer

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    As the Sony reviewer for HTF, I also am a lucky early recipient of the box set. I expect to have a full review up next week, but it the meantime I will add a little bit of info to whet your appetites.

    The box measures 12"x12". There is a sturdy outer sleeve which is clear plastic with some lettering on the front. The back of the outer sleeve contains photos of the discs, photos of the book, a list of the extras, and the usual information about the audio, languages, subtitles, running time, etc.

    The box itself has a slipcase cover with a window cut out, so the drawing of Lawrence which you see is actually the front cover of the book. The book contains 88 pages (92 if you include the unnumbered end pages). The book contains a mix of glorious color and black & white photos, as well as a helpful map of the area. It was written by Jeremy Arnold and has a preface by Leonard Maltin. Included are quotes from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Peter O'Toole, Robert Bolt and others.

    My 70mm film frame also is a shot of Prince Feisal. The prints are numbered - mine is 10704.

    The four discs are firmly secured in a flipper Blu-ray keep case, so there are no overlays. Disc One is the feature (which includes a Picture-in Graphics track which I haven't looked at yet); Disc Two and Disc Three contain a plethora of extras, including the famous balcony scene on Disc Three. The fourth disc is the soundtrack CD, which includes two previously unreleased tracks.

    There also is an UltraViolet redemption code which is valid until 11/13/14.
     
  18. Guest

    Already pre-ordered the box. However, it is being given to me as a Christmas present. So, I have to wait.
     
  19. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    In this case, Eric, patience will be rewarded most bounteously...
     
  20. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    Regarding the score CD, can it be confirmed that this is the original score as opposed to a re-recording? I've had my Box Set on Pre-Order since day 1!
     

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