28 Jun 2008


What follows is a transcription of an article intitled "Studio Classics in Need of Facelifts" written by Tatiana Siegel for Variety and published on November 30th, 2007. You can read the original here.

In Cannes this year, Martin Scorsese talked about the importance of preserving such films as Ahmed El Maanouni's 1981 Moroccan music documentary "Trances."
But he didn't mention that his own "Taxi Driver" is deteriorating.

Although the 1976 film is part of Sony's vast library, few are rallying to its aid. The myriad film-preservation orgs throw their money and muscle behind titles that are indie, foreign or obscure. It's assumed Hollywood's majors will take care of their own films. In fact, they don't.

One Paramount veteran compared the studio's vault to a teenager's chaotic bedroom. In fact, a visitor accidentally stepped on the negative of "Rosemary's Baby," which was unspooled on the floor.

With constant pressure on the bottom line, studio execs often lack the funds -- or interest -- to make sure their heritage is being cared for properly. Digital technology, which was touted as the salvation of film, has turned out to be deeply flawed, deteriorating faster than anyone imagined.

Movies "get lost in the wilderness unless (studios) pay attention to them," says Ridley Scott, who found the digital version of his 1982 "Blade Runner" in fragile condition. "We discovered inadvertently that a lot of digital stuff was fading quicker than expected. We think it's safe forever on disc, but, in fact, it was actually fading."

Roger Mayer, a former MGM honcho who's now chairman of the National Film Preservation Foundation, estimates each studio spends $5 million to $10 million a year to fund preservation or restoration programs -- a sum that wouldn't even cover the marketing costs of a low-budget comedy.

Furthermore, the current funding is not enough to undo the damage after decades of neglect. While Sony and Warner Bros. get high marks for attempts at maintaining their libraries, Fox and Paramount get lower grades.

But preservation execs are facing impossible odds. Even though Columbia's "Taxi Driver" is stored in Sony's climate-controlled vault, it's losing its color (though some critics have placed the blame on the restoration work Scorsese performed in 1996). Meanwhile, many 1970s films are suffering because they were preserved on a form of film called CRI (Color Reversal Intermediate), instead of a negative.

"That particular form of negative turned out to be unstable and not good enough. A lot of the films had to be redone," Mayer says.

Other vulnerable pics from the era include the seminal dark comedy "Harold and Maude," which is in grave condition. Even "The Godfather" was recently in need of triage. Paramount sent the original camera negative to Warner Bros.' facilities for color correction and sound remixing, among other restorations.

The Francis Ford Coppola movie has been a consistent money-maker since its 1972 bow, on vidcassette, DVD and homevideo. If that movie is in need of repair, what hope is there for lesser-grossing films?

In December 2006, the National Film Registry listed, as usual, 25 films it feels warrant preservation, including "Groundhog Day" (1993) and "Fargo" (1996). Clearly, this is not just a concern for early Hollywood films.

Studios are quick to cut the budget for film preservation and restoration after a poor year. They're being shortsighted: New media is constantly coming up with new delivery systems, and the majors could tap into their vast libraries for added income -- but only if the films are in great condition.

Still, even if a studio wants to spiff up a film, it may not be able: When studios acquire libraries, they don't necessarily own the original camera negative. So sometimes when they prepare for a DVD release, they can't access the materials they need.

"Everyone assumes that studios are caring for their films because there is an economic incentive to do so, which means outside film preservation groups aren't particularly worried about their films," says Annette Melville, director of the National Film Preservation Foundation, which focuses on saving American films that would be unlikely to survive without public support, such as shorts or newsreels.

Like an HMO that covers surgery but not preventative medicine, the studios sometimes wait until a film's condition is critical. Most concede that a better solution seems to be an ounce of prevention. As Mayer explains, "If you preserve a film properly, you don't have to restore it." He estimates that a properly stored film will last 100 years before restoration work becomes necessary.

