Archive for September 2014
You see it every day on television. Scratches, splices, specs, and hairs added by computer to reenacted scenes in order to make them appear “old.” They do it to vintage film, and pre-HD video tape as well. I watched a story about NASA on network TV that used video tape from the “ancient” 1980s, and they even “antiqued” it.
I’ve spent over 40 years trying to take away scratches. Whatever happened to adding “archive footage” in small letters at the bottom of the screen instead of defacing the image?
Enough grousing. In my business it is a constant chore finding suitable film material to make our DVD’s look good.
Here is a brief primer on what we look for in film materials to make our DVD’s look good.
The basic principal of film is positives are made from negatives, and negatives from positives.
1st choice for producing digital masters –
35mm Camera Negative (“EK”) – The film that actually went through the camera. Best and sharpest element to work with.
2nd choice –
35mm Fine Grain: A positive copy made from the camera negative. Grain and contrast are kept low because each successive generation (the duplicate negative and subsequent prints as described below) add both grain and contrast.
3rd choice –
35mm Duplicate Negative: A “dupe negative” is the source of manufacturing release prints.
4th choice –
35mm Print: A release print as shown in theatres.
5th choice –
16mm Duplicate Negative: Before digital, this element was used to manufacture prints for television stations, and non-theatrical exhibitors such as colleges and libraries.
6th and last choice –
16mm print. Although on rare occasions I’ve found 16mm prints struck off the 35mm camera negative, or dupe negative, normally 16mm prints are at least 4 generations from the camera negative, with expected result…loss of clarity. I use 16mm material only after we’ve searched the world for good 35mm elements.
There are many thousands of cans of films in my collection going back to 1923 stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Academy Film Archive (part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Both institutions offer state of the art facilities with carefully monitored cold temperature and low humidity vaults. Both institutions are dedicated to preserving our motion picture heritage, and are a pleasure to work with.
Once the best film material is selected, it is retrieved from the vault and let stand for a day or two to be brought up to room temperature. Then it is sent to the lab for digitization. The subsequent digital master is sent to VCI Entertainment where imperfections are minimized as best as possible using special computer programs…or sometimes frame by frame (by a very patient technician.) If the final output is to be a DVD, special features (the fun part) and menus are added.
BTW, while distributing the Warner Bros. classics library on film, I discovered some prints of Clint Eastwood movies struck from the original camera negatives. Clint came to my office to discuss using some of my footage for his documentary about Carmel, California, “Don’t Pave Main Street,” and during our conversation (he made it clear he was not interested in reminiscing about his work before “Rawhide”!), and I mentioned the EK’s, which were subsequently turned over to him.
(Photo of actual decomposed film courtesy NFSA)
By Margia Dean, guest blogger
George Raft was a friend of mine, and I worked with him in the film, “Loan Shark” (Lippert/1952).
On December 30, 1959 my date and I flew to Havana and gambled at Capri Casino in Havana where George was a part-owner. (I still have a $1.00 chip from there.) I mentioned to George that we heard there was unrest and trouble in Cuba. He pooh-poohed it and said that it was the tourist people in Florida spreading that rumor to discourage anyone from going to Cuba. George said he would be the first to know if anything was going on.
The next night my date and I travelled to the Isle of Pines to attend a New Year’s Eve party at the invitation of the Cuban dictator, President Fulgéncio Batista. It was a lavish affair, with many prominent people there, including the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, his associate (and ultimate playboy) Porfírio Rubirosa, plus the owners of Saks Fifth Ave., and many wealthy sugar plantation owners, with their ladies, lavished in diamonds.
All of a sudden young men from Fidel and Raúl Castro’s revolutionary forces appeared with machine guns. Chaos ensued, and all the workers fled.
We were there for about three days. Others weren’t so fortunate and stayed for a few weeks. Food ran short, and the men fished for food. Many of us were outside and soon covered by mosquito bites because no one knew how to operate the DDT machines. The prisoners were freed from the prison, and we were afraid they would come after us, but I guess they just wanted to escape from confinement. The daughter of the commandant came hysterically to us and said they murdered her father.
I heard that Batista fled to the Dominican Republic during the night on Trujillo’s yacht.
George Skagel (father of Ethel Kennedy) had a private plane and offered us a ride along with Aileen Mehle, who wrote society columns, most notably in the New York Daily News as “Suzy.” We headed down to the beach and flew off. It was a daring escape, we could have been shot down as there were young men with guns all around us.
We were the first ones to leave. I heard that everyone else was trapped there for many days. The Cuban guests, who wanted to get home, were trapped on rat infested freighters for weeks in the bay outside of Havana.
Louella Parsons called and asked me not to speak with any other news reporters, and to give her an exclusive about the adventure. She didn’t want me to talk to any other news reporters, and I agreed.
What really annoys me is that many years later Aileen Mehle told a different, and untrue, story to Vanity Fair, and didn’t even mention me. Why? I don’t know. (Maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was Batista’s guest.) She said Skagel flew her to Miami from the airport, which was impossible, because it was totally sandbagged…no one could fly from there.
I never saw George Raft again after that December night when he was so happy because my date, and others lost a lot of money on his tables! He was forced to leave Havana, penniless.
“Loan Shark” available on DVD from http://www.vcient.com
© 2014 Kit Parker Films