The Reel Thing XXVII: Program Abstracts

Posted on Jul 8, 2011 | Comments Off on The Reel Thing XXVII: Program Abstracts




Thursday . August 18

“The Mightiest Motion Picture Of Them All!”
The Digital Restoration of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Theo Gluck, Walt Disney Company
Jayson Wall, Walt Disney Company

The winner of two Academy Awards for Art Direction and Special Effects, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was Walt Disney’s first live-action film to be photographed in CinemaScope and on the new Eastman Kodak 5248 color negative. Introduced in 1952, Eastman 5248 was an integral tripack safety negative using dye-coupler technology with an ASA of 25, balanced for tungsten lighting. The Technicolor dye-transfer process was utilized not only for the 1954 original release, but also the 1963 and 1971 re-issues. The original release prints, however, possessed a triple inventory of 4-track mag stereo-stripe at 2.55:1, optical mono CinemaScope prints in 2.35:1, and a “flat” pan and scan 1.37:1 35mm version with an optical mono soundtrack for non-CinemaScope theaters. At a total budget of nine million dollars, 20,000 Leagues was the most expensive film production Walt Disney undertook. It went on to become the second highest grossing film of 1954.

Supervised by Theo Gluck and Jayson Wall, the restoration team on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea first evaluated the A and B roll original camera negative. As was feared, both the yellow and cyan layers exhibited significant color dye loss. It was decided to test sections of various reels by scanning them at 4K on a Northlight at Warner Brothers MPI to further analyze the remaining color viability when using modern digital tools for color correction. This test proved very successful, and the team scanned all 24 reels of the original camera negative, along with a small section of Reel 1-A from the 1955 YCM separation masters to substitute a poor dupe replacement section cut into the original negative.

Working with Disney’s resident color consultant Bruce Tauscher and MPI colorist Ray Grabowski, the team referenced SD and HD video masters that were approved by director Richard Fleischer in the late 90’s, along with the Studio’s 1954 dye-transfer 4-track mag print as color guides for this restoration. Unlike most dye-transfer prints, this element did not exhibit the normal wide latitude of timing shifts from scene to scene, section to section, or reel to reel that commonly afflict this process. All three elements were very similar in color value (within each format’s respective limitations), so maintaining the original look of this classic feature was not clouded in ambiguity. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was also one of the first films to be photographed in CinemaScope using first generation Bausch & Lomb anamorphic lenses. Unfortunately these lenses had an inherent distortion known today as “the CinemaScope Mumps”. CinemaScope Mumps occur due to the variable “squeeze” coefficient throughout the focal plane. This causes the anamorphic effect to gradually drop off as objects approach closer to the lens. This results in images being slightly overstretched in the horizontal plane, most noticeably on actor close-ups. Using original on-set production and publicity photos for accurate sizing reference, the restoration team removed much of this distortion by digitally squeezing in the image .5%. Since the original camera negative of 20,000 Leagues was actually shot perf to perf in 2.66:1, this new restoration has gained 1.6mm of image on the left side and .25mm on the right side of the frame-all of which had heretofore been concealed by the mag track in original prints. This “mumps” correction enabled us to faithfully reconstruct the original 2.55:1 image as seen in first-run theaters during the 1954 and early 1955 theatrical engagements.

The team’s goal was simple: to create state-of-the-art digital archival and service elements to ensure that Walt Disney’s finest live-action feature would always remain available in “first day of release” quality, true to the filmmakers’ vision. The original tagline sums up 20,000 Leagues Under TheSea perfectly: it’s still “The Mightiest Motion Picture Of Them All!”


Friday . August 19

The Coroner’s Report – Dissecting Film Sound Preservation
Robert Heiber, Chace Audio by Deluxe

Today’s current technology for sound restoration allows audio restoration technicians to wield their tools, like a surgeon wields a scalpel. The result is opportunities to make corrections that could not be done previously. However, along with the ability to fix more problems comes an additional responsibility to understand the context making certain repairs may have on the authenticity and veracity of a sound track.

The Coroner’s Report – Dissecting Film Sound Preservation examines the dilemma facing sound restoration professionals with examples of specific audio defects found in a 1929 sound motion picture, High Treason. High Treason, a silent film converted to a sound motion picture with synchronized dialog, offers the full range of sound restoration issues as well as issues unique to the earliest synchronized sound entertainment films. It provides a case study to showcase areas of sound impairment that were difficult to satisfactorily correct. Other areas demonstrate unique challenges to early sound films, like bad edits, modulating noise floors and excessive camera noise that can also be corrected. By examining specific problems and processing solutions, the audience will be able to gain knowledge about how these technical possibilities can transcend the concept of sound repair and begin to creatively enhance or improve the sound experience. Armed with this knowledge, archivists and sound restoration professionals will be able to better understand how their decisions will affect the sound experience of the final restored track.


