Film Restoration and Preservation

Started by wilder, January 16, 2013, 09:30:59 PM

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Restoring Underground

Thanks to a recent discovery of an alternative print at the Brussels Cinematheque Royale, and advancement in photo-chemical and digital techniques, the BFI were finally able to restore the magnificence of Anthony Asquith's silent romance of 1928. Here the curatorial and technical team responsible for the painstaking restoration of one of Asquith's most celebrated works discuss their roles in the exciting project, as well as the cutting-edge digital wizardry used in the repair of the original print. In its newly-refurbished state the film then had its grand premiere at Queen Elizabeth Hall with a thrilling live score from Neil Brand, in the first archive gala screening as part of the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival.

BFI's 8 minute video on the restoration of Underground (1928)


Think I may have posted these elsewhere before but I'm going to drop them here.


The Film Preservation Guide is a free PDF book put out by The National Fim Preservation Foundation that "describes methods for handling, duplicating, making available, and storing film that are practical for research institutions with limited resources. It is organized in chapters tracing the path of film through the preservation process, from acquisition to exhibition, and includes case studies, photo-illustrations prepared by the staff of George Eastman House, and charts".

Film Forever, The Film Foundation, The Association of Moving Image Archivists, and Video Aids to Film Preservation (<--- incredible) are other good resources.


The Digital Dilemma - PDF

In its landmark report, The Digital Dilemma, the Academy's Science and Technology Council examined ways in which key players in the movie business and other major industries currently store and access important digital data. The goal was to better understand what problems these industries face today and what, if anything, is being done to avoid full-fledged data access disasters down the road.

Through 18 months of research and writing, the Council discovered that the issues of digital storage reliability and compatibility go far beyond lost snapshots and spreadsheets. The world currently produces the equivalent of many trillions of books a year in digital data. The question of how to dependably and efficiently archive and access this massive amount of information in the long term is already a burning issue for government, industrial and scientific communities.

The Digital Dilemma 2 - PDF

The Digital Dilemma 2 focuses on the more acute challenges faced by independent filmmakers, documentarians and nonprofit audiovisual archives.  While 75 percent of theatrically released motion pictures are independently produced, these communities typically lack the resources, personnel and funding to address sustainability issues that are available to major Hollywood studios and other large, deep-pocketed enterprises.  Independent filmmakers create – and nonprofit film archives collect and store – a sizeable part of moving image and sound heritage.  The Academy partnered with the Library of Congress's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) to produce this new study with the conviction that these communities shouldn't be allowed to fall through the cracks.

For this report, a cross-section of independent filmmakers, distributors and marketers was interviewed and a broader online survey of independent filmmakers was conducted.  In addition, a representative group of nonprofit audiovisual archives provided details on their digital preservation activities, including information about the content they receive as born digital files, their current practices for digitally reformatting content for preservation, and their overall digital infrastructure, policies and funding strategies.  The report's findings show an urgent need for these diverse and widely dispersed individuals and organizations to address the digital dilemma before the cultural heritage they represent is permanently lost.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in partnership with The Charles Guggenheim Center for Documentary Film and the Foundation for the National Archives presents 'Preserving Grain, Presenting Pixels: Film Preservation and Restoration in the Digital Age'

This thing is pretty dry, none of the speakers are Charlie Chaplin, but it's informative. However, to bypass The Most Boring Man in the World skip to the 4 minute mark.

Edit - A little after the 24 minute mark he mentions that a good studio print of Magnolia no longer exists.


Cohen Media Group Announces Plans for 700-Film Collection
via Home Media Magazine

Charles Cohen, chairman and CEO of the Cohen Media Group, has big plans for a lot of titles. More than 700 of them, in fact.

"We don't want to just dump these in the marketplace," he said. "We're going to meticulously restore them, and they'll all see a lot of tender loving care."

Cohen acquired the rights to this collection — then the Rohauer Film Collection — in late 2011, and was put together over the course of three decades by Los Angeles theater owner Raymond Rohauer.

The collection includes dozens of silent movies — many from famed actor Buster Keaton — as well as films from D.W. Griffith, Rudolph Valentino, Vivien Leigh and Harry Langdon. Cohen said that the collection includes the only known materials for some films, garnered from overseas warehouses and The Library of Congress.

"We think we have a real treasure trove of material, and we think fans will respond," Cohen said.

