The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry

The Reel Thing XXII August 21-22

August 14, 2009
Program Excerpts
The Reel Thing Technical Symposium is organized and coordinated
by Grover Crisp and Michael Friend

Restoration of the Apollo 11 EVA Footage
During this presentation, the system used to capture the extravehicular activity on video during Apollo 11 will be reviewed as well as the process for broadcasting those first live pictures from the moon.  NASA’s search for the original telemetry tapes which recorded the feed from the moon, and the best surviving elements will also be profiled.  A discussion will ensue about the technical and philosophical factors that are guiding the restoration project itself, and how these new restoration capabilities may apply to other genres of moving images.  Finally, before and after sequences of images from the ongoing restoration project will be screened in HD resolution.

Restoring Silents:  Early Capra
Frank Capra, best known for directing comedies in the mid-30s at Columbia Pictures, started his career directing silent films, many of which are little known.  The obscurity of Capra's early work is due in part to the same fate which rendered so many films from the silent era, "lost."  In preparing for a retrospective of Capra's early work, the challenges of restoration work on these films became abundantly clear, and required the exploration of new workflows. Incorporating current post-production work flows into traditional film restoration techniques, THE WAY OF THE STRONG (1928) was preserved and digitally restored, creating a new filmed out negative and print.  A brief examination of problems encountered and the decisions and solutions will be followed by a screening of the feature film, with live musical accompaniment.


This talk will illustrate step-by-step how the restoration plan evolved as each of the film’s problems came to light. Shown will be many film clips that demonstrate the flaws and how they were dealt with, along with test footage showing different methods of digital processing and the effect of these when the images were recorded back to 35mm film.  Comparisons will be made of scenes as they appeared in original Technicolor dye transfer prints of THE RED SHOES, with the same scenes in the 1980’s Eastmancolor prints, and those in the new 2009 digitally-restored version as reproduced on Kodak 2383 Vision print film.

Managing Devices and Finding Data in Multi-Petabyte Media Archives

Media archives are growing to hold many petabytes of data in tens of thousands of media devices, presenting new challenges to system designers, maintainers, and users.  This talk will describe research at the University of California, Santa Cruz that is addressing two of those challenges: managing tens of thousands of devices as an archive ages, and efficiently finding data in a system with tens of thousands of independent media.  Maintaining an archive over time is difficult because, over a span of decades, nearly every part of the archive will be replaced.  We are exploring ways to manage this evolution by identifying aging and inefficient media and marking them for replacement, and by seamlessly integrating new devices into the archive, slowly migrating data from older media to newer media.  We are also developing techniques to efficiently locate data without the need for a large centralized database, instead using "smart" media devices that can answer queries about data they store.  Our approach can quickly rule out media that definitely does not contain the desired data and confine the query to media devices that might have useful data; this approach is more scalable than simply distributing the query to all of the media.  By making media archives easier to manage and facilitating faster, more efficient searches, our research will enable media archive designers and users to manage the ever-growing volume of digitally archived media, preserving our digital culture for future generations.

Reclaiming the ‘Lost’ Lunar Orbiter Survey Photos
Early this year headlines blared the news that backup tapes of the first satellite optical surveys of the moon – long thought to have been lost – had been found and decoded to gorgeous new prints which contained more than twice the resolution of the “official” versions done long ago. This presentation will concentrate on the photographic mission to the moon, how it was conceived and executed, how the 2” instrumentation tapes, which only vaguely resemble quad videotape recordings, came to be made (but until now never used) and what was required to bring success to a project which many thought would be impossible or too expensive to pull off.

The Restoration of RASHOMON
Although Akira Kurosawa’s Academy Award-winning 1950 film RASHOMON remains an acknowledged masterpiece both in Japan and around the world, very few quality 35mm elements exist on this landmark film. This presentation will examine the challenges of bringing together a group of archivists in both the United States and Japan to restore Rashomon and their efforts to locate viable elements. Once the restoration began, several unique qualities in both Rashomon’s surviving elements and the mise-en-scene of the film itself posed unique hurdles for the restoration team. Some frame scans as well as 35mm before / after samples will be screened to illustrate the challenges and final results.