The ABC’s of Color Space
Andrew Oran, FotoKem

What is color space? How does color space impact the mastering of film projects for multiple distribution platforms? What is the relationship between color space and exhibition technology? How do different color spaces impact the look of an image? Intended as a brief introduction to a big issue, this presentation will review the ABC’s of Color Space: Rec.709, DCI-P3, CIE XYZ, RGB, CMYK…. most letters of the alphabet will be represented, and more questions will be asked than answered. Audience participation encouraged.


Wet-gate Film Scanning –
A Proven Technology for Motion Picture Image Restoration
Jim James, Point 360 Digital Film Lab

Wet-gate printing was the standard for many years to reduce dirt, scratches, and other surface imperfections; however, resolution was lost in the process. Wet-gate scanning preserves the original image without generation loss and drastically reduces digital restoration time. Unlike digital methods which fill in the missing pieces of the image, wet-gate scanning can make many physical film imperfections optically disappear, immediately revealing the original image that was hiding underneath.


The Media History Digital Library – Digitizing the History of Cinema, and
Where Did Our Films Go? The Destruction and Survival of American Silent Features
David Pierce, Archivist and Historian

There has always been a deep relationship between historical research in the cinema and the efforts of restoration archivists. David Pierce, an independent film historian and archivist, has not only conducted a great deal of research into paper records pertaining to motion picture history, but he has also been working on issues of access to these resources. He will present two of these projects, a collaborative, large-scale scanning effort to make historical documentation available on-line, and a second project that uses existing documentation to produce an accurate picture of the silent film era.


Designing a New Film Stock for Digital Separations
George Gush, Fujifilm
James Hirano, Fujifilm

While the digital archive continues to develop and more moving image products are created via the digital intermediate process, we still protect our images using a process of color separation that is recorded on black-and-white film elements. Recent advances in the emulsions used in this process have proven to yield a more accurate image when recombined. These new Fuji emulsions have a broader dynamic range than previous separation film. In addition to providing preservation for today’s DI images, new higher dynamic range emulsions may be important for the near future when imaging will employ higher bit depth and more subtle gradations of color. These emulsions may also provide a better support for black-and-white imagery from legacy film restoration projects. George Gush and James Hirano of Fuji will discuss the development of new emulsions designed to play a role in archive of the digital era.


Case Study: Restoration of The Loves of Pharoah (Germany, Ernst Lubitsch, 1922)
Thomas Bakels, Alpha-Omega Digital GmbH

The Loves of the Pharoah (original title: Das Weib des Pharaoh French title: La femme du Pharaoh) was a monumental silent film, similar to Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments. In 1922, it was the biggest production ever attempted in Germany. It was filmed in the southern parts of Berlin, where Lubitsch constructed full-scale sets of an ancient Egyptian city, the royal palace, and monumental sculptures including the Sphinx. For a few weeks during the production, the suburbs of Berlin looked like ancient Egypt. Lubitsch cast Emil Jannings, the great international star (and future winner of the first “Best Actor” Oscar – awarded in 1929) as the Pharoah. In addition to Jannings, Lubitsch cast Paul Wegener, Dagny Servaes, and Albert Bassermann – all prominent screen icons of the silent era.

Lubitsch commissioned well known opera composer Eduard Künneke to create original music for the film. Künneke presented a symphonic orchestra score that would be his only work for the cinema, and which fortunately survives almost completely intact among the documents in his estate. Like the operas for which he was so famous, the score not only shows the variations of Künneke’s compositional talents, but perfectly supports each of the characters in the dramatic storyline.

The battle scenes took place on gigantic sets and featured thousands of extras and scores of horses. Aerial scenes of the battle were captured by a camera mounted in a dirigible which hovered above the set. The Loves of the Pharoah would be Lubitsch’s last major film production before he departed Europe for Hollywood. It was the film that finally convinced Hollywood of his capabilities as a director. The film had its American premiere on February 22, 1922, and it went on to critical and popular success.

