American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 82

Post Focus

World War I fighter pilot Jack Powell (Charles Rogers) contemplates a memento in a scene from Paramount’s Oscar-winning Wings, which recently underwent a digital restoration at Technicolor. The frame at left was pulled before the restoration work was done; the frame at right shows the restored picture.

I

Technicolor Repairs Paramount’s Wings By Robert S. Birchard

When Paramount spokesman A.C. Lyles was asked what his favorite Paramount picture was, he replied, “The next one.” It’s a sad truth that a film touted as something that will live forever is often relegated to the vault the minute a studio’s next “unforgettable” release pushes it from theater screens. Television and home video have changed this equation, but often the essence of a long-ago film is lost in the march to achieve ever more impressive technological feats onscreen. Such was the state of Paramount’s Wings (1927), which received the Oscar for Outstanding Production at the first Academy Awards ceremony. Truth be told, Wings, directed by William Wellman and shot by Harry Perry, was never a lost film. It has long been available in 35mm and 16mm; it was released on VHS as a part of Paramount’s 75th-anniversary celebration in 1987; and it was also issued on laserdisc and DVD. However, none of these versions came close to presenting the film as it was first seen, so this year, as part of Paramount’s 100th-anniversary celebration, the studio has restored Wings using state-of-the-art technology. “No existing print of Wings had the original tinting and Handschiegl-stencil color effects,” says Tom Burton, who served as executive director of the restoration at Technicolor Creative Services under the supervision of Paramount Vice President of Archives Andrea Kalas. He adds, “The best surviving film element was a black-andwhite dupe negative made by Paramount in the 1950s.” Initial digital scans of this element offered an image that the
82 May 2012

uninitiated might say “looked pretty good for such an old film,” but such films didn’t look just “pretty good” when they were new. Because the Wings dupe was struck from a shrunken nitrate print on a continuous contact printer, there was a great deal of printedin image weave. Nitrate decomposition had begun to set in before the surviving print was copied, and vertical scratches were evident throughout the film. “In restabilizing the image, we can either attack the content at the center of the frame, where the meat of the image is, or, if need be, we’ll ask the software to look at the corners and try to stabilize the edges,” says Danny Albano, lead restoration artist on the project, which was carried out at 2K. “Then we have a problem where everything inside is warping, and we have to place markers and stabilize those elements so that, for example, a face can maintain the steadiness it should have. “The software allows for automated processing,” adds Albano, “but what if a character is smiling or somehow distorting his face? The machine can’t fix that. Only a human operator can recognize what looks right.” “When an original camera negative has damage, there are a lot of things the software will detect as being different from the look of the film,” notes Burton. “When you make generational dupes, that distortion and dirt become part of the image, and it becomes very difficult to rely on automation [to remove them].” As for the artifacts from nitrate decomposition, there was initially some concern as to whether the damage could be repaired. Burton recalls, “In those scenes, it looked like both sides of the frame were on fire.” Albano adds, “When I first saw it, I thought it

American Cinematographer

Frame grabs courtesy of Technicolor. ©2012 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.



American Cinematographer - May 2012

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - May 2012

American Cinematographer - May 2012
Contents
Editor’s Note
President’s Desk
Short Takes: M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”
Production Slate: Person of Interest • The Raven
Harsh Realms
Wild Passion
Tales of Ordinary Madness
Top of Their Class
Center Stage for Cinematographers
Post Focus: Technicolor Restores Wings
New Products & Services
International Marketplace
Classified Ads
Ad Index
In Memoria: Ric Waite, ASC; Herbert S. Alpert, ASC, CSC
Clubhouse News
ASC Close-Up: Darius Khondji
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - American Cinematographer - May 2012
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 1
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 2
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 3
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Contents
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 5
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 6
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 7
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Editor’s Note
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 9
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - President’s Desk
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 11
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Short Takes: M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls”
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 13
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 14
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 15
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 16
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 17
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Production Slate: Person of Interest • The Raven
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 19
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 20
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 21
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 22
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 23
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 24
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 25
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 26
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 27
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 28
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 29
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 30
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 31
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Harsh Realms
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 33
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 34
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 35
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 36
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 37
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 38
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 39
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 40
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 41
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Wild Passion
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 43
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 44
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 45
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 46
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 47
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 48
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 49
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 50
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 51
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Tales of Ordinary Madness
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 53
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 54
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 55
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 56
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 57
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 58
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 59
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 60
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 61
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Top of Their Class
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 63
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 64
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 65
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 66
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 67
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 68
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Center Stage for Cinematographers
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 70
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 71
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 72
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 73
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 74
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 75
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 76
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 77
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 78
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 79
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 80
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 81
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Post Focus: Technicolor Restores Wings
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 83
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 84
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 85
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 86
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 87
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - New Products & Services
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 89
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 90
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 91
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - International Marketplace
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Classified Ads
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Ad Index
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - In Memoria: Ric Waite, ASC; Herbert S. Alpert, ASC, CSC
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 96
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 97
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Clubhouse News
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - 99
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - ASC Close-Up: Darius Khondji
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - May 2012 - Cover4
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