The Reel Thing XXIX: Program Abstracts

Posted on Aug 27, 2012 | Comments Off on The Reel Thing XXIX: Program Abstracts

The Reel Thing XXIX:  August 23-25, 2012
Hollywood, California


Multiple Editions of American Silent Features
David Pierce, Media History Digital Library

Before the introduction of sound transformed the production process, films did not exist in a single definitive version. Throughout most of the silent era there were usually at least two authentic, yet somewhat different, ‘original’ editions made at the same time. Many production photos from the twenties show two (or more) cameras side-by-side to produce a second negative for the foreign market.

This talk will examine the reasons that silent films were produced in multiple versions, with anywhere up to four original negatives, using excerpts presented side-by-side to discuss some of the implications for authenticity, restoration and documentation.


LTO Tape for Archiving Digital Content

Mark Fleischhauer, HP Tape Storage Solutions

Overview: In this presentation, LTO tape drives and LTO media will be discussed as it pertains to archiving digital assets. Key topics will include:

The inner workings of an LTO tape and the technology used to ensure that the information that is written to a tape cartridge is accurate and robust

The open standards of LTO technology and how the LTO consortium works to ensure interoperability and continued development of the technology

The tape media and the specifications for long term storage as well as best practices

The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and how this has changed the game for archiving with LTO tape

The depth of the discussion will vary to match the allotted time. A Q&A session will follow. Links to web pages that contain more information about LTO tape will be provided in the presentation.


Restoring Heaven’s Gate
Lee Kline, Criterion

When Heaven’s Gate was released in the 219 minute version in 1980, it made the rounds in a few 70mm prints. As a result of the reception the film received, the prints were quickly pulled from distribution, and then a shortened 149 version was quickly released to theaters. There are few, if any, 35mm prints of the long version. The negative was quickly cut to the shortened version, but luckily YCM’s had already been made. Using the YCM’s was determined to be the best way to get back any sort of quality to the picture. Working with director Michael Cimino, the film has been brought back to 216 minutes, removing some sections and making various scene trims at the director’s request. This was a gigantic undertaking for a small company and this presentation will focus on how to accomplish a project of this size on a tight budget.


1 Short Lecture about 629 Longer Ones  – Building the SCI-Arc Media Archive
Kevin McMahon, SCI-Arc
Reza Monahan, SCI-Arc
Aaron Bocanegra, Web Designer

Kevin McMahon and Reza Monahan preview the SCI-Arc Media Archive (SMA), which will launch publicly September 28. The SMA is a continuously-expanding online showcase for lectures originally presented at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) from 1974 to the present, with over 1000 hours of video, featuring the world’s most significant architects, plus essential Southern California architects, designers, and artists from the era of midcentury modernism to now. The site will be free, with a user-friendly interface through which visitors will be able to watch videos, browse and search. The goal is for the site to be both a scholarly resource and informative entertainment. While the content is unique and unequaled in value for the history of architecture in the last forty years, we would like to stress the story of how a non-media archive, with limited time, money and resources, was able to rescue our old tapes from neglect, and make them into a useful resource. Web designer Aaron Bocanegra will be available for any questions about the site design.


Miniman, the ETF and Color Prototype #3

Ralph Sargent, Film Technology Co.
Nick Williams, Early Television Foundation

This talk will introduce Reel Thing attendees to the Early Television Foundation of Hillard, Ohio. The ETF museum is chocked full of many examples of mechanical television, pre-World War II electronic television and post-war black and white and color television receivers and broadcast equipment. The museum also sponsors a once-a-year conference for supporters of the museum and persons who individually collect and restore rare samples of television equipment. One such example will be highlighted: the discovery of, electronic evaluation and restoration of RCA’s #3 prototype of a color receiver complete with a fully functional prototype color kinescope which substantially predates the introduction of RCA’s first commercially available 3-color tube, the 15GP22 and the set in which it was installed, the Merrill.


An Easy and Affordable 35mm Desktop Film Printer
Dino Everett, Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive
Victor Virovac, Technical Developer

The digital dilemma affects us all in different ways, and therefore requires different methods of dealing with it. This presentation is offering one alternative for the small to medium sized film archive, so that a complete rebuild of their infrastructure is not necessary. The unit that will be discussed fits on a table and is roughly the size of a Xerox machine and is used to take digital files back to 35mm negative film for the purpose of archival storage. It is an integrated system and utilizes existing technologies such as a SONY OLED professional reference monitor and any Apple computer running snow leopard. The idea is to make it user friendly rather than a standalone unit that relies solely on the continued success of the company and a highly skilled professional lab technician. This helps keep the cost down.