In the early 1920s, super-productions were presented in the big cities with elaborate scene-by-scene tinting to emphasize dramatic values. There were only a few prints of the tinted versions made for the large, first-run urban venues, and these prints were usually in poor condition after their use, and thus discarded soon after the end of the run. In the case of The Loves of the Pharoah, the only tinted fragments that were available were found in a Russian release print and a print found in Italy.

Because most of the elements of this film had been lost or destroyed, the firm virtually disappeared after the 1930s, and has been considered a “lost film” for over seven decades. Reconstruction efforts began during the great wave of archival activity of the 1970s. A fragment of the film was discovered in Gosfilmofond, and Enno Patalas of the Munich Filmmuseum was able to make a black-and-white copy and re-insert the German intertitles. In 2004, another fragment (which was found in Italy and had been deposited at the George Eastman House) became available to the project, and this fragment was essential in completing the narrative of the film.

The two main fragments of the film on which this restoration is based, were re-edited release prints with inter-titles in the language of the territories of release. The intertitles had to be remade in German. An original script belonging to one of the actresses, along with other textual resources of the period provided the basis for a reconstruction of the film’s original scenic continuity. This Filmmuseum Munich provided the indispensable philological research on which this reconstruction is based.

Restoration was done by Alpha Omega in collaboration with the German Federal Archive and Filmmuseum München, with the cooperation of the George-Eastman-House. The heavily-damaged nitrate positives were submitted to meticulous scanning at 2k resolution, a significant amount of automated image processing and frame-by-frame manual repair to restore the images, which included special treatment for the delicately tinted frames. The restored images were recorded back to 35mm film. Both the film negative and the HD masters are accompanied by a new orchestral recording of Künneke’s original symphonic score, which had not been heard since the days of the film’s original release, and has never been previously recorded.


Saturday . August 20

Restoration and Screening of “Shoes” (USA, Lois Weber, 1916)
Annike Kross, EYE Film Institute Netherlands

The restoration of Lois Weber’s Shoes is based on three different source materials: Two tinted nitrate copies from the collection of EYE Film Institute Netherlands (1150m and 85m) and one safety print from a shortened sound version called Unshod Maiden from 1932 (280m), held by the Library of Congress. The nitrate prints are affected by bacteria resulting in many white spots all over the images and severe nitrate deterioration. In the short sound version, the left edge of the image is cut off by the soundtrack. However, this print contains some short but important scenes, especially in the crucial last reel of the print. These are now reinserted to the film in order to reconstruct the most complete version.

The edited material was then scanned for digital restoration. The images were stabilized and most of the bacterial spots are removed to allow a calmer viewing experience. The only available intertitles were the ones in the Dutch print. These are translated back into English and digitally recreated, using the font of the Dutch titles as a reference. Finally, a black and white negative was recorded back to film, from which the new color print is struck, using the Desmet method, simulating the tints of the nitrate print.

The screening of the film will feature live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla.


Managing Large Scale Sound Preservation
John Polito, Audio Mechanics

We have heard from sound restoration specialists about many individual projects that required particular technical applications, and which often shed light on more general problems in audio restoration. However, studios and archives usually have very large inventories to address. John Polito of Audio Mechanics will discuss the Fox sound restoration project, which analyzes and characterizes a large number of sound elements so that a comprehensive program to address both generic and unique problems can be implemented. This scale of work is in line with the concept of migration that originated in the reformatting exercises of large video and audio archives, and indicates a new awareness of the importance of workflow in accomplishing and controlling large-scale endeavors in preservation.


A Case of the Mumps
The Mumps Test Redux
Ralph Sargent, Film Technology Co.
Dave Kenig, Panavision

Just about a year and a half from now the sixtieth anniversary of CinemaScope will be upon us. With the 1953 purchase of patents and lenses from Henri Chretien, considerable input from its in-house engineers, outside vendors and collaborating businesses such as Bausch and Lomb and Ampex Corporation, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation launched a seismic change in motion picture film formats which, with minor tinkering, remains with us to this day. Very widescreen images combined with stereophonic sound now became available to all but the lowliest of small-town movie houses. Introduced with elaborate productions of public-pleasing photoplays, top of the line actors and a no-holds-barred approach by the studio’s best production personnel, Fox’s new CinemaScope presentation format brought audiences back to movie theaters in droves.

The equipment to make CinemaScope movies also proved to be a revenue stream for Fox. Other studios lined up to either rent or buy the necessary camera lenses and support equipment needed, along with paying a licensing fee to Fox for use of the name CinemaScope on their productions and advertising. All things were rosy, for a while….

