The African Queen-snippet of restoration info

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Brandon Gantt, Jan 8, 2004.

  1. Brandon Gantt

    Brandon Gantt Second Unit

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    Nothing new or exciting, but still interesting.

    From Variety:

    The article can be read in full at Variety.
     
  2. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    I adore The African Queen and have loved it since I was a child. This is one of my most anticipated titles so I'm excited to see care has gone into the restoration. Original negatives too! Doesn't get much better than that.
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Martin Blythe has already confirmed the dvd is in the pipeline with a possible release date this year or as late as next year, probably due to the extensive restoration being done on the film elements.
     
  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Good news! My LD is getting rather worn... [​IMG]
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    There should be no reason why the original negatives are not extant, unless AQ was dealt the same fate as Singin' and a few others.

    If that is the case, then those negatives should be useable toward the creation of a new interpositive, which would be the basis of all video elements.

    Unless there are odd problems, this would not be a "restoration" in any way, shape or form.

    This would be a lab order.

    RAH
     
  6. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    RAH

    thanks for the info abot TAQ, I saw this recently on the R2 dvd, so I cannot wait for the new version
     
  7. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Second Unit

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    Yes a new version fully restored would be great. This film really deserves a two disc set like the Warner ones though we probably won't get that. Like Oscar I've got the region 2 which isn't all that bad a disc not perfect but a reasonable transfer. It is actually from Carlton UK ,has been available for a couple of years and has an audio commentary by Jack Cardiff !

    In other words its all there really without the involvement of Paramount so unless the picture quality is better in a new version through a big studio part funding a real restoration I'm actually wondering what we are getting here ? Also if Paramount owns the rights to this title in the US why involve Carlton at all ? I would have thought The African Queen is an A list classic that deserves a restoration funded by Paramount alone.

    If we get a great new version (the first in R1) whoever funds the "restoration" we should be grateful I suppose. Robert Harris has already suggested though that he doubts this will be a "restoration". Weird ? Are we just going to get a reprint of the R2 in R1 ? If so why hasn't it been available before ?

    Reading that article too would make you think the release of The African Queen was the first in a vanguard of releases of Rank, ITC films from Carlton's catalogue. Those of us living in the UK will know that most of those e.g. the early David Lean, Powell and Pressburger etc have been out on DVD for ages.

    Many of these titles have gone through numerous box designs and also I believe a few have had multiple transfers (there have been two versions of The Red Shoes : one in the Silver Collection then a further version supposedly restored (I can't be sure) in a big Red box which is the version I have). So to me anyway all this talk of filming interviews with directors etc seems a bit out of date. Many of the Carlton DVDs in the UK have short documentaries which incorporate these.
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To make certain that my comments are not misconstrued ---

    There is very little relationship between a film's age and its need (or not) of restoration.

    Unless film elements have been grossly mishandled over the years or have gone missing, a film need not be restored.

    As I'm unaware of the precise situation with AQ, there may well be more here than meets the eye. I would suggest that this is the perfect time for Carlton to clarify their press releases with hard facts concerning the extant elements and what is being done to the film.

    From the piece, and the comments included, it sounds as if some unidentified element is going through a digital cleanup for dirt.

    RAH
     
  9. Brandon Gantt

    Brandon Gantt Second Unit

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    Although those films may be available on DVD that doesn't mean they were given the same level of care and detail that films like Sunset Blvd., and Once Upon A Time In the West were when released to digital disc.

    Carlton's main reason for restoring these films is high-definition television sales.

    Finally, lets not forget the Paramount almost lost Sunset Blvd forever because of "gross mishandling". I wouldn't be surprised if Carlton was creating a new negative.
     
  10. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    Here's a silly question that I was curious about:

    The current VHS edition of "The African Queen" (which came out in the late 90s, I believe) was a Fox release. At what point did this become a Paramount picture? I know all about old Paramounts going to Universal, and old Warners go to MGM through Turner and then back to Warner through their merger with Turner, but I'm not aware of such a link between Fox and Paramount.
     
  11. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    If I recall properly, there are some scenes along the river which were in poor shape (at least on the TV version). These were scenes of wildlife on shore, some hippo, and a few scenes just before the rapids. I also recall that some of the film had a color shift to red. Whether this was poor telecine or a bad print I can't say but everytime I've seen The African Queen it has looked less than pristine.
     
  12. Mark Edward Heuck

    Mark Edward Heuck Screenwriter

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    I've explained this before, so briefly:

    In the U.S., Viacom owns video, TV rights to THE AFRICAN QUEEN;
    Viacom, before the Paramount merger, licensed selected titles to Fox, including AQ.

    Unique situation, but nutshell-wise, that's how it happened.
     
  13. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Mark's explanation concerning African Queen is probably accurate, and I have no personal knowledge about that film's rights situations.

    But a large number of items that had been released in the past on VHS under the "CBS-FOX" banner (due to their distribution arrangement) are now belonging to Paramount/Viacom because of Viacom's aquisition of CBS. You'll start to see a lot more "Fox" releases on VHS coming out on DVD from Paramount instead, due to this.


    Edit: Here's a great example:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  14. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Second Unit

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    Frankly I'm more confused than ever about who is doing this DVD. Carlton, Paramount, Fox : it looks like the rights are complicated which is maybe one of the reasons why no region 1 disc has appeared thus far.