The first release from the collection is Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad, out on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 19. The 1924 fantasy epic has been digitally restored in 2K from two 35mm negatives, incorporating tints and tones of original release prints. The release will include an audio commentary and other extras, and Cohen said it will set the standard for the future films from the collection.

On March 12, Cohen will release Tristana, the 1970 Spanish film from director Luis Buñuel (Los Olvidados).

Other highlights from the collection include:

• Keaton's Civil War comedy The General, which will feature a 4K transfer from the original nitrate camera negative. Other Keaton films include Sherlock Jr., Our Hospitality, The Navigator and Go West.

• Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn (1939).

• Other early Fairbanks films, including 1915's The Lamb and Double Trouble, The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Black Pirate and The Taming of the Shrew.

• Musical shorts featuring Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Hoagy Carmichael, Bessie Smith, Rudy Vallee and Ethel Merman.

• The 1916 D.W. Griffith film Intolerance, which is getting a 2K restoration and includes the orchestral score from composer Carl Davis. Other Griffith films include The Birth of a Nation (both the 1915 original and the 1930 cut), Broken Blossoms, Way Down East and Orphans of the Storm.

• Fire Over England (1937), the first screen pairing of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, one of four Leigh films in the collection.

• Comedy shorts featuring W.C. Fields, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Robert Benchley and Milton Berle.

• Sudden Fear (1952), starring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance.

• L'Etoile de Mer (1928) and other experimental shorts from photographer Man Ray.

• Hangmen Also Die (1943), from Fritz Lang, which will include a never-before-seen sequence.

• Song of Freedom (1936), one of six films starring singer-actor Paul Robeson.

• Son of the Sheik (1926), Valentino's last film, along with Blood and Sand and The Eagle.

• Forty years of British films spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s.


Scorsese on the restoration of Richard III


Restoring Jack Hill's Pit Stop (1969)


A treasure trove of silent American movies found in Amsterdam
By Susan King
30 March 2014
via The Los Angeles Times

Long-missing comedy shorts such as 1927's "Mickey's Circus," featuring a 6-year-old Mickey Rooney in his first starring role, 1917's "Neptune's Naughty Daughter"; 1925's "Fifty Million Years Ago," an animated introduction to the theory of evolution; and a 1924 industrial short, "The Last Word in Chickens," are among the American silent films recently found at the EYE Filmmusem in Amsterdam.

EYE and the San Francisco-based National Film Preservation Foundation have partnered to repatriate and preserve these films -- the majority either don't exist in the U.S. or only in inferior prints.

The announcement was to be made Sunday in Amsterdam at EYE Museum with a public screening of the first film saved from the project "Koko's Queen," a 1926  "Out of the Inkwell" cartoon, which had been available in the U.S. only in substandard video copies.

Annette Melville, director of the National Film Preservation Foundation, said EYE came to them after learning of NFPF's partnership four years ago with the New Zealand Film Archive, which repatriated nitrate prints of nearly 200 silent U.S. films, including a missing 1927 John Ford comedy, "Upstream." The following year, the NFPF and the New Zealand archive also identified the 30-minute portion of the 1923 British film "The White Shadow," which is considered to be the earliest feature film in which Alfred Hitchcock had a credit.

"We had so much on our plate," said Melville. "We took responsibility for funding the preservation of a good number of the 176 films. We didn't want to bite off more than we could chew. There are a lot of resources involved in bringing the films back and preserving them. Most of this work is funded through grants."

With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the NFPF last year sent researcher Leslie Lewis to Amsterdam, where she spent two months examining more than 200,000 feet of highly combustible 35mm nitrate film. A veritable Sherlock Holmes of celluloid, Lewis also was one of two nitrate experts dispatched to identify the films in the New Zealand Archive.

"There's a good reason these films haven't been preserved," said Melville, noting that credit sequences on many of the titles had decayed over the years. "Many of them haven't been identified because the way films sit on their reels, sometimes the credits are most exposed to the atmosphere."

Then there was the language problem. In the instances in which credits did survive or the film had intertitles, they were generally in Dutch.

"There was a lot of detective work going on," said Melville.

Working with research teams at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Lewis would take photos of scenes from the films, as well as copies of intertitles and then send  them off to experts for identification.

"We would look up the stuff and send information back the next morning," said Melville, adding that this is the first large-scale repatriation project involving the translation of intertitles back into English.

