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How can digital restorations fade?


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#1 of 68 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 01 2007 - 09:30 PM

I just read an article in this weekend's (November 30, Dec 1) Daily Variety regarding classic Hollywood films needing better care. Several examples were cited, including someone actually stepping on the print of Rosemary's Baby in the vault because the can had opened and the film had spooled onto the floor.

The article mentions Ridley Scott finding that the digital restoration of Blade Runner was "already fading". How in the heck is this possible? I can understand film itself fading - but how does a digital copy on DVD fade? I had thought the Lowry restorations of the Bond films and Star Wars and the rest were all transfers from film to digital files one frame at a time, with a cleanup being performed on the large file, not the negative.

Can anyone explain this?

#2 of 68 OFFLINE   Chad R

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Posted December 02 2007 - 01:32 AM

I read the same article and wondered the exact same thing. The only thing I can think of is how the digital files were stored, like on magnetic tape, and that's not holding up well either.

But if someone like Robert Harris could explain it that would be ideal.

#3 of 68 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted December 02 2007 - 04:22 AM

Is there a link? I'm interested to read it.

#4 of 68 OFFLINE   Jack Theakston

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Posted December 02 2007 - 04:27 AM

Full article is here: http://www.variety.c....ryid=2520&cs=1

First off, the story about ROSEMARY'S BABY sounds extremely apocryphal to me. I don't even know how something like that is physically possible (there's no reason it would have been spooled on the floor, for one).

I don't think Ridley Scott literally means fading in the way film does. I think what he is saying is that the digital medium is "fading out of immediacy" or some such thing. Digital is NOT permanent, as everyone thought it was ten years ago.

You can transfer a digital record unaltered to another (in theory, at least), but the fact of the matter remains that the information must be stored on something here in the real world. And as many people here can attest to, recording media these days like DVD-Rs aren't exactly the life-long guaranteed format we were promised when they first came out.
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#5 of 68 OFFLINE   Jon Lidolt

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Posted December 02 2007 - 04:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin EK
I just read an article in this weekend's (November 30, Dec 1) Daily Variety regarding classic Hollywood films needing better care. Several examples were cited, including someone actually stepping on the print of Rosemary's Baby in the vault because the can had opened and the film had spooled onto the floor.

The article mentions Ridley Scott finding that the digital restoration of Blade Runner was "already fading". How in the heck is this possible? I can understand film itself fading - but how does a digital copy on DVD fade? I had thought the Lowry restorations of the Bond films and Star Wars and the rest were all transfers from film to digital files one frame at a time, with a cleanup being performed on the large file, not the negative.

Can anyone explain this?
Maybe Scott was referring the original camera negatives as having begun to fade and not the new digital files. It must have been a helluva job producing such a good looking version of his film from those zillions of feet of old 35mm film.

#6 of 68 OFFLINE   Leo Kerr

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Posted December 02 2007 - 05:11 AM

Aside: I'm sure someone'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought Blade Runner was shot 65mm. At least a number of the effects sequences were, but I had the impression most of it was.

#7 of 68 OFFLINE   Jon Lidolt

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Posted December 02 2007 - 05:28 AM

Live action footage was all shot in 35mm anamorphic. The effects were shot in 65mm spherical so that when the film elements were composited on an optical printer the resultant image wasn't overly grainy looking.

#8 of 68 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted December 02 2007 - 05:57 AM

I read the article. It means that some of the storage medium that contain digital files are degrading faster than film. Completely understandable, like a DVD-R that you burned 5 years ago and can't read it again!

#9 of 68 OFFLINE   Jon Lidolt

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Posted December 02 2007 - 06:04 AM

I know it's being nit-picky, but wouldn't that be a corrupted file? Not a faded image as we know it on film.

#10 of 68 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted December 02 2007 - 06:17 AM

Scott just used a poor choice of words. The data isn't really "corrupted" though in a sense, it is "fading", just not in the same sense as film fades. In the end, digital isn't that much different from film. It is still subject to the stability of the media it is stored on.

