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John Lowry working on restorations of Bond films, Star Wars, etc.: article


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#1 of 55 Ted Todorov

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Posted April 17 2004 - 05:56 PM

A very interesting article in today's NY Times: 600 Macs, 4,000 Lines, One Giant Leap for DVD's (free registration required).
John Lowry describes how he uses a bunch of Power Mac G5s and a couple of 4000 line custom scanners to produce some of the most stunning DVDs ever. He is working on numerous restorations including the original Star Wars.

What I found fascinating about the article is that there is no mention of HD-DVD. With a top flight transfer, the current DVD format is capable of amazing things.

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#2 of 55 Patrick McCart

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Posted April 17 2004 - 06:44 PM

Fantastic.

The 2K restorations I've seen from LDI (Singin' in the Rain, Sunset Blvd, Adventures of Robin Hood, and supposedly Alice in Wonderland) look fantastic... who knows how nice the 4K ones will look?

What I love about their switch to 4K is that it's more than enough for normal films to be output back to film. (Of course, ONLY if they do, in fact, transfer back to 35mm. Large format probably needs 6K like Mr. Harris' restoration of the Williamsburg film, and THAT is specifically meant for film...not a disc.)


I do wish those 80 titles would be revealed, though. We only know about half of them.

#3 of 55 Cees Alons

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Posted April 17 2004 - 09:01 PM

Quote:
What I love about their switch to 4K is that it's more than enough for normal films to be output back to film.
"More than" enough is a bit strong, but in principle true. However there's another resolution: the grayscale and colour resolution (8 bit per colour) that may still be lacking. It's more than enough for DVD, but for full preservation, it might be just not enough yet.

I can't read that article (not wanting to register there), but I know John Lowry's work is very interesting indeed and the titles mentioned only increase one's curiosity and hopeful expectations!


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#4 of 55 Anthony Clifton

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Posted April 18 2004 - 12:04 AM

Quote:
including the original Star Wars.

So there's a chance we'll see the real (i.e. non-SE) Star Wars trilogy on DVD?

#5 of 55 Stephen Brooks

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Posted April 18 2004 - 12:47 AM

You'll see the original Star Wars on DVD when womp-rats fly.

They're taking the same approach as was done to THX-1138....the original film elements are being restored digitally, and then digital effects and new footage are being added, and the finished master is considered the "final" version of the film. Basically, they're doing a "digital intermediate" step on a film that did not previously have one.
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#6 of 55 Anthony Clifton

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Posted April 18 2004 - 01:27 AM

Yeah, that's what I figured. I'll stick with what I already own.

#7 of 55 Dennis Nicholls

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Posted April 18 2004 - 06:48 AM

Quote:
there is no mention of HD-DVD


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It's discussed in the article, page 2.
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#8 of 55 Ted Todorov

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Posted April 18 2004 - 07:34 AM

Quote:
It's discussed in the article, page 2.
From the article:
Quote:
Some time in the next decade, though, DVD's will probably be supplanted by high-definition DVD's.
That's it -- the only HD-DVD mention coming not from Lowry, but the article author, in passing along with mentioning other possible future technologies.

The point of the article is how much better current, not HD, DVDs look after using Lowry's restoration techniques. And my point is that the thing that will determine how good a DVD is is mainly the quality of the transfer work, not whether the medium is DVD or HD-DVD. A bad Fox-Lorber quality transfer on HD-DVD is stil going to look like shit, even more vivdly than before. Garbage in, garbage out. Gold in, gold out.

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#9 of 55 Seth--L

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Posted April 18 2004 - 08:24 AM

By his own admission, his restoration of "Citizen Kane" is too clean; the natural grain of film is gone; it looks like a video. He later figured out how to fix flaws while preserving grain.)


I guess it's only a matter of time until we get an improved version on Kane.
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#10 of 55 Joseph Bolus

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Posted April 18 2004 - 08:34 AM

I would *love* to see 4K DVD reissues of the following movies:

* Wizard of Oz
* Patton
* The Sound of Music

Since I'm not registered at that site, could somebody please tell me if any of these films are mentioned in the article? Thanks!
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#11 of 55 ZacharyTait

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Posted April 18 2004 - 09:02 AM

The titles mentioned in the article are:

You Only Live Twice
8 other Bonds (all 6 that Connery did are part of the 9 Bonds being worked on)
Gone with the Wind (Not sure if this refers to the DVD currently out)
Now Voyager
North by Northwest (Not sure if this refers to the DVD currently out)
Star Wars Trilogy

Already out on DVD, but mentioned in the article:
Casablanca
Singin' in the Rain
Once Upon a Time in the West
Citizen Kane

Since he started this, John Lowry and Co. have worked on 80 DVDs. If someone can post a list of what has been released so far, I'm sure everyone will appreciate it.

#12 of 55 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted April 18 2004 - 09:19 AM

Quote:
That's it -- the only HD-DVD mention coming not from Lowry, but the article author, in passing along with mentioning other possible future technologies.
See:
Quote:
Unlike film, it won't fade; and as video technology improves — as its resolution becomes higher and higher — there will be no need to make new masters; 4K is high enough to accommodate the changes.

