The Big Country

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Rick Thompson, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    Is there anything in the works for a Blu-ray (it's one of those big vista films that would look spectacular in that format), or at least remastered DVD of this?

    I have no idea who owns the rights to the Gregory Peck-Jean Simmons-Charlton Heston starrer directed by William Wyler, though my DVD is on MGM.

    When the current DVD was done, for some reason the copper wash over the main titles came out black and white (except for traces of the copper in the dissolves). My suspicion is that it had a computer color correction, and no one checked the final result against the original. It's that obvious, and right at the beginning (note: the previous VHS issues had it right). I'm not ascribing any evil intent, just a rush to get it out.

    It would sure be nice to have the picture as released, along with a general dirt and speck clean-up.

    Any chance of that?
     
  2. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Don't know when this is coming. Last restored by AFA from 8 perf separation masters, so no computer anything.



     
  3. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the quick response. I learned something new today -- that I can't blame the vanished copper wash on a computer. I have to blame a human.

    Next: I take myself to a library to research what an "8 perf separation master" is -- and I'm not talking facetiously or sarcastically. This is, to coin a phrase, "a whole new world" for me!
     
  4. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    Too bad MGM cant find the stereo track for Big Country and The Vikings.
     
  5. stacychen

    stacychen Auditioning

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    agree with you , i have the same problem
     
  6. dschill

    dschill Extra

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    This would be a great blue dvd. [​IMG]
     
  7. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    The Big Country was beautifully filmed by William Wyler in Technirama, which is essentially VistaVision combined with 1.5 X anamorphic lenses to produce a CinemaScope-like (2.35:1 aspect ratio) widescreen image that could then be converted to 35mm CinemaScope prints or unsqueezed and blown up to 70mm Todd-AO compatible prints (called "Super Technirama 70").

    VistaVision and Technirama recorded a large format image by running 35mm film through the camera horizontally, so that each frame was 8 perforations wide (hence the name '8 perf.') rather than 4 perforations tall, as in a regular vertical pull down 35mm camera.

    This method of exposure increased the size of each frame by about 130% compared to 35mm anamorphic systems like CinemaScope, but was still 28% smaller than 65mm systems like Todd-AO and Super Panavision 70. Effectively you got a lot of the benefits of shooting in a 65mm format, while still using 35mm film.

    Separation masters are essentially a film 'back up' of the original camera negative made on black and white film. There are three elements, one each for the Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta components of the colour spectrum.

    Since these elements are B&W film, they don't fade the way early Eastmancolor negatives do. The separations can be recompiled photochemically - or now digitally - to produce a new preservation negative of the film that doesn't have faded colour.
     
  8. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    The question to me, then, is how did that copper wash over the opening credits, which is in the original film and correctly reproduced in the previous VHS versions, vanish to black and white (except for showing up in the dissolves) in the DVD?
     
  9. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    I haven't watched the DVD for a long time, but my recollection is that a lot of VHS transfers were made from film prints, whereas most DVD transfers are made from inter-positives. It could be that the inter-positive was made incorrectly due to someone being unfamiliar with the way prints of the film were meant to look.

    For example, the two most recent DVD issues of Vertigo incorrectly start with the image in colour, when it should be black and white, as in the original edition. Such a stupid error was probably made by someone who just wasn't familiar with the film. If a VHS transfer was made from a film print, it is impossible to make mistakes of this sort unless the print itself was improperly made.

    Another example: It seems to me that a lot of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVDs of colour 1950s films feature Day for Night sequences that are unrealistically bright, again this seems to be an unfamiliarity with how the films should look when projected, or a misunderstanding of the potential of digital video compared to older video formats.
     
  10. Rick Thompson

    Rick Thompson Screenwriter

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    If that's what happened, I certainly hope the crew charged making the Blu-ray would take a look at the original film, or be checking their work against an actual print. You'd think it would be mandatory. In this case, it's not a short segment buried in the film; it's at the very beginning.
     
  11. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    I believe there are several 35mm IB prints, that were owned by Wyler, in the Library of Congress. Also, they are all optical mono.
     
  12. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    Checking a Blu-Ray release against an available IBTech print might already be considered too costly for some titles, but hopefully not for The Big Country.
     
  13. Virgoan

    Virgoan Second Unit

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    I've long been under the impression that "The Big Country" was never recorded in stereo. As inconceivable as it seems that the score, at least, wasn't recorded in stereo, no one who has ever issued the original recordings has ever managed to turn up any proof that it was recorded that way.

    Every reference to the film I've found is that it was released in mono only.
     
  14. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    Actually there is proof. I worked on the Laserdisc edition. The music score, which was recorded on Stage Seven at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, was recorded in 3-trk 35mm Magnetic fullcoat and the mono 1/4 inch recording, which Jerome Moross owned, aknowledged on the back of the tape box that it was transferred (mixed down)from stereo. I believe I have a copy of the document somewhere. If I can find it I'll photograph it and reproduce it here. The fact that it was recorded in 3-track does not automatically mean that a stereo theatrical mix was made. A 3-track mix gives the mixers more latitude with balance when creating the mono track.
     
  15. Paul Rossen

    Paul Rossen Supporting Actor

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    I have no first hand proof but I've read more than once that THE BIG COUNTRY was indeed shown in stereo during its premiere engagement in NY.
     
  16. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    Below is a document which is a music log on the back of one of the 1/4 inch boxes of a copy made for composer Jerome Moross by the Goldwyn sound department which is a stereo to mono copy of the music score. You will see written on it that it is a 'stereo combine':

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    I seem to remember there was an essay on an insert sheet with the BC laserdisc as to why it was in mono, would be interesting to see the answer given then

    M
     
  18. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    There are at least two prints that reside with private collectors of Big Country in stereo.

    by 1958, stereo prints were magoptical, four channels of mag sound printed with a mono optical track, reducing the rooriginal scope print projection ratio from 2:55 to 1 to 2:35 to 1.

    But the collector prints had only mag stereo sound and a projection ration of 2:55.

    Also had an occasion to meet with Gregory Peck and he told me that he was amazed a stereo print could not be found as Big country ahd a wide release in stereo.

    Indeed, if it could be shown in stereo in my small town of Elmira, New York, it had to be a wide stereo release. as indded was our stereo showings of Teh Vikings.
     
  19. Stephen PI

    Stephen PI Supporting Actor

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    I think I wrote that and the answer today is the same as it was then.
     
  20. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    The Technirama process does work better with a 2.35 aspect ratio.
    A 2.55 to 1 AR would have to be vertically cropped.

    I hope that at least one of the two collectors (if they indeed have multichannel magnetic sound on those prints) will get in contact with MGM.
     

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