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#11 of 68 OFFLINE   Jon Lidolt

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Posted December 02 2007 - 06:37 AM

Good point!

#12 of 68 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 02 2007 - 08:14 AM

I would really be interested in Robert Harris' take on this.

I still don't understand how a DVD commercial copy that I have, say, of the digitally restored and remastered The Wizard of Oz is going to to degrade. The movie is a collection of files on the disc. The player reads the files and outputs the video and the sound. I have heard stories of people being scared that CDs were going to come apart due to the glue that holds them together (and that still hasn't happened with anything I have), but never that the files on the discs would somehow degrade. I have plenty of DVD-Rs that work fine, along with DVDs of 10 years back that look the same now as they did when I first got them. (In several cases, I have upgraded because they weren't anamorphic, but I haven't noted discs suddenly having corrupted files)

I had thought a big part of the idea of a good DVD restoration and remastering is that you're making a permanent record of what the director and DP, etc, wanted you to see in the film. (At least that's what William Friedkin says on the To Live & Die in LA commentary...

#13 of 68 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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Posted December 02 2007 - 09:44 AM

Kevin, I don't understand why you ask this. It's simple. The media is degrading and they can not read the files. We are not talking about a DVD commercial copy. The medium they store the data could be magnetic like VHS. (like D-VHS)

Your DVD commercial copy could also be damaged and stop working.

#14 of 68 OFFLINE   PaulP

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Posted December 02 2007 - 10:22 AM

Aren't digital film files stored on harddrives withing big arrays?

#15 of 68 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted December 02 2007 - 11:46 AM

This Variety article is similar to an article that ran in Billboard magazine some years back. Record companies are finding that music that was digitally recorded in the 80s/90s is not standing the test of time as well as music recorded on tape 50/60 years ago. Corrupt media, incompatible technology, etc. have all wreaked havoc on these "modern" catalogs.

Hopefully a solution will be found. I would hate to think that we've outsmarted ourselves with regards to long term preservation of our cultural heritage.
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#16 of 68 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted December 02 2007 - 12:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulP
Aren't digital film files stored on harddrives withing big arrays?
I'm guessing due to the enormous amount of data they are stored on tape.

I also would like to hear what Robert Harris has to say.

An early poster commented on restored movies being stored in archives on DVD, which I am quite certain is not what the article is talking about.

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#17 of 68 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted December 02 2007 - 12:35 PM

If you need some input into what preservation really is, watch Keepers of the Frame. It doesn't cover digital, but that's fine since you can't preserve films digitally anyways.

#18 of 68 OFFLINE   MielR

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Posted December 02 2007 - 01:01 PM

I think the general consensus is that digital restoration is fine, but there should always be a hard copy (film print) made afterwards or it won't be a true preservation (preferably a dye-transfer print to prevent color fading). Expensive, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick McCart
If you need some input into what preservation really is, watch Keepers of the Frame.
That's an excellent documentary.
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#19 of 68 OFFLINE   Jon Lidolt

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Posted December 03 2007 - 03:23 AM

Dye transfer prints are no longer made and even if they were, transfers to digital media are not satisfactory. The copies made from dye transfer materials are very contrasty. The solution is as old as color negative film itself - make black and white separations. These can, in turn, be used to generate a new set of printing materials.

#20 of 68 OFFLINE   Doug Otte

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Posted December 03 2007 - 03:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Theakston
...First off, the story about ROSEMARY'S BABY sounds extremely apocryphal to me. I don't even know how something like that is physically possible (there's no reason it would have been spooled on the floor, for one)...

What a coincidence. I was just reading Inside Star Trek. Justman and Solow wrote a paragraph or so about the editors of the series, one of whom was a perfectionist. When he got frustrated, he'd accidentally unspool some of the film onto the floor and step on it. When they viewed the rough cuts in dailies, they'd see footprints on some frames.

So, it is possible.

Doug


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