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He just restored The Ten Commandments, now Ron Smith wants to hear from you: What Paramount films yo

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Premium
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    Want to know the extent of the original cut negative's fade and damage?


    Want to know the philosophy of Digital Noise Reduction in the resoration process?


    Want to know how the Paramount VP of Preservation & Restoration used his digital background to achieve excellence in restoration of this film for the High Definition release?


    Ask Away!



    Home Theater Forum will be conducting an interview with Paramount Pictures' Vice President of Preservation & Restoration Ron Smith who was recently heavily involved in the restoration of Cecil B. Demille's masterpiece The Ten Commandments.


    If you have any question that you would like to ask of Mr. Smith, submit them below and we'll include them in our upcoming interview.


    Thanks,


    HTF


     
  2. Guest

    Yes, I would like to know about the restoration of the sound and the sound effects in particular. How close does this sound to the original presentation. And how close is the color palette? How was the aspect ratio decided for the new version?
     
  3. ahollis

    ahollis Well-Known Member

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    What was the condition and how much work was needed for the 1923 silent version? Assuming that it is also presented in HD.
     
  4. Adam Gregorich

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    Thanks Neil. I would like to know if there were any specific challenges with this restoration and how he feels about grain removal. Is their any studio pressure to remove it? Also is there any particular film that he is particularly passionate about restoring?


    While I haven't seen it I am looking forward to it based on RAH's comments and how the African Queen looked, so please pass along my compliments on a job well done! I'm really looking forward to more classic Paramount titles.
     
  5. dana martin

    dana martin Well-Known Member

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    ok i will bite as well, first of all the restoration video is amazing, and i so look forward the watching this as soon as it arives


    with such an efects laden film, how much digital tinkering was done that would still maintain the original look and presentation , color correction, smoothing of matte paintings


    also was any restoration done on the 1923 version including restoration of the Two strip Technicolor?


    and on a side note, packaging, with such outstanding artwork, for this film, why was a more modern look given to this release instead of a classic look of a classic film?
     
  6. MatthewA

    MatthewA Well-Known Member

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    My questions:


    How is this restoration being preserved? Are you going to output it back to film?
     
  7. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Well-Known Member

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    Like those above, I'm keen on hearing more about the 23 version, especially the preservation and restoration of the 2-strip technicolor materials, as well as the preservation method for the '56 relating to film. Is there any chance of a 70mm print being struck from the 8 perf materials???
     
  8. dana martin

    dana martin Well-Known Member

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    another question, since this print is from 56, how does the fade and damage of this compare to another VistaVision film from the same year "The Court Jester" ?
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Just so that everyone is clear, there is no such thing as "two-strip (2-strip) Technicolor."


    Two color Technicolor was an over / under process in which two frames were exposed simultaneously. Originally prints were created, problematically, by glueing together two pieces of dyed stock into a single projectable unit, later prints were created via the imbibition process.


    Having Mr. Smith answer questions is a great accommodation via HTF. I'm hopeful that he'll be permitted to discuss the venue that

    created the work, and have some comments about his colorist, who to my eye, is the best in the business. There is a reason why The Ten Commandments was done where it was, and the rationale was not to save money. It's all about quality, and it shows.


    RAH
     
  10. Adam Gregorich

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    Its great to read something like this, especially in a day and age where just about every studio decision is about saving money.
     
  11. snoopy28574

    snoopy28574 Well-Known Member

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    I would like to know what steps are being taken to ensure that the digital data will be able to be played back in 50 years. Im all for preservation prints, but I would love to hear about some of the equipment used being preserved so we dont have to go back to analog.
     
  12. dana martin

    dana martin Well-Known Member

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    Robert,

    thank you for the insight , spent the whole evening recearching that, and if my reading was correct that would have been process 2 of which only 4 films were done that way? between the various sources, it was stated that a lot of the film stock was discarded over the years to make room, that is why a lot of the early Technicolor films where it was a process of layering are shown in b/w because the b/w stock is all that remains, with out using filters?
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    If one wishes to get into archival experimentation and heroism, take the example of UCLA's Robert Gitt, who, finding that shots were missing at the end of two-color production Toll of the Sea (1922), took an original camera, went to location, and re-shot, to give the archival prints a proper ending.


    As to TTC, there is a terrific documentary regarding the locations for the 1923 shoot, which were dismantled, and are buried beneath the dunes in Guadalupe, outside of Santa Barbara.

    I had the opportunity to do some digging there, under proper supervision. The story beneath the sands is of epic proportions.


    RAH
     
  14. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Well-Known Member

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    Dana,


    You are correct in that only a handful of films were shot entirely in process 2, three in fact: "The Toll of the Sea" was the first, and the one to which I think RAH was actually referring, since The Gulf Between is a lost film, apart from a couple of frames. Wanderer of the Wasteland was next, followed by The Black Pirate in 1926. There were also a handful of films that used Process 2 for inserts only, such as Ten Commandments, Phantom of the Opera and Ben Hur. Shortly thereafter process 2 was scrapped for the far more advanced process 3 and its dye transfer printing method which eliminated the cementing of two strips of film (hence the somewhat misleading, but not altogether incorrect term "two strip.").


    Sorry RAH for the slip. It's an old habit of mine that I still call it two strip. It's just got such a wonderfully analog sound to it! :)
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quite correct, and thank you for the proper information. My brain is all too often, overfilled with minutia. I have no idea how Leonard Maltin keeps all of his facts straight, but somehow he keeps everything in order.


    Now to keep from confusing Handschiegl with the Scheimflug effect.


