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Robert Harris on The Bits - 11/15 Special column - OFFICIAL THREAD


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#1 of 25 OFFLINE   Bill Hunt

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Posted November 14 2002 - 09:37 PM

Robert Harris has checked in with a special column today in addition to his regular work at The Digital Bits. In it, he takes a close look at Paramount's recent efforts to save one of their dearest cinematic classics - a true piece of studio history on film, which is about to be released on DVD.

Saving Sunset

As always, click on the link to read Robert's comments and then come on back here to this official thread at the HTF to discuss as you will. Enjoy!
Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits
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billhunt@thedigitalbits.com

#2 of 25 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted November 14 2002 - 09:49 PM

Great review RAH, I'll be getting my dvd this morning and will post my thoughts later this afternoon.




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#3 of 25 OFFLINE   Gordon McMurphy

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Posted November 14 2002 - 09:57 PM

Thanks for your insight on this exciting release, Bob!

I can't wait to see for myself!


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#4 of 25 OFFLINE   Joe Caps

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Posted November 14 2002 - 11:19 PM

Robert, since you mention all the esential elements needed for Sunset boulevard are gone- what was the source of the transfer. I was also told years ago, that the original negative (or whatever) that Paramount has for Roman Holiday is missing all of the opticals (fades etc)and had to be recreated - how do they do this for the dvd - were new film opticals made for Roman Holiday or are they video opticals?

#5 of 25 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 14 2002 - 11:25 PM

The source elements for both were dupe negatives or dupe dupe fine grains.

All opticals would be inclusive and built into the original fine grains.

I do seem to recall something about the opticals in Sunset being safety with the production footage nitrate.

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


#6 of 25 OFFLINE   PaulEB

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Posted November 15 2002 - 12:38 AM

Thank you Mr. Harris for giving Sunset the attention it deserves. I saw Sunset Boulevard at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA a few months ago and saw firsthand the poor condition of the film. I am glad Paramount did all it could to produce a high quality DVD. Was there any attempt that you know of to get Billy Wilder involved before his passing to do a commentary? I was also hoping to see Cameron Crowe involved since he was such a big fan of Mr. Wilder.

#7 of 25 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted November 15 2002 - 01:07 AM

Thanks again for another article filled with great insight. It should be required reading for everyone who says "Why don't they just go back to the negative and make a new print?"
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#8 of 25 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner

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Posted November 15 2002 - 02:37 AM

Mr. Harris, you said you compared the new print of Sunset
Boulevard with one made from the negative 50 years ago.
Why is it not an option to restore the film from the best
surviving original prints? After all you need a positive
element for projection, these prints are only one generation
away from the best source, and scratches etc. can be
removed digitally. The prints are more contrasty than the
negatives, but who cares if it looks better than new prints
made from restored negatives at least two generations
further removed from the source. Were stocks and printers
so much worse back then that today 4th generation looks
better than second generation 50 years ago? And the dupes
and IPs were made back then too, or not?
cheers
Michel Hafner

#9 of 25 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 15 2002 - 02:56 AM

As I've said, there are a number of ways to proceed.

This was the way that Paramount wanted to go.

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 25 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:13 AM

Thanks very much Robert. This is very good news indeed.
¡Time is not my master!

#11 of 25 OFFLINE   DeeF

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:48 AM

Mr. Harris:

Thanks for your explicit description of the "restoration," -- I'm finally getting these processes clear in my head (I work in theater and have little knowledge of the technical aspects of cinema).

One question: what will happen with this movie in the future?

Is this version good enough to replace all other surviving elements? Or will there be a time in the not-so-distant-future, when computers will be that much better, and Paramount will go back to the original, dirty/scratchy elements again, but with higher resolution, possibly re-creating original black levels, etc.?

I have heard, for instance, that North by Northwest, which looks so great on our monitors, really isn't restored on film, and probably should be, if only to protect and preserve the film elements.

To simplify: is what we see on these DVDs the ultimate version of the film, superceding all others? Will these movies ever be shown again in movie theaters, and if so, will it be this digital version? (Presumably, a high-definition master has been created, and then down-ressed for the DVD).

I recognize that you aren't Paramount, or Lowry, but your opinion is paramount to me.

