June 26 . Bologna, Italy

Posted on Mar 21, 2016 | Comments Off on June 26 . Bologna, Italy

The 37th edition of The Reel Thing will take place in Bologna, Italy on June 26 in conjunction with the 72nd FIAF Congress and Il Cinema Ritrovato.





The Reel Thing XXXVII
June 26, 2016 | Bologna, Italy



Frame Rates Old and New
Jonathan Erland, Color Composites (introduced by Michael Pogorzelski, Academy Film Archive)

Even before the advent of digital projection, the presentation of silent era films entailed substantial difficulty. Conversion to the conventional sound speed of 24 frames per second produced woefully inadequate results. Simply speeding the projection from the teens to sound speed distorted the cadence or “temporal ambiance” of the scene (though this was sometimes precisely what was intended for the original production!). Optical step-printing, while correcting the “pace,” introduced visual artifacts, which were accentuated when films intended for 16, 18, or 22 frames per second were projected at standard sound speed (there is an additional problem introduced when silent film is transferred to video at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second). None of the available options, from frame interpolation to virtual scene reconstruction yield acceptable results.

Although some 16mm and 35mm projectors are capable of projecting 18 frames per second, the end of the film era is upon us, and film projection will generally not be an option. It is certain that most viewing of silent film will be in digital media. In addition to these critical weaknesses in the display of fixed-frame rate films, the speed of capture and projection sometimes varied within a single film, and none of the available techniques address that factor. Therefore, The Digital Projection of Archival Films Project was created as an ad hoc group with the goal of facilitating the digital projection of archive films in their original frame-rates and with the inclusion of projector shutter periods as appropriate in each case. “Frame Rates Old and New” will demonstrate the consortium’s current progress towards the adaptation of digital cinema projection to the full range of speeds necessary to display silent films of every era at their correct speeds.

Long Live Ozu’s Colors: Towards a More Reliable Preservation of Color
by Utilizing Black-and-White Separation Film

Katsuhisa Ozeki, Masaki Daibo and Kazuki Miura, National Film Center, Tokyo

It is well-known that color films fade over time. It is therefore important to find a solution to maximize the life expectancy of color films. However, restored color on traditional three-layer color negative is susceptible to fading just as the original negative was.  The black-and white-recording films optimized for digital separation were not considered suitable until the recent development of Fujifilm ETERNA-RDS, which appears to be the most advantageous for archiving color films from the perspective of quality, cost and storage reliability.

National Film Center (NFC) started to adopt this separation film for the long term preservation of an experimental and promotional color film, Ginrin (Bicycle in Dream, directed by Toshiro Matsumoto, 1956) in 2010, and constructed through a trial-and-error process a best practice of hybrid photochemical and digital workflows that can be selected at this moment. Following these restorations of short-length color films, in 2013, we introduced the hybrid workflow to the restoration of the feature-length color films, Higanbana (Equinox Flower, 1958), Ohayo (Good Morning, 1959), Akibiyori (Late Autumn, 1960) and Sanma No Aji (An Autumn Afternoon, 1962) directed by Yasujiro Ozu. NFC will review the technical challenges and solutions deployed in this hybrid workflow, and demonstrate the results of this process which offers significant advantages in the effort to capture and conserve film images at the highest quality, and to retain these images over archival time scale.

Agfacolor Restorations:  Immensee (1943) and Opfergang (1944)
Anke Wilkening, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Barbara Flückiger, Universität Zürich and Matteo Lepore, ARRI Media AG

Developed in the 1930s by I.G. Farbenindustrie AG as the first chromogenic negative-positive process, Agfacolor is one of the most important historic colour film technologies.  By the 1940s, the most important productions of the German film industry were able to take advantage of this colour system that represented the first large-scale challenge to the dominance of Technicolor. The colours are not stable and usually fade to a red hue – a failure mode similar to Eastmancolor and related chromogenic processes. One of the most problematic aspects of the restoration of Agfacolor is the lack of any reference that provides insight as to how faded film material looked before aging and colour fading.

Veit Harlan was one of the few film-makers to create full scale feature productions using this early form of Agfacolor.  He had become one of the most important filmmakers in National Socialist Germany and in a period of artistic conformity he achieved a combination of ideology and artistic mastery without parallel. Harlan shot two melodramas – Immensee and Opfergang as a double production between 1942 and 1943.

For the film Opfergang, a camera original and a nitrate print with relatively stable colours have survived; for Immensee only faded prints exist. Since the films were produced in tandem and partly shot at the same outdoor locations in North Germany, Opfergang was restored first, and provided a map for the colour restoration of Immensee. The project established a model workflow for Agfacolor restoration. It raises ethical questions as well, such as the viability of relying on vintage prints and the advantages and disadvantages of scanning from camera originals. The Agfacolor project will continue this year with the restoration of Münchhausen.