Re-outfitting the USS Arizona Memorial film

Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures, MTI Film, EFILM, Deluxe Laboratories, Chace Audio by Deluxe joined forces with the National Park Service to create a Digital Cinema presentation of the orientation film.  A 35mm Interpositive made from the original negative of the film was scanned at 4K resolution at EFILM, where final color correction was also completed.  MTI Film, working from the scanned files, digitally removed dirt, scratches, stains and other imperfections to the image.  Due to the extreme damage inherent in much of the stock footage used in the body of the film, there was a conscious decision to only remove or repair items as seemed practical, with care taken not to denature the original experience of the film. In creating a new 5.1 soundtrack for the Digital Cinema version of the film, a few minor sound editorial changes were desired, as well as some rebalancing of the original mix.  Chace Audio transferred the original 35mm 6-track magnetic soundtracks, edited the sections and mixed new inserts, as well as adjusting the balance of the mix, in keeping with the original intentions of the filmmakers and sound designers.  Deluxe Digital Cinema created the 4K Digital Cinema Package.  This will be the premiere screening of the new 4K Digital Cinema presentation of the film.

A Case Study in Sound Restoration: HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953)
HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE was the first film shot in Cinemascope and mixed 4-track stereo, but 20th Century Fox decided to release The Robe as the first Cinemascope picture. How To Marry A Millionaire was set to introduce Cinemascope and 4-track stereo in grand style.  The opening of the movie is a thoroughly entertaining 8 minute prologue written and conducted by Alfred Newman.  How better to introduce 4-track stereo and a wide aspect ratio than an orchestral performance where the placement of the instruments perfectly matches the performers on screen.  Shrinkage and vinegar syndrome of the original masters had advanced beyond the capabilities of standard film transfer equipment, and it was unclear if a transfer was even possible.  Protection copies of the sound master had built in sound problems pointing to deterioration of the masters when the copies were made. This case study will identify the problems that existed in the sound master and protection copies of the master, and discuss how these problems were overcome.

Resolution Limitations of Film Scanners:  More Pixels Do Not Mean More Resolution  
In recent years it has become possible to manufacture line array and area array CCD and CMOS image sensors with very high pixel counts.  However, the number of pixels does not necessarily increase the image quality of either an original image or a scanned image. In some instances more can indeed mean less performance.  This paper will explore digital imaging systems with particular emphasis on the effects of lens performance coupled to pixel size and frequency in film scanner performance.

Adieu, Sweet Apparition.  Hello Sweetheart – Get Me Rewrite!

Attendees at The Reel Thing XX were among the first to hear the inside story from First Sounds’ founder David Giovannoni about the recovery of one of mankind’s first recordings of its own voice, made in Paris in 1860—advancing by 17 years the invention of audio recording.  This year, Giovannoni will discuss recent discoveries and introduce new old sounds.  He’ll tell of finding a seminal cache of documents that trace (literally) the development of the phonautograph from proof of concept to laboratory instrument.  He’ll describe the technical challenges of evoking sound from primitive recordings made to be seen, not heard.  And he’ll recount how the inventor's own voice was revealed after posing for a year as the phantasm of a young woman.

After the DI – How to Organize, Catalogue and Protect the Original Negative
Most people will agree that the Digital Intermediate process has opened up a vast opportunity for filmmakers to enhance, manipulate and often improve the original images shot during a film. Among some purists, there are strong arguments against the process, but regardless, it has become the accepted and required way to finish virtually all films released by major studios.  The use of digital cameras has also gained popularity, but for now, a large amount of features are still shot on cameras that use negative, and it makes sense to have a plan to archive the original camera negative in a way that identifies it as the source material used in the creation of the DI and to preserve those master shots as valuable assets.  This presentation explains the method we follow to extract the “selects” of each reel, preparing it and storing it in a way that creates an accurate road map back to the original project.

