A Few Restoration Questions

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Bob Engleman, Apr 20, 2005.

  1. Bob Engleman

    Bob Engleman Stunt Coordinator

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    Robt.,

    Part of your reply to my inquiry concerning the stunning appearance of "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" was credit to U.C.L.A.; would the effect be similar if they were working on "El Cid"?

    I E-mailed Technicolor as to why, in my opinion, technology from the 40's would appear superior to that of today, but they failed to reply. I'd appreciate any enlightenment you'd be so kind as to share.

    My final question's not intended as any criticism of WB, as I'm aware of their responsibility concerning shareholder equity with respect to expenditures. If money were NOT an issue, does the technology exist to produce a DVD of "Capt. Blood" that would be on par with "Casablanca" ?

    Thank you for your many informative postings,
    Bob Engleman
     
  2. John Whittle

    John Whittle Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob,

    "Restoration" is a word that is thrown around and in my opinion often misused.

    A true restoration is one that takes the original elements of the film, "fixes" them by all available means and ends up with a final FILM print that can be projected. This requires photo-chemical techniques and now also includes some digital work (along with digital intermediates)but it all winds up back on film.

    In reference to your "She Wore", it was a film shot in 3-strip Technicolor (with one of about 40 cameras that Technicolor made for this process) and there were three negatives (one red, one green, and one blue) which were printed to yellow, magenta and cyan in the release print with dye transfer. When these pictures are fixed for video, the three negatives now are often scanned and then combined electronically, color corrected and fixed for video release. No film element is produced.

    The 3-strip Technicolor Camera was phased out when Eastman, Ansco and Agfa introduced their mutlilayer color films (which we now know have stability problems).

    All of the "wide" films from the 50s on were photographed with Eastman or other multilayer negative materials.

    No Cinemascope films were photographed with the 3-strip camera either although the camera was later modified for Technirama, it then used a multilayer negative.

    So to boil down your question.

    What you can do (regardless of who you are) depends on what materials are available to you. You can be the best in the world, but if you are trying to restore a picture that has a missing record (i.e. the blue negative/yellow layer) then you're going to have trouble.

    If you ever get a chance to see the documentary "The Race to Save a 100 Years", much of the technology is discussed.

    A digital clean up to video is also cheaper than doing a restoration that has to go back to film since they are often down at lower resolution and you don't have to deal with (pay for) all the various photo-chemical steps.

    Photo-chemical also has it's own problems such as gamma build up, blocking of shadows, bromide smear, etc.

    A final aside, Technicolor IB prints used to hold detail in high lights better than Eastman prints, but Eastman prints had better shadow detail than Tech IB prints. This was demonstrated some 15 or 20 years ago at an SMPTE meeting held in the Cary Grant Theatre at MGM>

    John
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Bob,
    I took out Robert Harris's name in the thread title because I don't want him to feel he's obligated to answer such threads. I use the same line of thinking when it comes to studio representatives. If they want to reply then it's their decision without them being called out on a public forum. I hope you understand.





    Crawdaddy
     
  4. Bob Engleman

    Bob Engleman Stunt Coordinator

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    Bob,

    Thank you for explaining; your position's quite logical. I was wondering if I'd imagined typing his name, as at my age, the memory becomes somewhat faulty at times.

    Bob Engleman
     
  5. Bob Engleman

    Bob Engleman Stunt Coordinator

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    John,

    Thank you for sharing on the subject; your post was quite informative. I've noted the documentary suggestion, and will seek out this info.

    Bob Engleman
     
  6. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Technicolor is more photochemically combined that digitally. Off the top of my head, the only films to use that process are Singin' in the Rain (WB), The Adventures of Robin Hood (WB), Meet Me at St. Louis (WB), Gone with the Wind: SE (WB), Easter Parade (WB), The Band Wagon (WB), The Wizard of Oz: 2-disc (WB, in the works), Bambi (Disney), and The River (BFI/Criterion).
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Mr. Engleman's query is so wide and far-reaching that I felt that I simply didn't want to begin, what in reality, is a year long course of study in film restoration best handled via GEH, UCLA or NYU.

    Mr. Whittle has answered beautifully in short form.

    If you really have a desire to really become involved in this arena, a year at GEH is a wonderful thing.

    RAH
     
  8. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    PLEASE tell that to the folks who to this day insist that 1977's SUSPIRIA was "shot in 3-strip Technicolor". I've been making this argument for years, that SUSPIRIA shot on single strip Eastman negative but had some prints made in the dye-transfer process, but even the Anchor Bay DVD documentary mucks up the facts when they show images and diagrams of a vintage 3-strip CAMERA when cinematgrapher Luciano Tavolli is clearly discussing dye-tranfer PRINTING and not the shooting process at all...