Restoration Rules!
David Walsh, Imperial War Museums

Many film archivists are greatly worried about the impact of digital technology in the context of the rapid decline in traditional film production technology, with digital seen as the culprit when beloved classic movies are found to have taken on the look of HDTV. But it is not digital technology which is at fault, rather its unthinking application that is the problem. Taking as a starting point previous work from  2012 (a version of which was published in the Journal of Film Preservation no.88) this presentation explores the distinction between a restoration and a digital version, and what degree of digital intervention is acceptable for an archive restoration.

Examples from the IWM Film Archive will be used to illustrate techniques commonly employed when creating digital versions of films. Many of these techniques, normally applied as a part of any digitization project, are so routinely used that they are now hardly considered to be restoration tools at all. Nevertheless, the casual use of these tools and methods is unnecessary, frequently damages the authenticity of the film, and should therefore not be used. This is particularly the case with stabilization – now effectively an automatic adjunct to the scanning process. This presentation intends to challenge this technological complacency. This presentation will present a guiding principle and subsidiary rules for producing ethically acceptable restorations. These precepts are intended to assist archives in the technical decision making process based on objective criteria, and to assess whether a digital version may be considered an acceptable rendition of the authentic original film in light of the reality that a digital version can only ever be a simulacrum of the original film. These precepts are intended to be pragmatic and easily applied by technicians and curators working on any restoration. As with any set of rules, there are exceptions and caveats, and these will be explored with examples. The presentation will culminate in an assessment of the acceptability of applying technologies that exceed the limits of what the original production techniques allowed, even to extreme lengths such as colourization and 3d conversion – practices that have evolved considerably and now have re-emerged as significant issues for archives today.

Building a New Scanner for Restoration
Simon Lund, Cineric – New York and Lisbon

With the collapse of the large-scale film industry, the size of the restoration market is not big enough to support innovation among the traditional equipment manufacturers, leaving restoration labs having to fend for themselves for their equipment needs. On one hand, the new devices can take advantage of technologies refined and directed at specific restoration problems, and on the other hand, they must be able to accept standardized legacy product and produce an output that can be integrated with the new media environment. Today, as scanners have less work in scanning new negative for DI production, and more work scanning legacy film material, it becomes economically viable to develop these devices with a full range of features which support preservation work – modified film transports to deal with shrunken film, and sensors and software optimized to capture the dynamic range and gamut of not only negative, but fine grain, print and film prepared with special processes (tints and tones, two color systems, hand coloring, etc.). In any case, the continued refinement of scanning devices is critical to the high-quality capture, restoration and preservation of the historical cinema of the last century. This presentation will use the in-house manufacturing of a sprocket-less wet-gate scanner at Cineric as a case study of the fabrication of custom film scanning equipment, including a review of some of the newly available resources that support this exacting project.

When Camp Turned Technicolor:  Scopitones in Hollywood
Jayson Wall, Disney Company

The history of Scopitones in America is a twisted tale full of strippers, sex, the music industry, “C” list entertainers, bad business decisions and Miss Burbank of 1948, Debbie Reynolds.  Nothing more than a short-lived fad in the States, Scopitones have fallen into obscurity, largely unknown to the general public, yet the more than eight hundred films produced have a strong cult-like following today.

Scopitone jukeboxes first arrived in Europe sometime in early 1960 and quickly became a huge sensation throughout France.  Like the Mills Panoram visual jukebox that was introduced before WW II, that showed “Soundies” of Jazz artists, Scopitones were basically the same idea. For twenty-five cents a play, you could enjoy 2 ½ to 3 minutes of a song-and-dance performance projected in 16mm inside a jukebox with a 26-inch viewing screen on top of the cabinet. The original “Soundies” were black and white with optical soundtracks and customers had no freedom of choice on specific selections. By contrast, Scopitones were in color with high fidelity magnetic sound and customers could pick from  36 selections instead of taking a chance on whatever happened to be next on the reel.

By early 1964, Scopitones landed in America during the British Invasion and secured around 250 locations coast to coast, mainly in cocktail lounges and bowling alleys. It was a novelty for the adult crowd in their thirties and forties who grew up with Seeburg and Wurlitzer jukeboxes in their youth. As installations continued to grow throughout the summer of 1964, the need for more home grown product with American recording stars also grew. Companies such as Color Sonics, Continental and other independents produced films during this time, but there was one production company that had the biggest impact on Scopitones in states. Harman-EE Productions, which was owned by Debbie Reynolds and managed by ex-Columbia Pictures V.P. Irving Briskin, signed a five- year deal with Tel-A-Sign, the parent company of Scopitone in late 1964 to produce 48 musical films per year. These films would be shown exclusively at Scopitone locations, backed by huge promotions for each new release.

