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Robert Harris on The Bits - 7/17/02 column - OFFICIAL THREAD


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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Bill Hunt

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Posted July 17 2002 - 11:29 AM

Robert Harris' regular column on The Digital Bits this week covers a lot of ground, from Vinegar Syndrome and film grain to digital restoration and aspect ratios.

Vinegar Syndrome is a Gas, Gas, Gas

So click on the link to read Robert's comments and come on back here to discuss the topic, provide feedback, ask a question of Robert and ruminate as you please.

Enjoy!
Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits
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billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted July 17 2002 - 01:29 PM

Again, great article.

I recieved some old drive-in 35mm "headers" which were for trailers (Like "Coming soon" and "On Monday") and they're in poor condition.

The Eastmancolor bits are yellowed, brittle, and red. They also stink. I had to put them away since they smelled like rotten eggs. On the other hand, the B&W safety bits are in great shape. The film is still in great condition.

Oddly enough, also in the assorted nuts box were a 1 foot section of Aliens (torn by projector) and the reel 1 header for The Black Cauldron.

Is there any reason why the B&W safety film pieces would not be as yellowed and rotten as the Eastmancolor pieces?

#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Joseph Goodman

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Posted July 17 2002 - 02:42 PM

I remember my first encounter with VS... I was viewing a print at the Library of Congress, and it got progressively worse with each real. The first reel had merely a touch of vinegar, but by sixth (final) reel I was ready to pass out! That's to say nothing of having to "ride" the focus knob because of the film warpage, and it goes without saying that the film was beet red as well! At least it wasn't a truly rare title (just one not commercially available).

#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted July 17 2002 - 06:22 PM

Another outstanding article, I enjoyed it very much and learned a great deal as well.

a few questions

were any films ever shot in 70 mm? you mentioned 65 mm as the ratio that provides 2.21 flat and 2.76 anamorphic, but is 70 mm ever used for shooting, or is it just to double (or is it quadruple, an area thing?) prints of a regular 35 mm film for larger screens.

You mentioned How Green Was my valley (one of my favorites!) and it certainly has a beautiful restoration, but near the very end when Huw is pushing a cart in the mine noticible scratches and dirt appear, it's the only time I noticed any sort of damage in the film transfer and have always wondered if that was because a different generation was duped in at that point; if there was no negative or high quality elements for those few sections and they had to make do with what they could get? I agree completely with you on the treatment of best picture winners on dvd. I only wish the dvd of how Green was my Valley had gotten better special edition treatment, I would have loved a retrospective comparing the best picture winner to the other films of 1941 (one of the greatest years ever in film), a commentary by a film scholar, preferably with a John Ford bent. A feature comparing the styles of Arthur Miller and Gregg Toland working under John Ford would have been spectacular, a feature on the place of this film in the John Ford pantheon (his only best picture winner, yet one of four for which he recieved best director) and since this dvd was produced two or more years ago Roddie Mcdowell was available for features and commentary, but sadly nothing was made of this oppurtunity. Even if nothing this lavish were done, something along the lines of MGM's special edition of Some Like it Hot would have been much appreciated.

Something similarly peculair, but more dramatic than How Green Was my Valley, happens on disney's set of the Davy Crockett series, at some point in (I believe) the first episode, the film drops into sepia and the sound completely drops out, it is very puzzling and I was wondering if you could shed some light on this situation?

Thanks for your time and the wonderful articles

Adam
 

#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Werner_R

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Posted July 18 2002 - 12:07 AM

Another excellent article and again I learned a great deal, thank you Mr. Harris
How about a listing of your favorite films since you make some good suggestions for movie lovers ?

#6 of 20 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted July 18 2002 - 12:32 AM

Mr Harris

Once again thank you for a wonderful job well done.

It is always great to read these article about film preservation and the titles of great movies that are mentioned, meaning that I have purchased already quite a few John Ford movies like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and the Iron Horse. That means How Green was My Valley will be third dvd I will purchase.

Vinegar Syndrome is absolutely interesting to learn how this is affecting movie preservation. Thanks again for this article.

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#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted July 18 2002 - 01:52 AM

Re: Adam S's comments...

I believe that some of the large format Russian productions may have been shot on 70mm stock, probably ORWO, but not certain.

70mm yields an image of approx. twice the width and 25% greater in height in its normal specs. Special event films can be 70/8 perf or sometimes 10, 12 or 15 perf, which is the IMAX format. IMAX runs horizontally like VistaVision.

How Green Was My Valley was a film in dire straights.

I believe the restoration was performed jointly by the Academy, UCLA Robert Gitt and Fox's Schwan Belston, with lab work provided by Triage. As I understand the facts, there is no original negative and only partial fine grain material, the rest being taken from release prints, hence the damage. Belston had Paul Rutan of Triage use Eastman separation stock 2238 for purposes other than meant to provide a preservation dupe which held the depth of the shadow detail available in the original.

I'm not certain that Roddy was still with us when the dvd was produced, but his loss certainly points up the need for a continued archive bank of artist interviews from all phases of the industry.

Your comments re: a comparison of cinematographic style within the films of John Ford could be used for almost any of the more prolific filmmakers. This would only really work if the film are owned by the same copyright holder as licensing can become hazardous to one's health and pocketbook. The wonderful documentary Visions of Light was able to be produced as it was done as an industry project. I believe its available fro Kino Home Video.

Re: Davy Crockett...

I believe the dvd goes to black and white (sepia) because the titles weren't shot on color stock. The productions were made for black and white television. The release looks amazing good on dvd as the original should be showing a deal of fade.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#8 of 20 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted July 18 2002 - 02:11 AM

Is vinegar syndrome always associated with yellowing of film?

