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New restoration brings movie classics to life


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#1 of 29 Andrew Budgell

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Posted January 03 2007 - 03:58 AM

New restoration brings movie classics to life
By Carly Mayberry
Wed Jan 3, 2:18 AM ET

When watching the DVD re-release of "Gone With the Wind," what once appeared as simply a green cloth shawl worn by Vivien Leigh is revealed as a garment of dark emerald velvet so rich it beckons touching.

Similarly, in the 1939 film's opening scene, while Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara rambles on about the tedium of war, the white bodice of her dress now displays precise lace patterns and threads.

Likewise, when Errol Flynn rides horseback into Sherwood Forest in 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood," the detailed pattern embedded on his and other soldiers' armor is so vivid that the number of small metal rings can be counted.

These elements have been made clearly visible through a patented technology created by Warner Bros. in collaboration with AOL. The process involves digitally realigning and sharpening the older film negatives of these classic movies shot on Technicolor three-strip film.

Known as Ultra Resolution, the technique has been nominated this year for a Scientific and Technical Academy Award and has restored films in the studio's vast library including "Singing In the Rain," "The Searchers" and "The Wizard of Oz" -- prints that over time have suffered blurring or "color fringing" as well as shrinkage, stretching and other damage.

It was while observing a projected picture of "Wind" during some digital scanning that Chris Cookson, president, Warner Bros. Technical Operations and chief technology officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment, says he was inspired. He noticed a frame five pixels out of alignment and knew the resolution could be improved if somehow all the sharp edges could just be better matched.

"The purpose of Technicolor was to make color, not precise images," said Cookson, explaining that the Technicolor process used in the 1930s and '40s involved stacking together each frame of a negative to produce a full color print. "In a sense, we're mining the film and audio elements that have been sitting on these prints all these years."

The restoration process got a helping hand from the otherwise disastrous 2001 takeover of the studio's Time Warner parent by America Online. Two sisters who serve as heads of research and development at AOL, Keren and Sharon Perlmutter devised an algorithm to analyze each square block of a frame, detecting the edges of each original color record and adjusting the color alignment accordingly.

Although Warner Bros. holds four patents on the technology with additional ones pending, the studio has shared the technique with other studios, recently being used to create a new negative for damaged scenes in Paramount's "Chinatown."

Cookson, who points to the fact that the technology can also be used to build a new negative rather than just restoring one, recounted the reaction of "Singing" director Stanley Donen when he was shown the digitally restored version of his 1952 film.

"It looks like it did that day on the stage," Cookson recalled Donen saying.

For Cookson and those who worked tirelessly on the restoration of some of history's most classic films, the ultimate beneficiary is the film consumer.

"It not only benefits Warner Bros. and the industry at large, it benefits the movies themselves and the people who love them."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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#2 of 29 Lord Dalek

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Posted January 03 2007 - 04:10 AM

You have to wonder why Criterion hasn't tried to develop their own version to fix all those registration problems on their Henry V dvd.

#3 of 29 Michael DK

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Posted January 03 2007 - 04:40 AM

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it is pretty amazing; on the other hand, it is altering the film from how it was originally presented and smacks of Lucasism ("This is how it was envisioned, the technology just wasn't there!").

#4 of 29 mike kaminski

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Posted January 03 2007 - 04:44 AM

so wait, does this mean a Chinatown SE is on the way? Posted Image

#5 of 29 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:00 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael DK
I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it is pretty amazing; on the other hand, it is altering the film from how it was originally presented and smacks of Lucasism ("This is how it was envisioned, the technology just wasn't there!").
That's not a great analogy. They are extracting more detail from the three strip negative than was previously possible through photo-chemical means. Heck, by the strictest standards, any non-film presentation is altering the film from how it was originally presented. When they digitally alter the placement of Debbie Reynold's feet for a more perfect dance performance, then you can draw your George Lucas analogy.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#6 of 29 Chuck Pennington

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:02 AM

Oh, I don't think it is revisionism at all - it is used to correct differential shrinkage that occurs over the years. This process puts the three negatives into proper alignment again. Now, when color and contrast and all that is significantly altered... Well...

#7 of 29 John Hodson

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:09 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike kaminski
so wait, does this mean a Chinatown SE is on the way? Posted Image

Please, dear God, please.
So many films, so little time...
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#8 of 29 Adrian_B

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:13 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
That's not a great analogy. They are extracting more detail from the three strip negative than was previously possible through photo-chemical means. Heck, by the strictest standards, any non-film presentation is altering the film from how it was originally presented. When they digitally alter the placement of Debbie Reynold's feet for a more perfect dance performance, then you can draw your George Lucas analogy.