    Vincent
     
  9. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Weren't some Japanese films shot in 3-strip in 60s/70s?
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As I suggested, especially in short form, some doors are best left closed.

    RAH
     
  11. John Whittle

    John Whittle Stunt Coordinator

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    As Mr. Harris said, "Some doors are best left closed".

    Suffice it to say, all the Technicolor cameras were accounted for. Several were modified for an 8 perf pull for Technirama, Ub Iwerks used one for sodium screen photography, etc.

    But just consider, the cameras took three specially made black and white negative stocks which were made by Eastman Kodak for Technicolor, they had to be developed to special gammas and then there is the problem of negative cutting, optical effects, etc. etc. If you think someone came up with an alternate system and made rawstock for a few SciFi Japanese films, it wouldn't be a secret!

    There was one SciFi film made that was shot multilayered and printed at the Chinese IB printing plant that was made by Richard Haines who also authored a book on Technicolor. That IB plant (which was equipment from Technicolor London) is now a parking lot. The re-implementation of the IB process by Technicolor Hollywood has now ceased and the equipment (some newly made in the 90s) is now is storage

    Thus there are no currently available locations producing dye transfer prints.

    In it's heyday, every camera had a personallity and an entire feature was shot with one camera since the alignment for the prism was slightly different and all the equipment in the lab was aligned for that camera when making up dupes, opticals, and matrix.

    (probably should have left the door closed)

    John
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Agreed. Especially as I was one of the producers of the aforementioned film printed in dye transfer at the beijing laboratory. An interesting experiment.

    To be complete, my comment regarding "closed doors" was not meant to hide or restrict information. On occasion I'll teach coursework in restoration, which covers a minimum of several days of discussion.

    This is not a proper subject for typed notes on a website. All that one can get from that is either incomplete or worse, mis-information.

    RAH
     
  13. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Screenwriter

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    I wish that someone (Mr. Harris) would do a short film for dvd on how restoration is done, how technicolor, scope, 70mm worked. etc.
    It does become confusing. The early fox scope films(The robe, Prince Valiant, etc) all say Technicolor in the credits, but they are actually shot on Eastman and first run prints done dye transfer at Technicolor.
     
  14. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    I second Joe Caps' suggestion.
     
  15. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    There's a really good documentary on preservation and restoration called "Keepers of the Frame". It used to air on AMC when their name meaned something.

    It goes into most of the various issues with film (nitrate decomposition, vinegar syndrome, fading, orphan films, lost films, paper prints, etc). Lots of interviews, including some with Roddy McDowall, Forrest J. Ackerman, and Leonard Maltin. Plenty of film clips, though... well-known stuff like A Star is Born '37, The Third Man, and The Great Train Robbery... but also stuff like Stan Brakhage's work, Cinerama Holiday, and The Bronze Buckaroo.

    Amazon.com has this on tape: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...495074-6751869

    It's not for the faint of heart, though. You get to hear the story about Citizen Kane's negative, as well as see a print of Meet John Doe gradually become goo.
     
  16. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    My brain has always wondered what Roddy has to do with restoration. I'm glad any actor takes interest in preservation, but Roddy's name and face pop up quite a lot (or at least he did).
     
  17. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    Roddy apparently was a big time collector and had a sizable personal library of movies on film. Presumably his copies of certain films may have been the best surviving elements (just a guess on my part).

    For those interested in Mr. Harris' work, there is a very nice feature on the Vertigo DVD detailing the work he and Mr. Katz did with that film which is nothing short of remarkable.

    Steve
     
  18. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    I had a feeling that Roddy was a big 'film buff' from his involvement in historical documentaries and books, but I didn't know that he had a substantial collection of 16/35mm.

    Scorsese, apparently, has a huge collection of 16/35mm.

    DVD Savant, Glenn Erickson wrote an excellent and amusing article about film collecting a while back: The Underworld of Film Collecting
     
  19. Steve...O

    Steve...O Producer

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    I did some basic research and found this on the imdb concerning Mr. McDowell and his film collection.



    I have no idea why he would have been singled out or what he did that was so terrible in those pre-VCR days. Certainly 16mm collecting is still popular and thankfully so or old movie buffs wouldn't have access to many films that no longer show up on TV or have never been released on home video.

    Steve
     
  20. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The FBI thought they were doing the right thing, but sometimes these "illegal" film collections save films.

    The 3-panel finale to Abel Gance's "Napoleon" exists only because it was illegally copied. [​IMG]
     

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