Since the advent of homevid in the early 1980s, studios have been more serious about caring for library assets. From 1988-1993, Paramount invested $35 million in the construction of a vault in Pennsylvania to store second master printing copies and an automated inventory system to track the studio's then-750,000 prints worldwide.

But with an eye on the bottom line, studios are reluctant to preserve or restore films for which they have no foreseeable distribution plans.

But income opportunities sometimes crop up in unexpected places.

"A good example of that is when Ted Turner wanted to start TNT and Turner Classic Movies in South America, we at MGM had already restored the Spanish and Portuguese soundtracks, which were separate pieces of film," Mayer recalls. "Therefore, (Turner) was able to do it very quickly, in three or four months rather than three or four years."

Studios also have to decide whether to digitally preserve a film that has already been preserved on celluloid. "There are arguments both ways on that," Mayer says. "The biggest argument against it is that it is extremely expensive, and since we've had no experience on its longevity, we're not sure yet that it is as good as film."

Directors like Scorsese have become adept at using their influence to further the preservation and restoration cause.

"As directors became more powerful, they were able to force studios into spending money that they might not otherwise have spent," Mayer explains.

Steven Spielberg was one of the first directors to build a clause into his contract that called for preservation and restoration work on his own pictures. That phenomenon has ultimately benefited all studio films, because once the preservation technology and infrastructure are in place, they tend to be employed throughout a library.

One Par vet says the studio began to clean up its act when it started to make movies with Scorsese.

Meanwhile, Barry Allen, executive director of film preservation and archival resources at the studio, says he is unaware of the "Rosemary's Baby" incident. " 'Rosemary's Baby' is in very good condition," he insists.

For the first half of the century, studios let their sprawling libraries fall into disarray. The result is half of all American films made before 1950 have been destroyed, while 80% of U.S.-produced pics dating before 1929 are lost. But film preservation and restoration efforts sprung up in the early 1960s. Mayer, a longtime MGM executive, launched the first large-scale effort to safeguard a studio library in 1965, when he oversaw MGM's construction of refrigerated vaults to house its library, which included such titles as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."

"The studio wasn't storing its films properly," says Mayer, who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Academy Award in 2005 for his work on behalf of film and TV preservation. "I discovered that it would get to 100 degrees on the lot, and films were stored in these concrete bunkhouses because they were trying to keep out thieves. But they were deteriorating because of heat and humidity."

Meanwhile, Scorsese launched World Cinema Foundation this year at Cannes, recruiting Alfonso Cuaron, Walter Salles and Wong Kar-wai to help restore international films. And Scorsese's Film Foundation has partnered with other orgs, such as the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., to save nearly 500 endangered films. These orgs also do extensive preservation and restoration work on their own.

Ultimately, the Hollywood majors are responsible for keeping the vast number of motion pictures in pristine condition. Unfortunately, history has proven that they are not always the best custodians.

(Anne Thompson contributed to this report.)

27 Jun 2008


The Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA sustained heavy damage from the recent flood that affected the state.

What caught my eye of this Des Moines Register article is this gruesome picture of what used to be a mighty Wurlitzer organ tipped over and soaked after the waters retreated.

You can read the original article: here.

21 Jun 2008


What follows is the transcription of a fragment of an article intitled "Universal Upbeat in Studio Fire Aftermath" by Robert Marich for Broadcasting and Cable, published on June 20th. You can read the original here.

In an email to employees, Universal Studios president/COO Ron Meyer said that the June 1 studio fire at Universal Studios—the result of a worker accident—did not cause irreparable harm, especially to NBCU’s valuable film/TV library.

“Although our video vault was destroyed, losing thousands of tapes and hundreds of duplicate film prints that we are now in the process of recreating, the vault in which we store our library of films was untouched,” Meyer said in the Thursday memo. “The teams are still assessing what was lost and what may have been salvaged, but we do know there will be minimal long-term impact on what we do, as our company has taken film preservation very seriously and adhered to a policy of geographically separating elements that ensure our film and video legacy can continue.