I have some yellowed Eastman filmstrips which are yellowed and faded to red, but there isn't any noticable vinegar smell. Then again, I have some yellowed Eastman filmstrips which are not quite as red faded (have a tiny bit of color still left), but smell awful.

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted July 18 2002 - 02:19 AM

VS has nothing to do with color fading, or whether a film is on black and white or color stock. Although it can exacerbate the fading problem.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#10 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 18 2002 - 03:28 AM

The sepia sequences in the middle of the Davy Crocket episodes were due to lack of available color elements. I'm sure they were tinted sepia to make the transition from color to monochromatic less jarring than it would have been in greyscale.

As mentioned it was shot in color for B&W television. In addition, the five episodes were later edited into two color feature films. Apparently, the color negatives went missing for a few scenes from the TV series. Whether this had anything to do with the editing for the films, I don't really know. I'm pretty sure that none of the sepia scenes were part of the feature films, though.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted July 18 2002 - 04:28 AM

Once again a great overview of the subject, RAH. Kudos to you (and Bill Hunt for publishing it).
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#12 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted July 19 2002 - 04:22 AM

Thanks for the fantastic article, Robert.

Keep 'em coming...we appreciate them!
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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Darren Gross

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Posted July 26 2002 - 12:13 PM

Hi Robert.

An excellent edition of the new new column.

I had a couple of questions regarding some restoration work. In a past interview, you mentioned that you don't use any rejuvenation chemicals in your restoration projects. With that terrible chemical that helped erode THE ALAMO, I don't blame you. How do you feel about ultrasonic cleaning and wetgate printing as those also involve chemical contact with print and negative material?

Also, on the 1998 MY FAIR LADY commentary, you mentioned upcoming bogus restorations that would have gone against the late director's wishes. What were these?

What is going to make the ALAMO and MAD WORLD insoluble by mid next year- advanced vinegar syndrome or some other factor? While MGM doesn't seem willing to put up the $M required, might they put up enough to make preliminary duplicates and preservation material for the post problematic sections, thereby leaving out b & w protection masters, digital print work and fully timed answer prints to some later date?

Clearly, it's imperfect and would only be a stopgap measure, but it sounds like a gap that needs to be stopped. This would at least provide the option of further work down the line, should Texas investors or the studio climate change.

Best of luck, as always.

D

#14 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 29 2002 - 01:32 AM

Quote:
Also, on the 1998 MY FAIR LADY commentary, you mentioned upcoming bogus restorations that would have gone against the late director's wishes. What were these?
I think the most egregious example at the time was "The Wizard of Oz" where Warner was seriously considering including the Busby Berkeley extended Scarecrow Dance in the body of the film proper. Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. Leonard Maltin was also one of the voices raised in protest at this idea. I'll bet a nickel that this was what Robert had in mind. Kudos to WB for coming to the right conclusion on that issue.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
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#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted July 30 2002 - 06:15 AM

Quote:
I think the most egregious example at the time was "The Wizard of Oz" where Warner was seriously considering including the Busby Berkeley extended Scarecrow Dance in the body of the film proper.

That being said, was Oz cut from the premire version to the existing version by the filmmakers or was it a studio-imposed "shortening?"

I liked the Scarecrow dance scene, but would it really mess up the flow terribly?

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted July 30 2002 - 06:37 AM

As far as I know, it was cut before any public showing (other than maybe a sneak preview or two), so it was never part of any officially released version of the film. I believe the creators cut the scene because it was felt that it was an unnecessary bit of "slapstick". I agree with them.

Quote:
I liked the Scarecrow dance scene, but would it really mess up the flow terribly?
Yes, it brings the film to a dead stop because it goes on way too long.
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#17 of 20 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 30 2002 - 07:11 AM

There were also pacing concerns due to the amount of screen time the Scarecrow got in his featured number versus the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#18 of 20 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted July 30 2002 - 01:27 PM

I've realized after receiving a few emails that descriptions of what aspect ratios are doesn't really answer the question.

Therefore, to those who have contacted me, I'll make arrangement to scan and post on Bits -- it can be linked to HTF -- a proper aspect ratio chart as used by the optical houses.

After studying this chart, the concept of the difference between 1.66, 1.75, etc may make a bit more sense.

We're talking (in video language) just several lines of information difference between some ARs.

As things have been a bit busy, I have not been able to put together a column or update, but we'll get that chart posted for further discussion in the meantime.

With thanks to those who have brought this to my attention.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Gordon McMurphy

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Posted August 04 2002 - 11:07 PM

"Talkin' Technicality Blues" Posted Image

Uh... our dear friend, Doug Trumbull initially used 70mm (technically Posted Image) for ShowScan. He needed really strong 65mm, but none was available back in... 198? so he had to acquire heavy duty 70mm and... trim off the 5mm using some doohicky to get his 65mm! ShowScan: 60fps, 65mm, 2.21:1. Superb camera system

The glorious first widescreen revolution (1928-1933?) included shooting on a 70mm negative. The Bat Whispers is on DVD in 2.13:1 - the true ratio of original 70mm. Not sure what the transfer is like though.

Thanks for reading.

Gordo

#20 of 20 OFFLINE   John P Grosskopf

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Posted August 07 2002 - 04:52 PM

Quote:
I suppose you really can't blame them,
as such cost and effort and should naturally take
priority with other types of titles.


Are you kidding? Sometimes I think the blame game is the national sport of the HTF!Posted Image


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