Public archives traditionally are cautious about changing workflows and adopting new unproven technologies. Mainly this is due to the fact that they cannot afford to be wrong in regards to which way they proceed. If they invest in something and then it disappears a few years later they possibly will not be able to recover. This was one of the reasons for looking into a digital/film hybrid that would be affordable (roughly $20,000-$30,000 per printer). By producing film negatives for digitally born material, the existing archives can move forward with their current infrastructures that are designed for cold and dry film storage. They can investigate different digital storage practices, but will know that they will continue to have the reliability of a film backup just like the studios are doing.

The concept is relatively simple. The user plugs in their computer to the unit via cable and opens up the software. They open the desired file along with the preloaded LUT. They press the record button and the unit begins recording the file at a rate of 8fps. When done they simply press stop. The unit uses1000 foot rolls, so the user can either remove the shot film to send to processing or continue to record until the roll is completed. Because the unit uses traditional camera components the user can use brand new raw stock or re-can film stocks to cut down on costs.

The film stocks used and the processing are designed to allow for flexibility on the back end should the material need to be re-digitized at some point. The technical proficiency of the user remains minimal beyond running the simple software and changing out the film magazine. This is no more challenging than changing the toner cartridge on a Xerox machine.


Photochemical and Digital: Restoration of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine
Paul Rutan, Eque, Inc.
Randy Walker, Eque, Inc.

The challenge of this project was to preserve and restore YELLOW SUBMARINE in both digital and photochemical media. Since the original camera negative was available, and in relatively good condition for its age, and held far more image information than the 1968 IP, that was the starting point for the photochemical preservation and restoration process. A fully timed answer print was made from the camera negative, and using those lights we made a new timed polyester wetgate Inter-Positive. It was fortunate that the optical effects were made in-camera eliminating the use of optical dupes or A/B rolls for fades and dissolves. The new Inter-Positive was scanned using the Pixel Perception scanner.


Step One in Preserving File Based Feature Film “Original Negatives”
Digital Intermediate (DI) Data Content & Consistency Verification

Sean Vilbert, Paramount Pictures
Steve Kochak, Deluxe

Digital archivists agree that the most pristine final version of a feature film or episodic show is the uncompressed deliverable from the Digital Intermediate process. However, thanks to the efficiency of a digital process, determining the correct final archival version can often prove problematic. What happens when a last minute creative decision is made after the DCP or answer print is created? Given the nature of quick drag and drop timelines in modern color correctors, how do you know all your shots made it into the archive? In light of digital linear magnetic data tapes rarely being quality checked after creation, an all-digital workflow will be explored that is analogous to the traditional film separations to answer print check back validation. This new critical archival validation workflow will reverse engineer the Digital Cinema process and compare the result with the DI deliverable to verify content and deliverable specifications prior to commitment to a long term preservation archival system.


Wow Removal Techniques for Motion Picture Soundtrack Preservation
Ellis Burman, Audio Mechanics

Wow is a variation in nominal record or playback speed of an audio track. It is audible as a “slurring” or unsteadiness in the pitch of recorded music or sound effects. It can be caused by faulty, mis-calibrated, or poorly designed record or playback equipment, but in the case of audio restoration for motion pictures, it is often caused by the physical deformation of the playback media due to “vinegar syndrome”. Detrimental effects of this deformation can often be reduced using mechanical methods during an archival transfer, but digital methods are often also required to reduce the wow to an acceptable level.

Over the past decade, several digital techniques have been developed. Methods using the recorded bias signal to “re-clock” the audio have been developed by Plangent Processes/Chace Audio. 12 kHz surround trigger tones on Cinemascope® prints and mags can also be used as a “clock” employing a similar approach to the bias method. Another method was developed by Audio Mechanics and Signal Inference using waveform matching in which a reference “guide” track can be used to de-wow a better sounding source that exhibits a wow condition.

