Saturday, July 14, 2012

SFSFF: Amazing Tales from the Archives

SF Silent Film Festival, 07.13.2012 Tales from the Archives event at SF Silent Film Film Festival at the Castro Theatre.A large audience filled the Castro Theatre for this free SF Silent Film Festival presentation about film restoration in the digital age. Andrea Kalas from Paramount talked about her studio's recent restoration of Wings (1927) & showed before & after clips of the cleaned-up footage. She did a good job making me regret not seeing this new version at the previous night's screening. The $700,000 restoration included fixing film stock damage, adding tints & colored elements, & making a sound track with sound effects, based on the original score. Grover Crisp of Sony then talked about his studio's restorations of Dr. Strangelove & Lawrence of Arabia.

In all these cases, the end product is not a new print but a DCP, or Digital Cinema Package, meant for digital projection. Indeed, this event resembled a sales pitch for digital projection, but to a skeptical audience. Mr. Crisp even had the projectionist run Dr. Strangelove as a projected film & a digital projection simultaneously to demonstrate the differences. Audience members sometimes received non-answers to their pointed questions. In response to one questioner, Ms. Kalas acknowledged the ambiguity in her use of the term "digital film," & the festival's artistic director, Anita Monga, jumped in at one point to defend the festival's presentation of Wings as a digital instead of a film projection.

§ Amazing Tales from the Archives: Into the Digital Frontier
Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Archives at Paramount Pictures
Grover Crisp, Senior Vice President of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
July 13, 10:30 am   
Castro Theatre


Civic Center said...

Sorry you didn't see "Wings," partly because the live performance of the Foley sound effects artists during the battle scenes was one of the most amazing things I've ever heard/seen.

The whole digital restoration issue is fascinating. The reconstructed (digital) "Wings" print was just about flawless. The next day I went to the 1922 Lubitsch-directed spectacular "The Loves of Pharoah" which was a digital patchwork from various prints found hiding in vaults around the world. About one-fifth of the film was missing, and was filled in with stills and explanatory titles, which worked rather well. The tinted, cleaned-up remainder felt like an excavation into time and looked great. Digital, paradoxically enough, really is the future of film preservation, though that may sound heretical.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thursday night's Wings screening sounds like it was wonderful. Recovery stories of old films are indeed fascinating. The festival once showed some films that exist only as their trailers, the complete films themselves having disappeared!

The digital restoration talk was perhaps a bit corporate & raised a little confusion. The projected film is going away, & I don't have any objections to film's digital future, but I probably need more education. At least I learned about 2K v. 4K, frame weave, & DCPs at the presentation. A new problem is preserving the digital formats, which are constantly changing.