“We are focused on bringing back our historic back lot tour, developing a replacement for King Kong and rebuilding (production backdrop) New York Street. I will keep you posted as we progress.”

Meyer also said news reports suggesting that the studio’s fire sprinkler system had inadequate water pressure are not true.

The fire erupted in the wee hours of Sunday morning June 1, burning several square blocks of movie sets on the blacklot and the King Kong studio tour attraction. A huge plume of smoke from Universal Studios, which is the sprawling 415-acre film lot at the north end of Cahuenga Pass in Los Angeles, was visible for miles away.

The Universal Studios Tour was closed that day, but reopened the following day and NBCU executive offices opened normally Monday.

19 Jun 2008


What follows is a transcription of an article intitled "Classic Films Lost on Universal Studios Fire" written by John Horn and Susan King for the LA Times and published on June 4th. You can read the original here.

Destruction of the copies could affect several
upcoming screenings at museums and other sites.

By John Horn and Susan King, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
June 4, 2008

In addition to the ruined "King Kong" attraction and the burned New York street scapes, the Universal Studios Hollywood fire has claimed another casualty: perhaps hundreds of classic 35-millimeter film prints, the studio said Tuesday.

The prints were high-quality copies of decades-old movies, not original masters, which are stored in a Philadelphia vault, the studio said. But the loss of the copies in Universal's scorched vault building, which the studio had not yet quantified, could affect several upcoming screenings of classic films at museums, festivals and repertory theaters.

"It's a real shame. The timing couldn't be worse," said Bernardo Rondeau, the coordinator of film programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As part of July's "The Discreet Charm of Charles Boyer" program, LACMA was scheduled to show the French-born actor's 1941 film "Hold Back the Dawn."

The print of that movie, which was originally released by Paramount but is part of Universal's archival collection, was being transferred from New York's Lincoln Center to the Los Angeles museum and may have been in the Universal vault when the predawn blaze broke out Sunday.

Making new film prints can cost $5,000 or more each and take months to produce.

The fire also claimed about 5% of Universal Music Group's recordings, primarily big band and jazz recordings on the Decca label, and video copies of Universal movies and television shows. Universal Music Group is no longer part of the NBC conglomerate but rents storage space from the studio.

LACMA's Rondeau said the museum was nearly finished preparing the schedule for its July 11-26 festival and still planned to include "Hold Back the Dawn" on the slate, hoping that the film was spared or that a substitute print could be located.

In an e-mail sent to several dozen film exhibitors Monday, Universal said the "fire destroyed nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot. Due to this we will be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be able to try and piece together what material we do have and if any prints exist elsewhere."

Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of UCLA Film and Television Archive, said that in addition to the uncertainty surrounding "Hold Back the Dawn," the status of several other classic film prints was murky but not as bad as once feared.

"Initially, with the flood of e-mails [asking for prints], the situation seemed more dire than it turned out to be," Horak said. "Universal did find prints on some stuff."

American Cinematheque, which operates the Egyptian Theatre and Aero Theatre, had booked prints of "Her Jungle Love" and "Aloma of the South Seas" (both Paramount films with Dorothy Lamour), and now Universal will not be able to provide the 35-millimeter prints, Horak said.

"It is upsetting," said Horak, who once worked at Universal. "I feed bad for my colleagues at Universal. I was in that vault. It was filled with stuff. It's going to take quite a while to assess what really was lost."

Text and photos copyright of their respective owners.


For those who run classic films, Universal just announced:

"It is with great sadness that I must inform you that yesterdays fire destroyed nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot. Due to this we will be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here. Over the next few weeks and months we will be able to try and piece together what material we do have and if any prints exist elsewhere. For the time being please check your rental confirmations and look under shipping instructions. If the print was set to ship from the studio then you date is now canceled. If the shipping instructions say ship from Deluxe then those dates are still good."