Electronic Archiving: Lessons from 8 years in the "DI Trenches"
This presentation will focus on the real issues encountered by someone who has been living Digital Intermediate archiving since the inception of DI.  The presentation focuses on what really happens when facilities and DI studios try to deal with archiving Petabytes of data.  

The restoration of “Johnny Cash Presents the Everly Brothers Show”—an early 70’s TV series that exist only on obsolete type A videotape copies—presented technical challenges far in excess of ordinary video restoration. Unlike 2” quad recordings, Type A was a videotape format promoted by Ampex for the industrial and educational market and as such was a “stripped down” technique which for most of its market life was never intended to be broadcast. These particular recordings were not recorded at ABC by direct wire. Instead they are off-the-air recordings made by someone who had no means of precisely monitoring what was being recorded and who inadvertently introduced signal distortions which preclude direct recapture to a modern format.

Vinegar Syndrome in the Workplace
Vinegar syndrome, the decomposition of cellulose acetate base picture and audio elements into acetic acid and water is a wide spread phenomena in the archive community.  As legacy acetate based elements continue to age, the problem has become not only more common but more severe.  While there has been much research and discussion on the protection of assets suffering from vinegar syndrome, very little has been discussed about the proper methods to handle the vinegar syndrome material safely in the workplace. The panelists for this session will bring their knowledge of environmental hygiene technology to address the issues of worker and workplace safety for the archives and facilities that are likely to encounter vinegar syndrome elements.  They will discuss the methods and science behind testing for workplace safety, documentation of procedures for employee safety and workplace compliance.

Archiving, Preserving and Distributing Digital Cinema Collections: a report on the results of the EDCINE project
After three years of work, the original EDCINE approach – based on open standards (as MXF, JPEG2000 and OAIS), a flexible and modular structure and on new standardised profiles for long term preservation – resulted in a ‘proof of concept’, a working prototype of the ‘EDCINE Digital Archive System’.

Challenges of Restoring Classic Films in 4K

This presentation will feature examples from 4K workflows of restoration projects.  The Wizard of Oz--Challenges of working with three-strip original camera negatives, including scanning at 4K resolution.  Will include a short clip from the final restoration  Gone With the Wind--Because of camera inconsistencies, lens mis-alignment and other issues related to photochemical processes, there are built-in problems to all Technicolor 3-strip negatives.  We will discuss digital solutions for production-related technical defects, including density/color breathing.  Will include a short clip from the final restoration. North by Northwest--One of the most critical issues facing restorers of 1950’s films is color fading in the camera original.  For this title, reviving the color from a severely faded Vista Vision EK original negative was the main challenge.  Will include a short clip from the final restoration.


More presentations to be announced shortly.


Opening Night Reception and Screening:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The premiere screening of the new digital restoration of the classic Walt Disney animated film

Premiere Digital Restoration Screening of How to Marry a Millionaire
New digital restoration of the 20th Century Fox film presented in CinemaScope.

Sneak Preview of a Major 4K Digital Restoration
The title for this exclusive event will not be announced prior to the premiere screening. It is one of the most anticipated releases from a major studio.

Surprise screenings sprinkled throughout the program!

Partial listing of speakers and/or contributors:

David Giovannoni, First Sounds
Ralph Sargent, Film Technology Co., Inc
Al Sturm, Wideband Video Labs, Inc.
John Galt, Panavision Advanced Digital Imaging
Nicola Mazzanti, Consultant, Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique (Brussels,
Siegfried Foessel, Arne Nowak, Fraunhofer IIS (Erlangen, Germany)
Bob Eicholz, Senior Vice President - Technology and Corporate Development at EFILM
Mo Henry, D. Bassett and Associates/Deus Ex Machina
Ned Price, Warner Bros.
Schawn Belston, 20th Century Fox
Ethan L. Miller, University of California, Santa Cruz
John Polito, Audio Mechanics
Mike Inchalik, Lowry Digital
Rita Belda, Sony Pictures
Mike Pogorzelski, Academy Film Archive
Theo Gluck, Walt Disney Studios
Bob Heiber, Chace Audio byDeluxe
Natasha Stratton, Citadel Environmental
Robert Gitt, UCLA Film & Television Archive