"We're making an archive — for DVD, film, digital cinema, HDTV, TV, whatever — that will last the next two or three generations of technology," Mr. Lowry said.



As for color depth, I did a bit of digging on Lowry's scanner and found the following:
Quote:
The IMAGER XE®, designed as a true scanner, scans 4096 pixels across a 35mm Academy frame and provides true bit depth of Cineon 10-bit with a full RGB color space (14bit A/D), as well as consistent color and density, frame after frame. It scans 4 seconds/frame for 2K and 8 seconds/frame for 4K resolution. In addition to 35mm, the IMAGER XE® also supports 16mm and Super 16.


#13 of 55 oscar_merkx

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Posted April 18 2004 - 10:48 AM

great article and I would also love to know more about the titles that are out on dvd

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#14 of 55 Robert Harris

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Posted April 18 2004 - 11:21 AM

A few points of illumination...

Older films do not necessarily have more than 2k information, and especially not when one goes down a generation.

The Bond films should not be affected by fade except in effect shots, as even the earliest was photographed on Eastman 5250.

"Restoration" is still generally considered to encompass preservation on film.

I have very little faith in digital "archiving," whatever that is. It is quite possible that unlike the period from the late 1820s through the end of the last century, which is quite well represented in both still and moving images, that a hundred or more years from now, what we call the 21st century will be all but unknown in visual terms as no one will be able to "archive" or play back the multitude of images which have captured that century.

There is a great deal of work to be done until anyone can take an informed position and "guarantee" that digital media will survive.

While LDI does a fine job much of the time in making cleaner and steadier images for DVD, they are not yet doing actual film restoration.

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#15 of 55 GlennH

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Posted April 18 2004 - 11:34 AM

Clearly there is a need for both continued physical film restoration and preservation and the kind of work that Mr. Lowry's company is doing.

The less times the original physical elements have to be scanned and manipulated, the better. If a 4K digital archive of a restored or pristine new film element can be securely maintained and reused as a video source for many years, without a need to resort to the original elements repeatedly, I say that's great.

#16 of 55 Joshua Clinard

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Posted April 18 2004 - 12:30 PM

I say that digital restorations are better than physical restorations. Film only lasts so long. Digital data can last forever, as long as backups are made, and as long as the equipment to play the films on still exist. If a real restoration is done, but not transferred to a digital format, that restoration will not last forever. I hope Lowry continues to restore more films. Of course that's not to say that film restoration shouldn't be done. It should, but it should happen in addition to digital restoration, not in place of it.

#17 of 55 Kevin_H

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Posted April 18 2004 - 12:55 PM

they are not yet doing actual film restoration.


If Lowry were too take his cleaned up digital masters at 4K and scanned it back onto film is it then considered film restoration?

#18 of 55 Kevin_H

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Posted April 18 2004 - 12:58 PM

Studios frequently use 4K scanners for computer animation and special effects, but few have even considered 4K-scanning of entire movies for DVD. It's an expensive operation.


Aren't the LORD OF THE RINGS movies and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST scannned in and digitally color timed?

#19 of 55 Brian W.

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Posted April 18 2004 - 01:42 PM

Quote:
Robert Harris: It is quite possible that... a hundred or more years from now, what we call the 21st century will be all but unknown in visual terms as no one will be able to "archive" or play back the multitude of images which have captured that century.

Joshua Clinard: Digital data can last forever, as long as backups are made, and as long as the equipment to play the films on still exist.


Amen, Robert. I've read articles stating that this same issue is haunting the music industry right now, today.

The problem they've found, over 20 years into the digital audio age: DIGITAL TAPE DETERIORATES FASTER THAN ANALOG TAPE. It's thinner, it's flimsier, and less forgiving of damage. I've read there are albums from the early eighties that were recorded digitally, and the master tapes are barely playable now. In some cases, for CD reissues of digitally-recorded LPs, they have had to use ANALOG safety masters that were made at the time, because the digital copies are now unplayable. Contrast that with some late forties analog recordings which are in lovely shape.

See, with an analog tape recording, if there's damage to a section, you might be able to play "around" the damaged part by only using, say, the left half of the tape. If not, well, at least you could probably get SOME sound out of it. With digital tape, a damaged section is GONE.

In the mid-eighties, there was one major music label that actually THREW OUT the original analog masters of some catalog albums because they had been transferred to digital tape for CD release. Eventually someone realized the stupidity of it before too many tapes were destroyed, but what a tragedy.

I hope this sort of thing doesn't happen in the film industry.

#20 of 55 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted April 18 2004 - 03:00 PM

Indeed, there should always be multiple backups on a multitude of media.

I'm not quite sure of the costs, but it would make since that now Lowry's working in the 4k realm (as opposed to PAL resolution for Citizen Kane and before) it would make since to print off a print that they've restored and store it in ADDITION to the original negative. And then keep the digital copy on tape or several harddrives.

What I find most fascinating is that the longer Lowry's in this game, the way his stance evolves. For instance, back when he thought grain was the enemy, and now works to maintain a certain level of it.

He's still not perfect though, his work varies widely depending on the hand that's guiding him.



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