The good news is that the elements survive. The bad news is that most likely, only the "big" titles will ever be reprinted in 35mm. Many Universal titles will never be seen in 35mm publicly again.

11 Jun 2008


What follows is the transcription of an article by Stephanie Argy and Rachael Bosley for the ASC Magazine. The original can be found here



Widely regarded as an American classic and a landmark achievement in cinematography, Paramount Pictures’ The Godfather (1972) is identical to most films of its era in one respect: it was not properly preserved. Paramount, like most Hollywood studios, did not create a preservation program — “asset protection” in industry parlance — until the home-video boom of the 1980s proved film libraries could have indefinite, lucrative lives. Before that awareness took hold, original negatives were typically used as printing negatives, which meant the original negatives for popular pictures took a lot of abuse. The Godfather was not only popular, it was Hollywood’s first blockbuster, and over the years, “the neck of the golden goose was certainly wrung out,” says the film’s cinematographer, Gordon Willis, ASC, with typical candor.

Now, a new batch of golden eggs is in the offing. At director Francis Ford Coppola’s request, film-preservation expert Robert A. Harris and associate archivist Joanne Lawson of The Film Preserve recently spent a year digitally restoring The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (1974) with Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI). Harris’ key collaborators in the endeavor were ASC associate member Jan Yarbrough, MPI’s technical director/senior colorist; Daphne Dentz, MPI’s vice president of digital services; Willis, who shot the pictures and gave advice by phone; and Allen Daviau, ASC, who paid many visits to MPI to lend the effort a cinematographer’s eye.

After working through The Godfather and Part II, the team turned to the much more recent Part III (1990), which required no restoration at all; they did a digital intermediate (DI) to create the director’s cut, a version that previously existed only on home video. For all three films, there are now new 4K preservation negatives, separation masters from which new printing elements can be derived, and backup data tapes. Shepherding the project to completion was Martin Cohen, Paramount’s executive vice president of feature postproduction. “Marty’s support was vital,” says Harris. “He is a postproduction executive who truly understands film restoration — he gets it.”

Best known for meticulous restorations of Vertigo (1958) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Film Preserve began work on The Godfather in the fall of 2006. Paramount delivered the film’s surviving elements — original camera negative, YCM separation masters, intermediate separation masters and thousands of feet of miscellaneous elements — to Pro-Tek Preservation Services in Burbank, where an inspection confirmed that radical surgery was required. Held together with tape, the original negative was filthy and riddled with scratches, rips and tears, some of which broke into the image area; in some sections, parts of the image had actually been torn away. An entire reel (1B) had at some point been removed and replaced with a dupe. Scenes were even missing from the final separation masters because they had been made before the cut was final. (Today, studios routinely combine separation masters or at least portions of them before tucking them into the vaults, but “until the mid-1980s, separation masters were typically made and never looked at or not made at all,” notes Harris.)

In consultation with Rick Utley, Pro-Tek’s vice president of preservation services, Harris determined that a photochemical restoration was out of the question. “Not only that,” he says, “but we determined that the original negative of The Godfather should never be run through a pin-registered mechanism. It could crack up.”

As he got into the project, Harris discovered that the negatives for the first two Godfather films had sustained additional damage in the 1980s, when Paramount sent them to an optical house to make new prints. The original rolls were disassembled and then reassembled incorrectly, a cheaper but chemically damaging fill was used, and the films’ lyrical 12' and 16' dissolves were replaced with dissolves of generic length for ease of printing. He recalls, “I locked a current print into a synchronizer with an original print, which is what I always do when I begin a restoration, and they were not tracking at all. Paramount knew nothing of this [damage].”