Recently, new technologies have been developed by Celemony Software GmbH and Cedar Audio Ltd. which use “blind” methods that do not require a clocking signal or reference track  – the program itself is used to determine a speed reference curve. This “speed detection curve” can then be inverted and applied to the original program in order to remove the wow. This method can correct wow when other methods can’t, but has its own set of pitfalls.

This presentation will focus on recent developments in “blind” de-wow, and also touch on when other methods are appropriate and the advantages and drawbacks of each.


Case Study: The 4K Digital Restoration
of the French Classic Les Miserables (1934)

Davide Pozzi, Director L’Immagine Ritrovata – Film Restoration & Conservation

The new restoration of the film Les Miserables (France, 1934), carried out for Pathé, premiered at the most recent Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival, in Bologna in June. Les Misérables is a French film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s eponymous novel. It consists of three films written by André Lang and Raymond Bernard, and directed by Raymond Bernard in 1934. The film is in 3 “époques”: Une tempête sous un crâne (Tempest in a Skull), Les Thénardier (The Thenardiers), Liberté, liberté chérie (Freedom, beloved Freedom). All the “époques” have been restored in 4K from the original nitrate camera negative.

For the restoration, many varied sources, both original and copies, were researched and studied. This presentation will highlight the complex working process on the restoration of image and sound, the obstacles found, the workflow followed. The film had been reissued at varying lengths and in many versions over the decades following its initial release and was only restored to approximately its original length shortly before Raymond Bernard’s death in 1977 at the age of 86, except for some scenes that could not be recovered at the time, particularly the “theft” scene in the first film. Fortunately, an analysis of the original available elements has allowed us to recover the missing scene and reintegrate it into the film, which is now restored and presented in its most complete original version from 1934.

This 290 minute version is still considered the greatest reference among the various television or cinematographic adaptations of the novel. First, because of its faithfulness to the book and the depth of development given to the book’s themes and characters. Second, for the quality of the acting, with a wonderful Harry Baur as Jean Valjean, full of stature and credibility, with Charles Vanel as Javert, with Charles Dullin and Marguerite Moréno as the Thénardier couple, as dreadful as they are laughable. Third, because of the importance of this production, Bernard was given great freedom of expression, especially in the revolutionary scenes of the barricade in the third film, but also through particular artistic choices: grading and framing contribute to the modernity and the dramatic intensity of the film.


Gigantic Ideas: The Enlightenment and Pre-Cinema  – Part One
Jonathan Erland, Composite Components Company

It begins with the Enlightenment (Ben Franklin figures in it!), as we trace the roots of what will become motion pictures, as well as computers, and many things that developed in the pre-cinema era. The “Gigantic Idea” is a quote from Menabrea’s paper about Charles Babbage and the invention of the computer, but the era was rife with gigantic ideas!


Better Films Through Trickery and Deceit  – Part Two

Jonathan Erland, Composite Components Company

The second half picks up where we ended Part One at the birth of cinema and has the title “Better Films through Trickery and Deceit” (which is the motto of the USC Effects Club). This segment will include some of Mark Sawicki’s excellent film about the now archaic art of optical printing, and more from Jim Danforth. . This will extend the May SMPTE presentation into the future and include some discussion of a current research project to recapture the pre-sound era of variable frame rates, possibly with the beginnings of a demonstration.


Image Is Everything – Protect It
A Kodak Update on the Asset Protection Film Platform
Beverly Pasterczyk, Technical Director Americas Region, Entertainment Imaging, Eastman Kodak

The long term stability of motion picture media is essential and film is the one media with a proven history of archivability over the last century. But how long are contemporary recorder film color dyes stable for and what different ways of image storage is the best quality/cost balance? Various digital workflows and the continuity and dye stability of modern recorder films from our Asset Protection Film Platform will be explained. A product demo of a new film, KODAK Color Asset Protection Film 2332, will be shown.


Re-Visualizing The Invisible Man
Tom Burton, Technicolor Restoration Services

The restoration of “The Invisible Man” (1933), undertaken in conjunction with Universal Pictures’ 100th Anniversary, required a series of complex reconstructive processes to replace archival elements currently challenged by numerous artifacts of aging and wear, including many missing frame sequences throughout all reels and extreme blurring and warping at nearly every cut of the film. This brief overview of the project will illustrate the workflow and restoration methodologies employed by the team at Technicolor Restoration Services.

SPECIAL SCREENING: Tom’s presentation will be followed immediately by the premiere screening of The Invisible Man