Regards,


Well said.

It also seems that each time a person printed (or scanned) these films from original negatives it would always yield slightly different results in registration. Its hard for me to believe that there are naysayers to this practice.

I wish the article would have said something about films currently slated to receive ultra-resolution treatment. Quo Vadis, anyone?

A.L.B.

#9 of 29 Andrew Budgell

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:28 AM

I think RAINTREE COUNTY is also in the works!

Andy

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#10 of 29 John Hodson

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Posted January 03 2007 - 05:53 AM

I'm aware that some of the matters raised have been discussed in this very forum, but I was slightly astonished to read this article at DVD Beaver, which seems to have issues with at least some aspects of one Ultra Resolution transfer.
So many films, so little time...
Film Journal Blog
Lt. Col. Thursday: Beaufort; no preliminary nonsense with him, no ceremonial phrasing. Straight from the shoulder as I tell you, do you hear me? They're recalcitrant swine and they must feel it...


#11 of 29 Corey

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Posted January 03 2007 - 06:15 AM

An American in Paris and Quo Vadis is in the works too. Posted Image
Corey's most wanted R1 dvds:

Little Darlings (1980), My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Deep Blue Sea (1955), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), Born to Be Bad (1950), Ivy (1947), Reckless (1935), Springtime in the Rockies (1942), The Barretts of Wimpole Street

#12 of 29 Matt Hough

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Posted January 03 2007 - 09:24 AM

And isn't SHOW BOAT (1951) getting the Ultra Resolution treatment for its inclusion in the boxed set of SHOW BOAT films? If it isn't, it should be!

#13 of 29 AlexNoir

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Posted January 03 2007 - 09:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hodson
Please, dear God, please.

Thirding.
"Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Tell me, would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money...or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to...

#14 of 29 Corey

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Posted January 03 2007 - 09:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
And isn't SHOW BOAT (1951) getting the Ultra Resolution treatment for its inclusion in the boxed set of SHOW BOAT films? If it isn't, it should be!

didn't know about that one...i hope so
Corey's most wanted R1 dvds:

Little Darlings (1980), My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Deep Blue Sea (1955), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), Born to Be Bad (1950), Ivy (1947), Reckless (1935), Springtime in the Rockies (1942), The Barretts of Wimpole Street

#15 of 29 Will Krupp

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Posted January 03 2007 - 10:56 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hodson
I'm aware that some of the matters raised have been discussed in this very forum, but I was slightly astonished to read this article at DVD Beaver, which seems to have issues with at least some aspects of one Ultra Resolution transfer.

Yet somebody else perpetuating the erroneous "stencil printing" myth....grrr

#16 of 29 Charles H

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Posted January 04 2007 - 01:54 AM

Is THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948) getting the Ultra Resolution treatment? All of George Sidney's Technicolor films (SCARAMOUCHE, THOUSANDS CHEER, THE HARVEY GIRLS, ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, BATHING BEAUTY, YOUNG BESS, JUPITER'S DARLING, ANCHORS AWEIGH, HOLIDAY IN MEXICO, SHOW BOAT) represent Technicolor at its best and I think that THE THREE MUSKETEERS with an amazing all-star cast remains the best version of Dumas's classic.
Charles Hoyt

#17 of 29 Paul_Nyman

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Posted January 04 2007 - 07:56 AM

Warner clearly is putting quality first and formeost in everything they do! To think that the technology has allowed us all to enjoy these great films and boxsets, who would have believed 5 years ago it was possible to get such detail from the film elements. Let's just hope that the other studios one of these days use the same the Warner quality as a template in our interest.

#18 of 29 MielR

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Posted January 04 2007 - 11:34 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Will Krupp
Yet somebody else perpetuating the erroneous "stencil printing" myth....grrr
What is 'stencil printing', exactly? I was under the impression that the interior house/door-opening scene was full Technicolor, but they made sure the lighting was so dim inside the house that the colors were muted compared to the exterior Munchkinland doorway view..?
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#19 of 29 MatthewA

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Posted January 04 2007 - 03:14 PM

It is too bad that Technicolor ditched the neo-Dye transfer printing process, and we can't see the Ultra-Rez films printed that way.

#20 of 29 ScottR

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Posted January 04 2007 - 04:16 PM

The Oz article does make a good point about the mono track..it needs to be corrected, with Dorothy's line reinstated. I thought that the original prints featured the inside of the door painted sepia AS WELL AS stencil printing. Robert Harris says that in every original print of the film that he has seen, the inside of the door was Technicolor with sepia painted walls, but no stencil printing.


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