Harris believes it’s critical for a cinematographer to be part of the restoration process, and because Willis lives in Massachusetts and could not be in Los Angeles for the many months the restoration would require, Harris asked Daviau to consult on the project. “Allen standing in for Gordon was one master standing in for another,” says Harris. “Allen has the best eyes in the business —he’ll see a quarter-point difference shot to shot. The first thing I asked him to help with was figuring out exactly what ‘black’ is in these films; that was our biggest challenge in terms of Gordon’s work. Allen donated his time, and without him and Gordon, we would have been lost.”

In his conversations with the restoration team, Willis emphasized that the most important visual aspect of The Godfather was its color structure. “It’s yellow-red in much of the lighting as well as the lab work, and that ties all three films together,” says Willis. “So my main concern was to get the color right.” Harris was able to track down original dye-transfer prints of The Godfather, and one of them, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Technicolor collection, was screened for Willis, who determined it to be an accurate color reference.

“Gordon kept saying all three pictures look the same, that they have the same rhyme and rhythm and use of contrast, and it’s true,” says Daviau. “A lot of people wouldn’t notice that, but when you’ve dealt with the color correction, you see he’s right.” Willis notes, “The repeatability of the visual structure really has to do with making the right choices. The initial choice is taste, and maintaining the look is craft. There’s great elegance in simplicity. My choices in lighting and the overall color were designed to create a mythic, retrospective feel, [one] without clutter.

“On every movie I shot,” continues Willis, “I maintained strict developing and printing control — everything was printed on one light. In fact, much of the negative on the Godfather films will only work when printed that way. I lit and exposed things at the level I wanted to be perceived on the screen; if you don’t do that, anyone can decide what your work is supposed to look like, and I never believed in giving the studios that kind of flexibility. So when making exposures, I based my exposures on the full curve of the film, shoulder to toe. The exposures are right where they should be to achieve a given look on the screen as long as they’re printed as designed. There’s no room to move things around on the printer.”

Despite the physical condition of the Godfather negative, Harris found that much of the image information was well-preserved and usable, “a testament to the viability of Kodak’s negative stocks.” The restoration began with a 4K scan of the negative, which was carried out on a Spirit Datacine. (Some pickups and title material were scanned on a Filmlight Northlight.) Harris recalls, “Every time a new piece of the negative went into the scanner, I was sweating bullets, because if we’d torn certain scenes, there was no quality backup — some shots in the first two films existed only on the negative.”

The digital files were imported into Yarbrough’s Baselight system, where they were cleaned, repaired and color-corrected scene-by-scene. There was also a team doing cleanup with MTI’s Digital Restoration System, but some details were only visible in Yarbrough’s room, which had the best viewing environment. “Most environments for doing dirt removal and scratch removal involve some sort of flat-screen video monitor, and once the dirt and scratch work is completed, I prefer to view the result on a screen similar to a standard theater screen,” says Yarbrough. “In our DI suites, we can view the projected image at 1 to 1.5 screen heights [back from the screen]. This gives us an excellent critical viewing environment in the native data resolution.”

The project stayed at 4K throughout the restoration, and Harris says this capability was key to the team’s success. “Paramount didn’t wait to do this work because they didn’t want to invest in it,” he says. “What was necessary was the ability to work in true 4K resolution; anything they might have tried on the digital side before that would have been a waste of time.” Often, the DI process is carried out with 2K proxies, but some adjustments, including noise reduction and sharpening, do not translate well from one resolution to another. In this case, occasional sharpening and noise reduction were necessary, largely to even out differences among the many elements Harris brought in to remedy problems. He explains, “We started scanning bits and pieces of separation masters, interpositive, CRI [Color Reversal Intermediate], internegative — anything from which we thought we could harvest what we thought was the finest image. One would be sharp but wouldn’t have the right color; another had the right color but was soft or damaged.”

