CULVER CITY— Frank Capra’s 1934 comedy It Happened One Night has undergone painstaking 4K restoration by Sony Pictures Entertainment in advance of its release on Sony’s newly-launched Video Unlimited 4K download service. It Happened One Night, which starred Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, is the first of five Capra films slated for re-release in 4K over the next few years. Those are Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and You Can’t Take it With You.
The original 35mm negative that served as the basis for the restoration was in poor condition. Rita Belda, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s executive director of asset management, digital mastering and film restoration notes that in the 1930s it was common practice to use original negative to produce film prints for distribution. As a result, the negative suffered from damage due to overuse. Furthermore, a number of damaged scenes had been replaced by poor quality duplicate elements.
Restoration at Colorworks (http://www.sonypicturesstudios.com), Sony Pictures Entertainment’s DI facility, began with a newly manufactured wet-gate Fine Grain Master, which had been made from the original negative, and was scanned at 4K. The digital files then went through a lengthy digital film restoration process at Prasad Corporation, to address dirt, tears, scratches and other artifacts. The final restored files were graded in 4K at Colorworks.
Special care was taken to restore the film in a manner faithful to its original look. Belda points out that while dust and scratches were removed, the texture of the film grain was preserved. “The film was photographed by Joseph Walker who used filters to create a soft, glowing look, particularly in shots of the female stars,” Belda explains. “The result is a rich look with a lot of range in the mid-tones. The amount of detail in the negative was startling.”
Colorworks senior colorist Scott Ostrowsky notes that the Filmlight Baselight system that he used to grade the film has sophisticated tools that allow him to apply subtle, highly nuanced adjustments. “This film has a soft, shadowy elegant look and we wanted to be sure to capture that without stepping on the image,” he says. “You don’t want to crush the blacks.”
The greatest challenge involved those scenes where damaged footage had been replaced by lesser quality duplicate frames. “It was very difficult to establish consistency between those scenes and the high quality, fine-grain print,” Ostrowsky says.
It Happened One Night is now available on Sony Entertainment Network’s Unlimited 4K download service. The Video Unlimited 4K download service is accessible when using the Sony 4K Ultra HD Media Player (FMP-X1) with Sony XBR-55X900 and XBR-65X900A Ultra HD TVs and the soon to be shipping XBR-55X850A and XBR-65X850A models.