new Robert A. Harris interview online

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by oscar_merkx, Apr 18, 2002.

  1. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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  2. alan halvorson

    alan halvorson Cinematographer

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    Link doesn't work.
     
  3. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Alan
    Thanks for the info and here is the article
    website is www.dvdtimes.co.uk
    www.dvdtimes.co.uk
    It is a sad fact of cinema that movies age both on screen and off it. Some films are dated relics of a forgotten age, whilst others maintain their charm decades after their original release. With studios neglecting their vast back-catalogue archives and film's suffering from extreme fading, original versions of some classic movies seem forever condemned to becoming a distant memory; denying future generations the chance to experience them as their ancestors had done. Film Restorer Robert A. Harris has given his utmost effort to combat this general apathy amongst studios. Having flirted with producing (such as Stephen Frears' excellent The Grifters), Harris has contributed painstaking restoration work on such outstanding classics as Napoleon, Spartacus, My Fair Lady and Vertigo. In the late eighties, Harris embarked upon a two year project to fully restore Sir David Lean's uncut version of the monumental Lawrence Of Arabia.
    Above: Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)
    Below is an interview with Robert A. Harris conducted by Raphael Pour-Hashemi on behalf of DVD TIMES:
    DVD TIMES: What's the most rewarding experience gained when restoring a film?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: There are two. Most importantly, when the creators of the film are still with us, the reward is returning their work to them with our thanks. The other reward is viewing the completed project with an audience in a large theatre.
    DVD TIMES: Out of the films you have worked on, what was the toughest job and why?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: They were all extremely difficult and for different reasons on every project. When reconstructing a film, the initial challenge is trying to find out what precisely the original version of the film was, followed by a search for the picture and audio elements. After that is completed one must attempt to figure out how to work with the elements at hand to create a final work. Some of the problems encountered are:
    1. Faded or missing original negative in part or in whole.
    2. Decomposing negative, prints or preprint elements.
    3. Decomposing track elements.
    4. Lack of separation masters or incomplete sep masters.
    5. Damaged or shrunken sep masters.
    6. Faded or damaged print material is that is all that survives.
    7. Damaged or missing audio material.
    DVD TIMES: As a format, do you find that DVD is technically suitable enough for the average consumer to never need to repurchase their favourite titles after VHS and Laserdisc?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: What is the average consumer? I would think that they would be quite pleased with VHS and pan and scan. For those who seek a higher quality, I believe that it's a never-ending chase for more superb image and audio reproduction. Hopefully, as hardware advances along with newer laser technology, players will be backward compatible, enabling consumers to replace the films which they feel are meritorious with upgraded software and hold those which are acceptable as they are.
    DVD TIMES: Are there any DVD releases of films you have restored that have left you dissatisfied, and why?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: Only one. Lawrence of Arabia. The studio set out to prove that they could deal with the problems of the film with no outside support. While they did a superb campaign, elegant packaging and were successful as far as sales are concerned, they botched the job badly. As a representation of David Lean and Freddie Young's work, it was a failure. Hopefully it will be given a second chance and the public will see the film as it supposed to look and sound. To the specifics: Colour and densities are off in many sections of the film, sometimes horribly so. Much of the film is slightly out of sync. Audio (music) cues have been "helpfully" re-edited by an outside vendor to solve "problems" and never noticed by anyone at the studio, making one scene totally idiotic and another simply badly done. There are errors and inconsistencies in documentary programming, this beside the fact that somehow the film was miraculously reconstructed and restored with no one in charge, much like Moulin Rouge being created without a director. Home video still doesn't know that they hold the original trailer, even though I began giving them this information ten years ago. I'm pleased with the work done on every other restoration with which I've been involved. Universal constantly does superb work. The new transfer of My Fair Lady from WB is superb in every respect.
    Above: Cukor's My Fair Lady (1964)
    DVD TIMES: Are there any films that have sadly been neglected that you feel are badly in need of restoration treatment?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, West Side Story, North by Northwest, The Big Country, Dr. Zhivago.
    DVD TIMES: Also, if you were given a free hand to restore any title that needed it, what would be the first film you would think of?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: Gone with the Wind, followed by The Red Shoes and The Leopard.
    DVD TIMES: Are you in favour of studios fully supporting anamorphic enhancement for DVDs?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: Certainly.
    DVD TIMES: How do you see the future in terms of film restoration? Are studios more enthusiastic or more reluctant to pay in order to maintain their back catalogue?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: The studios seem to be willing to go only so far as to create elements which will enable them to get the titles onto home video. Many original negatives and other elements are being left to fade.
    DVD TIMES: What film first made you fall in love with movies?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: Lawrence of Arabia.
    Above: Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)
    DVD TIMES: What DVD release has most impressed you so far?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: I find many of them impressive. For added value, mostly anything from Criterion. For overall quality the output of Pixar.
    DVD TIMES: And finally, what's your next project?
    ROBERT A. HARRIS: We have been doing research and due diligence on a number of projects and should be announcing something in the near future.
    Thanks to Robert A. Harris
    oscar
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Thanks!