#12 of 25 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 15 2002 - 04:04 AM

What you see on DVD is on a DVD.

It has no relation to film.

Nor does it mean that the film in question is either preserved, restored, or in fact, even exists on film.

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


#13 of 25 OFFLINE   Eric Peterson

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Posted November 15 2002 - 10:06 AM

Mr. Harris,

Thanks for the thumbs up on this title. This has been one of my most desired titles since DVD started. Billy Wilder is hands down, my favorite film maker and to get my hands on a cleaned up version of one of his best films, I'm very grateful.

It's too bad that film restoration is just now finally starting to take root and that so many fantastic movies have lost substantial amounts of their original materials over the years. It's amazing that the original elements for one of the Paramount's staple titles could just disappear.

Now, where is "Ace in the Hole"? Do you have any idea on the status of this film? What is the state of the original source material and if it's in decent condition, why has this film never been released to home video in any format?

#14 of 25 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted November 15 2002 - 10:56 AM

I have a couple of thoughts...

If what is on DVD is on DVD, and what is on DVD came from Film, couldn't the DVD information be processed back to film, so that it can be projected as intended? I have no idea how these things work, as you can tell, but I presume that you could work backwards, as video can be transferred to film, then DVD should be.

I agree that film grain is what makes film, but film is a photographic technology, and as such, if a new process is developed that would allow for the elimination of grain, would it not be valid? There have been criticism about DVD transfer that eliminate film grain, Citizen Kane, Snow White platinum edition, and as such no longer have a film look. The film makers at this time had no way of controlling film grain, and had to work with it. I wonder what Disney would say now if he could see Snow White with no grain, seeing as he was an innovator in film technology.

I agree that film looks great with grain, but would like to argue that the film makers had to work within the limitations of the time they made the picture. I would be curious to see what current film makers think about film grain, and how their films are being transferred.

For the record, and to prevent a lambasting from fellow members, I agree that the DVD should be absolutely representative of a directors vision, and if that director is no longer with us, then it should be respectfully presented as that director released it, film grain and all.
I'm just curious what others feelings are in this regard.

PS. Mr. Harris, I can honestly say that no one has made me more appreciative of film than your posts, my deepest thanks for making us all think about what we watch!

#15 of 25 OFFLINE   Tim RH

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Posted November 15 2002 - 01:03 PM

I am curious why you recommend this DVD Mr. Harris when you usually like transfers that preserve the original film grain. I don't believe you were too approving of the CITIZEN KANE transfer if I remember correctly. How is this film different? Is it because the elements they had to work with were completely different (and possibly much worse)?

Thanks for all your columns; I always find them very interesting.


#16 of 25 OFFLINE   Brian E

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:43 PM

Thanks for the great articles, even if they are going to cost me a bunch of money.Posted Image

I'd really like to see a good documentry some day of the process they go through to do one of these "restorations", or maybe one that covers the various options a studio can use.
~Brian

#17 of 25 OFFLINE   Richard Stammer

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Posted November 15 2002 - 03:57 PM

Mr. Harris, thank you for such a wonderfull article on Sunset Boulevard and the DVD release. Speaking of Billy Wilder, do you have any insight regarding the possibility of a resurrection of the original roadshow engagement of THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES? I still find it hard to believe that all film elements that could be used to restore this movie are forever lost like THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.

#18 of 25 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted November 15 2002 - 09:52 PM

wow, yet another great article about lost classics indeed. I have just pre ordered the title and look forward to watching Sunset Boulevard.

Thanks Mr Harris

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#19 of 25 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 16 2002 - 01:11 AM

Sunset was in far worse condition than Kane, and while I have small problems with Kane as being representative of Welles' work, Paramount was not left with a great deal of material to work with.

The elements on Sherlock Holmes were gone through years ago, with input from Mr. Wilder by Ron Haver, who was responsible for the reconstruction of Cukor's Star is Born.

He found disparate picture and track elements, neither of which yielded enough material to bring the film back to Wilder's preferred cut. Most of those elements were added to the laser disc.

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


#20 of 25 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted November 16 2002 - 06:20 AM

Mr. Harris, you mentioned that you had the opportunity to see a print of the digitally restored version.

Is the quality good enough to be the official preservation negative, or is it just a temporary thing?