ADDING Scratches to Film?
Posted September 24, 2014on:
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)