    It's always a pleasure to hear that man talk. People such as him have gone a long way toward convincing the powers-that-be that film is not some sort of pop-culture disposable commodity, but art--and that it should be treated as such.

    And I'll never forget that 1989 70mm presentation of Lawrence I enjoyed in Westwood. What a marvelous job.
     
  5. John Stockton

    John Stockton Second Unit

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    Jack

    Are you sure you saw it in Westwood?? As I recall, the restored 70 MM print of LOA only played at Century City's Century Plaza theatre, in the Los Angeles area. I will also treasure the time when I got to see the gorgeous 70 MM print in my favorite theatre played through the awesome HPS-4000 sound system.
     
  6. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    A SuperBit version of Lawrence of Arabia with DTS soundtrack would be the perfect way for Sony to save face and get Mr. Harris to come back to correct the color timing and eliminate the edge enhancement being over used, and see to it that the theater balcony sequence was placed back into the movie as David Lean wanted (that would require a proper voice over actor, Sony!!).

    It's a crime what Sony did to the current DVD version.

    Dan
     
  7. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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  8. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Saw it there too. Got to the theatre about 11AM if I remember just to get on ticket line. Then the film began at 2 PM or possibly earlier, and when we left the theatre it was already dark. A long day in the desert but worth every minute.
     
  9. Bob Smith

    Bob Smith Extra

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    I saw the 1989 70mm print at the AMC Glen Lakes in Dallas, TX. The theater was decked out in Arabian drapes and rugs, and the ushers were all in full Arab warrior gear. I felt I was in for a wonderful experience, that is until a 7-foot bald guy decides to sit in front of me 2 min before the movie starts (no stadium seating back then). The icing was, after the intermission, they let the movie run for 7 min with no picture, just audio. At least they backed it up and started again. Man, what a long evening, but still worth it!
     
  10. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    A big duh! on me. Yes, it was in Century City. I went there on a Saturday with my sister and a screenwriter friend of hers to see the restoration. I remember ordering a beer at the concession stand. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon. I was there, I tell you! I was, I was! I made a mistake in my haste. But I was there. I remember it so vividly. Please believe me! [​IMG]
    (And that print was awesome.)
     
  11. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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  12. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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    Boy, would I love to see him get his hands on The Red Shoes...
    -Dave
     
  13. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

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    How does the LD of LOA compare to the dvd? Anyone seen both?
     
  14. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    The LD is superior in terms of the color and density issues that were mentioned and does not include the bad audio edits from the DVD remix. The DVD is much superior in image resolution, particularly if you can take advantage of anamorphic enhancement. The laserdisc was not struck from a perfect element and had a lot of corrections done in the video domain to get it looking close to right. All laserdiscs of the restoration, whether they be branded Criterion or Columbia, are from the same master.
    The ideal representation of LoA on video still eludes us, but if they get it right on movie screens in the Detroit area this year, I will forgive them. [​IMG]
    Regards,
     

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