Not only does the EYE collection feature shorts, animated films, dramas, serials and westerns, there is also a cache of nonfiction films, including footage from a 1920 Chicago rodeo; 1923's "The Crystal Ascension," which chronicles an exploration of Mt. Hood; 1917's "The Dairy Industry and the Canning of Milk" and 1925's "Uncommon Clay," a survey of America's art pottery heritage.

"After World War I, many of the film companies in Europe had taken a big hit, and the U.S. government supported the film industry by helping to send over films overseas," said Melville. They sent short comedies and features, but they solicited big business to send over films about what they do."

Twenty-six of the short films, thought to be the best surviving source material on these titles reported anywhere, have been shipped for preservation at Colorlab in Rockville, Md., under the guidance of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Library of Congress.

The Oregon Historical Society has joined the effort to restore "The Crystal Ascension." And just last week the NFPF received a $260,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to fund the preservation and Web presentation of the nonfiction films.

There are more titles that the NFPF wants to repatriate, including two feature films, 1924's "The Reckless Age," a comedy with Reginald Denny, and the 1922 melodrama "For the Defense," with ZaSu Pitts.

When the restoration work is done, the American archives will have custody of new digital scans, 35mm masters, prints and access copies. EYE will receive new prints and digital copies. And the NFPF plans to post copies of the film for streaming on their website.


Wilder you should go work for these people who travel the world looking for forgotten films.

Think of it as an extension of your work here, it's random blu ray announcements on a global scale.

You can submit your post history as proof that you're willing to do it for free, that you'd work just for the sheer thrill of the randomness.
under the paving stones.


its funny you say that p because that was my dream when i was younger, which is why i have a weird knowledge of obscure forgotten stuff.


I actually looked into that about a year ago, but the path to working in restoration is long and tedious, more technical than creative, sort of like discovering you have to draw 24 frames of nearly the exact same thing to produce a single second of animation. It kills the mood. I couldn’t do it, personally. Thankfully there are some who can.

I selfishly use this forum as a kind of tracking board, also in hopes that organizing all this disparate film news might make it easier for someone stumbling along to make sense of the film landscape as it exists right now, and possibly discover movies more than a couple years old that get them excited, too. Unrealistic? Maybe. Insane? Probably so. Given that this place has maybe 30 regular members and a phantom crew of 50 visiting guests on any daily basis. But whatever. If I break from following this stuff for even a week I become totally unaware of what's happening, which is fine, but I prefer to have some sense of the industry's pulse, despite the fact it's now only faintly beating.

The problem right now more than anything is awareness that these kinds of films even exist, older films, not access necessarily — that article mentions that they're going to throw a bunch of these silent movies online, streaming, for free. But what will that do? Who will know they are there? When a director with clout like PT mentions being inspired by something relatively obscure like the films of Robert Downey Sr., Jonathan Demme's Something Wild, or the doc Jazz on a Summer's Day, or in the case of Refn mentioning Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising in reference to does more to keep these films alive and generate interest in new restorations I think than any independent efforts working outside that kind of influence could. I doubt, for instance, that the Criterion and Eclipse releases of some of those movies would have ended up happening otherwise. A new licensing fee was paid and a studio that thought it would never make another buck off some random 1986 comedy was able to profit again most likely thanks to those offhand remarks.

On this week's episode of KCRW's The Business podcast, it was mentioned that film attendance by 18-24 year olds dropped a full 21% in 2013. That's gigantic. That's a landslide. That's a whole generation out there that has completely checked out of the movie scene, or grew up too young to ever be involved at all. That means that the current audience for indies is generally much older, 25 - 40. The budding filmmakers with a personal vision, the ones whose ambitions aren't to make the broadest pictures possible that people still seem to be paying for, where does that leave them?

I'm wondering out loud now, but I actively debate whether or not interest in independent movies today has fallen because people don't know they exist in the first place, or because they suck, or both. I think it's both. But I think it's a more complicated answer and that those reasons are intertwined — that the lack of awareness of films is also related, on a basic structural level (in terms of the way information online is disseminated and the methods by which people discover new content) to the reasons why the independent films of the past five or ten years haven't exactly lit the world on fire.