In one instance during the digital grade of The Godfather, Yarbrough was able to draw out detail that was previously invisible because of a lab error during the production. The sequence in which Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) murders Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and Capt. McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) in an Italian restaurant was shot over two nights, with the first night covering the first half of the scene, up to the point when Michael goes to the bathroom to retrieve a hidden gun. The first night’s work came back from the lab looking exactly as Willis intended, but the second night’s work came back too thin: the lab had neglected to push the film. “They simply pushed the wrong button and underdeveloped a day’s work,” says Willis. “When that happens, you don’t lose that much speed, but the fog level drops, and the look of the film changes. We left that lab and continued at Technicolor.”

Reshooting the scene wasn’t possible, and Harris believes Technicolor tried various photochemical processes to salvage it, creating separate masters of the daily rolls at different gammas to bring up the contrast, then mixing and matching those YCM masters to see what would look best. As a result, those shots have always been a couple of generations down, even when the negative and prints were new. Harris notes that on dye-transfer prints, it looks slightly off but not too bad, but when printed to direct positive, “the image started falling apart.”

The search for original film elements for this sequence went on throughout the restoration process — “[Pro-Tek inspection technician] Joe Caracappa spent months looking for anything from the Italian restaurant,” recalls Harris — and the team eventually recovered about 80 percent of the original negative, as well as usable intermediate separation masters for all but one or two shots. Yarbrough was able to bring out additional information, which is particularly noticeable in a close-up that tracks in on Michael just before he pulls the trigger. “Jan is like a concert pianist, a true artist,” says Harris. “Now, you can see the stress on Michael’s face. In the dupe of the dupe of the dupe, you lose that.”

This, he adds, raises ethical questions familiar to those in the preservation field. “It’s a dual-edged blade, a slippery slope. If there’s a photographic problem during production that could not be fixed at that time but can be fixed now, do we fix it?” Willis’ take: “Yes, provided that doing so has no impact on the overall restoration.”

In initial discussions with the restoration team, Coppola gave a directive: they could replace problematic frames or shots as long as the replacement was “imperceptible” except for “forensic examination of grain structure,” says Harris. In a few cases, a shot was salvaged by using pieces of camera negative that hadn’t actually been used in the movie. For example, there was a very badly damaged shot of Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in his hospital bed, with the camera looking up at him from the foot of the bed. Using camera reports and the editor’s line script, Harris was able to find the trims of the take that contained the footage used in the movie. He had the remainder of the take scanned, and with Yarbrough’s help, he found a portion in which Brando’s chest was rising and falling in sync with the clip that was used in the movie, and replaced the original clip with the new one. “Where you can use original negative, you do,” says Harris. “When you find a problem with a shot, you have to think about how to get around it, and the answer isn’t always to go to a dupe or to the separation masters. There are a number of viable options.”

Although restoring sound can often be as difficult as restoring picture, that wasn’t the case on The Godfather. “The sound really wasn’t a problem because everything survived, and in 1997, [sound re-recording mixer] Walter Murch went back to the elements and created wonderful stereo mixes of the first two films,” says Harris. “[Post supervisor] Jeff Cava and [vice-president of DVD mastering] Ron Smith at Paramount worked with what Walter created.” The analog tracks on the 35mm prints of the restored films are new, clean mono tracks; stereo tracks are also there for DTS and Dolby Digital presentations. “That way, if an archive wants to run the films with their original sound, it will be able to,” says Harris.

The original negative for Part II had far fewer problems than the negative of the first film. “It was filthy from continuous wet-gate printing, and the recut had created havoc, but overall, it was about 75 percent better than the negative of The Godfather,” says Harris. One reason for the disparity is that Paramount did a much larger initial print run for Part II because the first film was so popular. “The initial print run on the first Godfather was short,” explains Harris. “Many more dye-transfer prints were produced on Part II and survived, so the studio didn’t need to go back [to the original negative] to make more prints as quickly or as often. We never did find a solid color reference for Part II, however. The dye-transfer prints were all over the place, and it was a much more difficult film to work through in terms of color and densities than the first film, much more complex.