    RAH
     
  16. dana martin

    dana martin Well-Known Member

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    thanks more for the insight , i happend on the lost city a few years ago on line, www.lostcitydemille.com amazing pictures, what baffels me is with all the amount of construction and cost why this "set piece" was scrapped; when i think this time frame in hollywood and the grand scale productions, Universal with its Paris set piece for Hunchback and the Paris Opera House, my understanding was Universal just from the different films has been very good to resuse this sets before fires. its a shame that this part of film history wasnt reused.


    have the phantom with the color insert, and for a process that sounds more difficult because of alignment and sync, it does give an amazing picture, and the Black Pirate looks especialy well from the reviews i have read
     
  17. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the history behind the color sequence in "Phantom" is a story in itself. "The Phantom of the Opera" exists in so many states, it's hard to say which if any was definitive. The first version was pulled after a poor preview and heavily reshot. A second version was shown, and again bombed. More editing and retakes. The third version went into general release, and was a big hit. There were many color sequences shot for the film, and contemporary reviews cited the faust sequences, the ballet, the hall scenes as in colour, as well as the Bal Masque. Some were cut or only shown as black-and-white, depending on which version was shown. Add to it speculation that both Technicolor and the cheaper Prizmacolor processes were used, and in the end it has become unclear just HOW MUCH color remained in the third version which saw wide release.

    We still don't know because that version is essentially lost, a victim to Universal's horrid treatment of its heritage, which saw the junking of virtually its entire silent library in the 30s and 40s. What is dubbed the "'25 version" in various home video and DVD releases is hardly that, deriving from contemporary "Show at Home" 16mm reduction prints made for consumers. These prints, however, are corrupt, comprising different takes, angles, and shots depending on the print you have, and each missing certain scenes so that in the end no two are alike, and what we have today is simply a best guess effort to cull together all the different versions into something approaching a comprehensive cut.


    Then in 1929, during the talkie boom, "Phantom" was revisited and "sonorized" with several sequences reshot with the same actors now speaking their lines, along with sound effects, and a voice double for Lon Chaney, who did not participate. The intertitles were done away with, and whole characters were rewritten (the same actress who plays a singer in the '25 was rewritten to play her MOTHER (!) in the '29). Very confusing!! Like the '25, this version of the film is lost, except for the Vitaphone discs (the film was poorly reviewed on re-release, and if you listen to the discs, you'll discover WHY).

    Which brings us to the best surviving print of the film, and the most well known: the Eastman house print from circa 1930. This print is the source of HUGE debate and controversy. It has a mix of both silent speed (i.e. hand cranked) footage from the '25 version, as well as 24 FPS sync footage from the '29, yet it does not not sync with the surviving vitaphone discs or contain any of the talking sequences. It has silent intertitles, yet it bears the editorial changes consistent with the sonorized version. The intertitles are in English, yet the whole film is comprised of alternate and second best takes (in one, a stagehand can be seen walking in front of a light), suggesting it is not from the A-negative which would have been reserved for domestic distribution, but a B-negative typically reserved for foreign audiences. The three theories as to this print are:


    1) It was a version made for domestic theatres not yet equipped for sound

    2) It was a version made for international theatres which were also largely unequipped for sound

    3) It was some kind of reference print made for internal use and not distribution.

    And so we arrive at the lone surviving color sequence. This sequence is NOT in the Eastman house print, and survived as a fragment discovered in the 70s. It is also NOT from the 25 version, since it is not a bipack of two strips, which is how an original '25 print would have been made. Rather it was made using Technicolor's more sophisticated dye transfer method (process 3). It is therefore most likely a surviving fragment from the otherwise lost '29 sound version, by which time Technicolor had adopted process 3, and would have used it in the creation of new prints from the negative material it possessed. Contemporary reviews prove there was color in the 29 version (recall, 29-30 was also the first, brief color boom...one that faded due to the expense of the process, and the flaws of two color photography), so this is certainly the case.

    So to (finally) answer your comment, the reason why the color is clearer, sharper and more vibrant than might be expected with a process 2 bipack print is because it derives from the more sophisticated and exacting dye transfer process 3, using dyes which were less prone to fade than the earlier, cruder process 2.
     
  18. dana martin

    dana martin Well-Known Member

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    This is slowly becoming an early Technicolor primer school, amazing read, and sorry if this has gotten off the topic of the thread, but a chance to learn more, well lets just say if you could talk with a film historian for a day, or learn more you get a better appreciation. But with all things when you least expect it there are surprises. Who knows possibly one day someone will stumble upon lost footage from that film and actually be able to give a definitive version? But from the sounds of it, we are really looking a like 5 different cuts of this film.

    But if this is so then that would make the list of films done in process 2, less by one more, and originally it was slated for 6 I think, but only 4 were done; one is a lost film, the phantom is supposedly one, but now, I can see where possibly it might have some elements from that process that have been replaced, The Black Pirate, which I think was done completely in process 2.


    http://ludb.clui.org/ex/i/CA4973/


    more on the site of the dig



    As for the color sequences in the 23 version, what is the actual amount of run time, from what I can find it was 14 reels how much of this was comprised in color? Is it a complete reel or more?
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    While the Phantom opera set, AFAIK still protected inside stage 28 at Universal, was used in many productions, inclusive of Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, the immense set pieces, and huge faux stone creatures, were on the dunes, and could have been used by any company desiring to create an Egyptian period knock-off. They were destroyed purposefully, and left beneath the sands.
     
  20. RCinOttawa

    RCinOttawa Active Member

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    What was the original sound mix when it was first released in 1956? Was it mono only, or did it have a multi-channel soundtrack? Thanks!
     

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