Harman-EE Productions was the “M-G-M” of Scopitone producers. Shot in Hollywood and Las Vegas, they had bright and vivid art direction, costumes, and high-gloss production style that only a budget of $10,000 per film could allow. Performers like Della Reese, Bobby Vee, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Vikki Carr, Lou Rawls and Neil Sedaka all appeared in these musical films for Harman-EE – along with a good number of bikini clad “dancers” showing generous amounts of T & A on screen.  Many of these dancers were professionals that worked in go-go clubs on the Sunset Strip or Elvis Presley films of the era.  Others came from burlesque, strip clubs, or just happen to be a “girlfriend” of someone in the mob. Regardless, sex was a major selling point of these films, which often featured close-ups of breasts, legs, butts and even crotches as an over the hill performer like Kay Starr belted out an old hit like “Wheel Of Fortune” over this imagery.

By mid-1966, about 2,000 Scopitone jukeboxes were on location coast to coast, with plans to double that number within a year, but it was never meant to be. There are many reasons why Scopitones died quickly in America, but the biggest blow was the changing tastes of the country during the mid- to late-1960’s. Perhaps the lack of any true rock and roll singer or group producing films to push Scopitones out of the novelty stage was badly needed. This idea was rejected by the powers that be who still felt that rock music was nothing more than a fad even 12 years after “Rock Around The Clock” topped the charts in 1954.

Only 73 Scopitones produced by Harman-EE Productions were made between 1965–1966. Amazingly, these were all shot in 35mm on Kodak 5251 stock, and 68 were printed in 16mm dye transfer Technicolor.  Over the years the original camera negatives, master tracks and printing elements of the Harman-EE produced Scopitones have been misplaced or lost. Today we are only left with as a record of this craze the surviving 16mm prints in the hands of collectors and archives.

The Reel Thing XXXVII will present a rare screening of 9 of the very best Harman-EE produced Scopitones in 16mm dye transfer Technicolor and mono magnetic sound.  They are cheesy, campy, sexist, and outlandish, but they are truly a slice of pop culture Americana that we will never see the likes of again.

Restoration of Werner Nekes’ Uliisses (1982)
Julia Wallmüller, Deutsche Kinemathek and Tom Geldhauser, Media AG

Werner Nekes, the artist and collector of visual-effects related artifacts spanning the last 300 years, made his only feature film, Uliisses, in 1982.  The prints for the original (very limited) distribution in the 1980s are faded or no longer extant.  Thus, it was necessary to create new material so the film could be viewed, discussed and returned to the canon of the avant-garde. It was decided that the restoration would be digital in order to allow wider and more flexible distribution. The restoration proceeded from the 35mm original negative and was scanned at 2k resolution – which was a straightforward job as such. However, the negative is extremely interesting and non-standard in visual appearance, because Nekes used all kinds of analogue experimental techniques to shoot the film. The presentation will show enlargements of certain images from the original negative to show some of its special characteristics, and how these unique images translate to the screen.

The original audio elements were lost, but some final tracks remained. The sound negative was digitized and used as a reference, and the audio was recreated based on features discovered in the separate tracks and the soundtrack negative as a guide to audio levels of the original mix.

Restoration of The Front Page (1931)

Michael Pogorzelski and Heather Linville, Academy Film Archive and John Polito, Audio Mechanics

The Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation are nearing completion of the digital restoration of the recently uncovered and rarely seen US domestic version of The Front Page (1931), which is having its European premiere at the Bologna Film Festival. The team will discuss discoveries and challenges that took place during the 4K digital restoration.

In preparation for the restoration, detailed shot comparisons took place between 35mm elements held at the Library of Congress (thought to be best surviving material and the source of many 16mm prints, Blu-ray and DVD releases) and the Academy Film Archive’s recent acquisition of a 35mm safety composite print in the UNLV Howard Hughes Collection. Differences including actor movements and their placement within a scene, dialogue and camera placement were identified in both elements in every shot. This indicated at least two versions of The Front Page were created at the time of production.

Further research into The Front Page production files in the Lewis Milestone Collection at the Herrick Library confirmed the creation of three camera negatives: two for foreign and one for domestic distribution. The domestic version revealed more sophisticated editing of picture and sound as well as different dialogue to cater to American audiences. This domestic version has not been seen by audiences in decades.

The presentation will discuss the wet gate scanning, 4K workflow and hurdles to picture restoration. While the 35mm safety composite print in the Hughes Collection (made from the now lost camera negative in the 1970s) had good image structure, there was intermittent chemical staining built into the picture source that had to be addressed.

The sound for The Front Page posed its own unique challenges. The movie was distributed in two versions: sound on film and a sound on disc. The soundtrack on the only surviving 35mm print sounded less than ideal, however since the film was also released in disc form, the original master metal disc stampers were in the UNLV Howard Hughes collection. Utilizing the stampers as the primary audio source was not a simple matter, but the end result yielded a restored track that sounds better than it has in decades. The restored sound track provides well-deserved clarity to a film that is best known for its rapid fire dialogue.