After watching the new Blu-Ray of ' Sand Pebbles' which looked great,I found some background information to the recent restorations Audio: Restoring sound for The Sand Pebbles included using 26 reels of rich 6-track mag recordings. The 20th Century Fox film's recent audio restoration (including print mastering for some theatrical showings) was done by Ted Hall of POP Sound in Santa Monica, Calif., a division of Ascent Media with a distinguished history of film and TV post work, restoration, and multichannel mixing. In fact, Hall had also worked on the restoration of West Side Story a few years ago and met Wise (now deceased). [Fox] sent over 26 reels of [Westrex] 6-track mag for the 70mm version of the film. “The common way 70mm was done in the '60s was what's called five-across-the-front: left, left-center, center, right-center, right, and then a mono surround. Jerry Goldsmith did the [Oscar-nominated] music, which was really cool because it was a 6-track of the orchestra, and the music sounded unbelievable. It was these great big tube analog recordings, and done in the same kind of five-across-the-front, plus a B and C stem, which were additional tracks for either room sounds — like the scoring stage — or specialty instruments he wanted to separate.” The trick, he says, was getting it all together and then conforming the show. “I had a kind of cryptic cue sheet to go by. It was called their ‘studio version’ show, which is the one that's been on TV. After I'd done that, though, I called up [Fox's head of restoration] Schawn Belston and said, ‘I have a bunch more audio and picture.’ So they investigated, and apparently there was also what they called a ‘roadshow’ version for true 70 houses — not just stereo or mono houses — and that was a longer version, so I conformed that, too. Then I called them up and said, ‘I still have more audio.’ So there's also now an extra, extra long version for which they found the [additional] picture in England. The one they made [theatrical] prints of is the basic roadshow version, which is the medium-length version. “The thing about 70mm of that era is the left-center and right-center were sometimes derived from [combining] the right channel and center channel [and left channel and center channel], and when you were listening discretely, it was fine, but if you fold it down to stereo or LTRT or mono, it incurs a slight delay and it starts phasing. So I put it all into [Digidesign] Pro Tools and adjusted it so I got everything totally time-aligned, which took a long time. So we got that together, matched it to the music, did some effects sweeteners, and created an effects stem.” To bring The Sand Pebbles into the current theater (and home theater) enviornment, POP Sound created new sounds for the stereo surround and subwoofer channels. Part of the challenge of bringing a film like this — even with good multichannel source elements — into the current theater (and home theater) environment is breaking out the sound into the stereo surround and subwoofer channels. “A lot of what we put in the stereo surrounds are ambiences I took from the movie — rather than from a CD library or something — and then panned in certain ways,” Hall says. “One problem I had is that because there were these different versions, there might be a [mono] surround channel for a minute, and then it'd be gone. So in something like one of the engine room scenes, where there was a lot of background stuff going on, I would take a good section of the [mono surround] channel, loop it, extend it if necessary, copy it to another track, and then shift that a second later — and you get this cool stereo image that has some real dimensionality. I also used a digital spatializer to give it a little more depth.” Certain effects from the front channels were also judiciously panned into the rears, but Hall says, “You have to be careful with that sort of thing because everything is tied together, and you want it to still sound natural.” As for the all-important subwoofer channel, “We had to create that from scratch,” Hall says. “Of course, there are various explosions and things that we put in the sub. And with the music, the cellos and double basses were separated enough that I could sneak some of that in the sub, too. The music, in general, was very discrete, so it was easy to work with.” Hall says that the other laborious task on the project was “de-noising and de-clicking it because it was extremely hissy.” Still, all things considered, he says, “The sound design on the original movie was pretty amazing. There are all sorts of scenes on the water, on boats, and in Shanghai, China, and various other places, and fortunately it came to us in fairly good shape.” Picture: The original negative for The Sand Pebbles at 4K (4096x3112 pixels per frame) using a Northlight 1 pin-registered film scanner to 10-bit Cineon files. The scanning process takes about seven seconds per frame, and it took 20-30 hours to create the 4K digital files for each reel. The 13 reels of The Sand Pebbles required close to 14 terabytes of disk storage space. Using the Quantel iQ4 system with Pablo, colorist David Bernstein made a first pass for rough color correction and restoration of the heavier image damage, and removed the reel-end “change-over” cues that were physically punched into the original negative. “The iQ box is a combination of everything Quantel has made over the last 30 years, so there’s a bit of Harry, Henry Paintbox, Editbox and all that stuff,” says Bernstein. “It’s all resolution-independent, so I can bring any resolution from standard definition to 4K into the system, mix and match any of those on the timeline, and output them at any resolution.” After Bernstein’s initial color-correction and image-restoration steps, the digital files were sent to a contract facility in India for dustbusting. This process removed more than just embedded dirt; the visible, thin-line CinemaScope splice marks were also removed. “The scans come out kind of flat,” says Bernstein. “Some of the stuff coming out of the scanner looks fairly normal in terms of color balance, [but it’s] very flat. Some of it is [also] heavily biased toward red or green, resulting from different film stocks that the scanner might not have been calibrated for, so I added contrast and balanced the shot-to-shot color variations. I did that so the people doing the dust cleanup could more easily see the white specks, but this sort of broad color correction could also be applied using a lookup table at the cleanup workstation. I think we’ll set it up that way in the future. “What I did in the initial pass was create a consistent look and eliminate the biases. If there’s a shot where we all of a sudden cut from one scene to a dupe of that scene for an optical, like a dissolve, and the color shifts dramatically between those two elements, I built in a balance there for the first pass. It made my work a little easier when I went back to do the final color pass, giving an overall consistent look to the reel, even though there wasn’t a true shot-by-shot color timing until the end.” When the dustbusting is complete, Bernstein will make a final pass for color correction and quality control before doing the final transfer to 35mm. For the final color correction, he will compare his timing of the 4K files to a 35mm print of The Sand Pebbles that was made as a color reference from the original negative at Ascent’s Cinetech film laboratory. Fox’s goal is to create a new 35mm negative and separation masters that will retain the image quality inherent in the original camera negative and provide for archival preservation. Although Bernstein is correcting obvious flaws in the surviving material, he is avoiding any sort of heavy image processing or grain reduction. “It’s not my intention to do any of that,” he says. “To begin with, there’s not a lot of grain structure to The Sand Pebbles, and it looks pretty good. There are a number of grain-reducing tools I could throw at it that would involve additional rendering, but film has a grain structure, and I like to keep as much of that as necessary to maintain the look of film. That’s something Fox is concerned about as well. “Ultimately,” he continues, “Ascent will deliver a new 35mm negative, an answer print, the HD deliverables — three hi-def masters in different aspect ratios of 2.35:1, 1.78:1 and 4-by-3 — and the 4K data files that were used to create the negative, probably stored on LTO-3 tape, or whatever format Fox wants.” With this new restoration, The Sand Pebbles will be set for a return to active duty and live to fight for another 40 years or more. I hope this was of interest.