The disruption that's occurred in distribution over the course of the past decade has affected both new releases and catalog titles, and my theory is that the lack of access to older films has left a bit of a vacuum for a younger generation in terms of being familiar with film language or varied storytelling styles, which has produced a whole slew of handheld, naval-gazing work rooted in no film tradition at all. (Oh fuck I'm getting up my ass here...) Filmmakers who want to tell stories that are different than what is largely being offered now, stories as varied as the industry produced twenty or thirty years ago, they're most likely film fanatics themselves. Cinema has become polarized, but half the issue is that many of the better indie movies are operating in a completely different register in terms of film language, informed by all those years of following movies in a linear way, learning more sophisticated cinematographic techniques and storytelling methods gradually, than the product most audiences are used to seeing. This stuff isn't rocket science, it's not impenetrable, but familiarity with it requires consistent exposure. A lot of the better writing may be happening in television right now, I can admit that, and the cable shows are certainly more cinematic than they were before, but at the end of the day, it's still resulting in television closer to filmed plays than singular visual experiences.

That's the other thing. What characterized the independent movies of the 90s was a sense of personality, a feeling that you were seeing the world through the eyes of one person, the filmmaker, and that the story might have even been secondary to the individual tone they were able to strike with their worldview. David Lynch, Tarantino, Todd Solondz —  we associate something specific with their names. A scene between a husband and wife in a kitchen wouldn't be even close to the same scene if filmed by any of them. That's missing now. I can scarcely think of any filmmakers who have emerged in the past 15 years who I can attach that degree of specificity to, and furthermore I worry that basic interest in personal vision is becoming passé, that the turn to watching so much by yourself in your house on your home theater or laptop instead of in a communal setting, theatrically, has perversely created an even greater need for common cultural landmarks, which in turn has pushed aside the need to connect with the individual experience of someone else.

Here's a quote by Jonathan Franzen, tangentially related:

QuoteWhen I first met Don DeLillo, he was making the case that if we ever stop having fiction writers it will mean we've given up on the concept of the individual person. We will only be a crowd. And so it seems to me that the writer's responsibility nowadays is very basic: to continue to try to be a person, not merely a member of a crowd. (Of course, the place where the crowd is forming now is largely electronic.) This is a primary assignment for anyone setting up to be and remain a writer now. So even as I spend half my day on the Internet—doing email, buying plane tickets, ordering stuff online, looking at bird pictures, all of it—I personally need to be careful to restrict my access. I need to make sure I still have a private self. Because the private self is where my writing comes from. The more I'm pulled out of that, the more I simply become another loudspeaker for what already exists. As a writer, I'm trying to pay attention to the stuff the people aren't paying attention to. I'm trying to monitor my own soul as carefully as I can and find ways to express what I find there.

What I'm getting at is that the audience for the kinds of movies a lot of us on this board like, or used to like when they were still getting made regularly, is excruciatingly small, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. There just needs to be an easy way to get at this stuff, in an accessible organized fashion, and that's partially what I'm attempting to contribute to.

That was a huge, unwieldy, rant. I went fucking way off topic. Will probably delete this in an hour or so.


think i'm right now like the person in the romance movie who meets the crush then freezes on words. i may or may not summon emotional courage later, but i'm positive i don't want you to delete that. i'd quote the whole thing but seems rude. you and i both know what happened and we both know there's a movie reference to make --


Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn Back Crowdfunding Campaign To Digitally Save Endangered 35MM Prints
via Deadline

As celluloid gives way to the digital era, filmmakers Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) are some of the names lending their support to a new crowdfunding campaign to save and restore 35mm film prints. The campaign was launched today by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), a non-profit org whose mission it is to undertake high-resolution 2K digital transfers to preserve film prints too fragile for active circulation. Older and rare prints are an increasingly endangered treat on the repertory/art house exhibition scene and unless restored or digitally archived, frequently deteriorate too far to be screened and can be lost forever. AGFA specializes in horror, sleaze, action, independent regional film, and international genre cinema and has over 3,200 film prints in its archive. Organizers are looking to raise $15K by May 30 to fund AGFA's first digital restoration, of Craig Denney's 1975 sci-fi pic The Astrologer, which real life psychic Denney self-financed and stars in as a fortune teller who discovers psychic abilities and rises to fame by advising the President of the United States. Refn and Anderson have recently joined the AGFA advisory board which also includes Alamo Drafthouse founders Tim and Karrie League. "By any means necessary, we need to watch movies on film, because that's why God created cinema," said Refn. "The American Genre Film Archive has begun a mission to preserve what I consider the greatest art form God has given us."