The Chretien patents, it turned out, only covered Henri Chretien’s design for making his lenses, not the fundamental idea of anamorphosis itself. Other companies were free to make projection and camera lenses, provided they took a different approach to accomplishing the same result! Opening shop in Westwood, Panavision began its corporate life by supplying projection attachments to theaters based on prisms. Their sales for these attachments ran second only to Bausch and Lomb, Fox’s supplier of choice.

One of the major licensees of CinemaScope equipment was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer which, at one time, had experimented with several approaches of its own to produce widescreen movies. With production looming for both “Raintree County” and “Ben Hur” MGM wanted a photographic system which would envelop the audience and turned to Panavision to make lenses for these 65mm productions. Panavision’s successful manufacture and implementation of camera equipment for these films gave MGM confidence when it later decided to look for a source other than Fox for equipment to shoot future 35mm anamorphic productions. Bob Gottschalk, founding president of Panavision, took on MGM’s challenge and included in his considerations how to attack one of CinemaScope’s biggest failings as a production medium: that of adding undesirable apparent “weight” to actors’ and most especially actresses’ images in very tight closeups. This failing was most frequently and politely referred to as “CinemaScope Mumps!” Other less genteel descriptions were frequently used.

Panavision’s solution to the “CinemaScope Mumps” problem propelled the company into an enviable track-record of success in this and other innovations in the motion picture field and forced the ultimate demise of original CinemaScope equipment as viable production tools. The history and “hows and whys” of the engineering choices and results of this work will be explained in this fascinating look-back offered by “A Case of the Mumps” and “The Mumps Tests Redux.”


Scanning for Preservation Purposes – A “Deep Catalog” Pilot Project
Andrea Kalas, Paramount Pictures
Josh Wiggins, Thought Equity Motion

A presentation that takes a macro-view of the preservation of a studio library. After surveying the holdings, this pilot project was created as a proof-of-concept to demonstrate the viability of digital scanning as a comprehensive preservation stage for the deep catalog titles in the library.


The Resurrection of “Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon)”
Tom Burton, Technicolor Restoration Services

Under the auspices of the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, the Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, and Lobster Films, Technicolor Hollywood recently restored famed visionary French director Georges Melies 14-minute Le Voyage Dans La Lune. Melies is rightfully considered the father of motion picture visual effects – certainly evidenced by Le Voyage. The film’s restoration was conducted over an eight-month period, and premiered earlier this year as the opening film at Cannes. Technicolor’s head of restoration, Tom Burton, will present and delineate the work performed on this most remarkable project, followed by a screening of the complete film.


Case study: 4K restoration of Marcel Carné’s “The Children of Paradise”
Christian Lurin, Éclair Group

Shot in 1943-1944 and released in 1945, Marcel Carné’s “The Children of Paradise”, a two epoch film with a running time of 3 hours, was voted Best French Film ever by a panel of actors, directors and technicians in 1989. In 2010, Pathé and the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation decided to restore the film and selected Éclair Laboratoires to carry out a full 4K digital restoration, starting, as much as possible, from the original nitrate negative.

The presentation will cover the technical and artistic challenges met during the project, including film reconstruction from the original nitrate negative and two nitrate master positives, image restoration of the heavily damaged negative and texture control of sequences issued from the uneven image sources.
Several examples of before/after restoration will be screened to illustrate the talk. The problem of long term conservation of the restored image files will be raised. A comparison between restored images shot back onto BW master positive and scanned again at 4K and the original 4K images will be shown.


Advances in Restoration –
Theory and Practice of Automatic Dust Removal
Kevin Manbeck, MTI Film
Larry Chernoff, MTI Film

Today, the importance of digital tools in the processes of archiving and distribution are no longer in question. It is necessary to convert the vast libraries of motion picture material into digital formats, and to do that economically, and at a sustained level of quality, requires the use of automated processing to address most common film problems. The most endemic of these problems is the presence of microscopic contaminants – dust.

Most archival footage often contains a few examples of catastrophic damage, such as film tears, chemical stains, and reel punch holes. Because of its severity and limited quantity, catastrophic damage is well accommodated by manual repair techniques. In contrast, small debris is ubiquitous throughout an older film. Often tens or hundreds of specks appear on each frame, making manual intervention prohibitive.

Four principle areas of technology contribute to successful automatic restoration: motion estimation, feature detection, boundary replacement, and color texture reconstruction. This presentation will survey the latest academic research in these four areas as well as demonstrate how MTI Film has woven these technologies into a proven restoration system.