“When we turned to creating the director’s cut of Part III, which had a Super 35 negative, we had to conform to video,” he adds. While Harris and Yarbrough were finishing up Part II, colorist Ray Grabowski started the digital grade on Part III in another room at MPI, with Bob Raring, the film’s original color timer at Technicolor, providing some guidance.

Yarbrough estimates that the digital files for the Godfather trilogy required 160 terabytes of storage space. (By comparison, the final scans for a 4K DI of a 100-minute feature require about 8 terabytes.) The corrected files were recorded out to 35mm (Kodak Vision 2242) via an Arrilaser at the last possible minute because Harris kept unearthing new pieces of film. For example, well into the restoration of the first picture, he found the original negative for Reel 1B in a film can labeled “Dupe #2.” He notes, “Paramount has a superb vault system, and the staff there was incredibly cooperative. The problem was that the system was put in place in the ’90s, and two of these films were from the ’70s and had been handled by many other people. They brought in every element Paramount owned on all three films, and every element had fingerprints on it from the various incarnations of the trilogy.”

Because Part II was the last feature whose release prints were made using Technicolor’s dye-transfer process, Part III featured black levels that did not match those of the first two films. The contrast and saturation controls available in the DI suite made it possible to achieve a closer match, and new prints of all three films have been made (at Technicolor in Los Angeles) on Kodak Vision Premier 2393, making the blacks even deeper. “When we tested regular Vision [2383], the blacks were milky,” says Harris. “There are occasional shots in the first two films, maybe a dozen in 175-200 minutes, where the Premier grabs the blacks and drags them down a little too much. But I feel the sins of Premier were far outweighed by its positives.” After a pause, he adds wryly, “To be honest, I would have liked to print on Vision 2391 — which doesn’t exist.”
The restored versions of the first two Godfather films were recently screened for select audiences in Los Angeles, the first via 2K digital projection and the second via 35mm print. (New DVDs of the trilogy will be released in September.) However, at press time, the new prints were works in progress. After screening them in New York, Willis had this to say: “I think a remarkable job was done repairing all the damage done to the negative — very difficult work. The Godfather is a very good-looking picture now. They have not tried to dial anything into the film that wasn't there before.” That said, he continues, “I’m the first to admit that the darker material, especially in Part II, is difficult to reproduce properly; it was beautiful on dye-transfer, but at the moment, the positive available isn’t doing the job we all hoped for. The print stock I saw doesn’t produce a full and comfortable range from black to white, and the mid range is compressed as well. Everyone is pursuing a solution.”

Willis emphasizes that a restoration effort as disciplined as this one was essential, especially because The Godfather’s unusual look made studio heads nervous even in its day. “When people see things they don’t understand, they become frightened, and the concept of what The Godfather is — or was — still eludes some people,” he observes. “We all tend to reduce or expand things to a level we understand, and it can be fatal to a film like The Godfather if what someone understands is Petticoat Junction. The goal here was to restore, not to remake. The film has already been made.”



5 Jun 2008


I´ve been trying to devote every spare second to this restoration, because next Monday, June 16th, I´m leaving town again to go on another instalation. This time an 8plex.

Here are some pictures of the progress I have been making with the Reyes Soundhead.

3 Jun 2008


Last Saturday (after spending 3 weeks on an install of a new 5-plex) I returned to my dealer (the same guy whole sold me the Cinemeccanica lamphouse and the Reyes Soundhead). I was to pickup the lensholder for my E-III.

This used lens holder was attached to an old E-II that has been out of work for a number of years. Removing the lensholder from the E-II was, apparently, too much of a struggle for my dealer, so, for a few peanuts more, I took home the entire thing.

I intend to use this E-II for spares for my E-III, since they are virtually the same.

As some of you know, the E-II came from the factory with an external shutter blade, that spinned in front of the lens mount. This particular one had been modified to take a barrel shutter behind the gate.

(This is what they used to look like)