    Maybe as well I'm just irritated by the hyping of "restoration" and as Robert Harris says what does that actually mean ? Could it be just a removal of some dirt or a thorough project which is what is implied.

    If Carlton are "restoring" all their works now for H-Def TV surely they are a bit late for DVD. Taking The Red Shoes as an example we in the UK have had two versions one touted as being an improvement on the first now we're meant to swallow a further ultra-restored version or whatever. That might sound a bit cynical but Carlton are notorious for
    re-packaging discs with basically the same transfers.

    I'd be interested as well in what a real film restoration actually entails. Do you go back to the original elements etc ? RAH implies that some films don't require restoration. Why ? I think he mentioned as well before in one of his articles here that "restoration", "remastering" etc are terms bandied about by studio heads until they become meaningless.

    Basically what I would ask Mr Harris is if the Carlton people are using the term "restoration" correctly what does this mean for The African Queen and if its not a "restoration" why wouldn't it be ?
     
  15. Jo_C

    Jo_C Second Unit

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    OK, Derek, OK, once again, "African Queen 101".

    "The African Queen" was originally released domestically by United Artists, but lost the rights in the late 1960s when Romulus took control and sold the TV rights to TransLux (the original TV syndicators of "Speed Racer"). I have seen a reissue print of "African Queen" with revised opening credits, with the Trans-Lux Logo and the current MPAA logo. It was in the early 1970s when Viacom took control of the video and TV rights, and yes, they indeed lent the video and theatrical rights to 20th Century Fox (which is why Magnetic/CBS-Fox/Fox Video originally held the video rights). Those certain rights stayed with 20th Century Fox for many years during the '80s and '90s. After Viacom's merger with CBS and Paramount, "African Queen" was lumped into the Paramount library, which would now make Paramount the U.S. rights holders for all media (video, theatrical, and television), so if any new video release of "African Queen" is ever done, it would be under the CBS division through Paramount Home Video (as Paramount and CBS are now sister companies).

    Any further questions, class?
     
  16. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    Mark, Jo, David: Thanks for taking the time to answer my question - I appreciate it.



    Just because a film is old doesn't mean it needs restoration. I believe what Mr. Harris was saying is that in a lot of cases, even if the release prints the studio has are in bad shape, the original negative might be just fine - all that needs to be done is to have the negative sent to a lab to have new prints made up. That's not a restoration, that's simply making new copies.

    A true restoration occurs when a film has been damaged over the years, and does not exist in its original form. For instance, with Paramount's release of "Sunsent Boulevard," the studio discovered that they no longer had the film's original negative. Nor did they have good quality backup elements. They had some release prints that were in terrible shape. When they use the term "restoration" in reference to Sunset Boulevard, they're talking about the process of finding the best surviving elements, putting them together, cleaning them, and preparing for new elements to be made. When they finished their work on Sunset Boulevard, a new negative was created along with several backup elements, allowing Sunset Boulevard to be avaliable for both home video viewers and theatrical viewers hopefully forever. Before the restoration work, Paramount could not make new prints of the film, and even if they had tried to make a print from a battered release print they had, it would look terrible.

    "Remastering" should mean the process of preparing a film for DVD release - like the "Lawrence Of Arabia" Superbit DVD. The original DVD release was made from restored elements, but somewhere in the process of converting their hi-def master to DVD format, they screwed up, and the DVD never looked like it should have - colors were off, sound cues were missing, etc. The Superbit release isn't a restoration - that had already been done in 1989. For the Superbit release, they went back to their hi-def video master and started over with making the DVD. The new DVD doesn't change the status of the film elements at all - it just does a better job of reflecting the intent of the filmmakers on a TV screen.

    Nowadays, studios like to call everything they put out "restored" when many of those films probably are not going through a restoration. Film restoration has expanded to use tools from the digital world. However, if the goal of whatever work is only to make a DVD, the film itself hasn't been restored. Taking a film print, scanning it to a computer, digitally removing dirt and scratches, and then producing a DVD from that is not a restoration - it's a video transfer. A restoration is when new film elements are created, allowing the film to be re-duplicated in the film world.

    I hope that makes some sense, and by all means if I've made any mistakes in my descriptions, please let me know.
     
  17. Derek_McL

    Derek_McL Second Unit

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    Thanks for that Josh it was worth clarifying but pretty much what I suspected. Basically what you are saying is a "restoration" or "remastering" for DVD and the same for film are totally different things. Clean ups for many DVDs are in some cases not retained in the original elements or duplicated in new elements.

    As for the rights if Paramount now have them all in the States I still wonder about the involvement of Carlton ? Why can't Paramount do it on their own ? Do Carlton have better elements or something (the film I believe could be classified as a British one) or is it just because of finance ? If this is indeed a full scale restoration on film as well as a remastering for DVD maybe we have our answer as I would expect that would be very expensive.
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Thank you, Mr. Steinberg.

    Perfect.

    RAH
     
  19. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Lead Actor
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    Thank you, Mr. Harris. For someone like me who actually wants to go into film restoration, coming from you that's quite a compliment.
     
  20. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    The main problem with the R2 DVD is excessive contrast, too much grain and a sort of inconsistency in the image, particularly noticeable on flesh tones, which tend to keep shifting/alternating in brightness. No doubt a remastered version will correct these deficiencies.
     

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