Tag Archives: restoration

MPI restores The Wizard of Oz in 4K HDR

By Barry Goch

The classic Victor Fleming-directed film The Wizard of Oz, which was released by MGM in 1939 and won two of its six Academy Award nominations, has been beautifully restored by Burbank’s Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI).

Bob Bailey

To share its workflow on the film, MPI invited a group of journalists to learn about the 4K UHD HDR restoration of this classic film. The tour guide for our high-tech restoration journey was MPI’s VP of operations and sales Bob Bailey, who walked us through the entire restoration process — from the original camera negative to final color.

The Wizard of Oz, which starred Judy Garland, was shot on a Technicolor three-strip camera system. According to Bailey, it ran three black and white negatives simultaneously. “That is why it is known as three-strip Technicolor. The magazine on top of the camera was triple the width of a normal black and white camera because it contained each roll of negative to capture your red, green and blue records,” explained Bailey.

“When shooting in Technicolor, you weren’t just getting the camera. You would rent a package that included the camera, a camera crew with three assistants, the film, the processing and a Technicolor color consultant.”

George Feltenstein, SVP of theatrical catalog marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, spoke about why the film was chosen for restoration. “The Wizard of Oz is among the crown jewels that we hold,” he said. “We wanted to embrace the new 4K HDR technology, but nobody’s ever released a film that old using this technology. HDR, or high dynamic range, has a color range that is wider than anything that’s come before it. There are colors [in The Wizard of Oz] that were never reproducible before, so what better a film to represent that color?”

Feltenstein went on to explain that this is the oldest film to get released in the 4K format. He hopes that this is just the beginning and that many of the films in Warner Bros.’ classic library will also be released on 4K HDR and worked on at MPI under Bailey’s direction.

The Process
MPI scanned each of the three-strip Technicolor nitrate film negatives at 8K 16-bit, composited them together and then applied a new color grain. The film was rescanned with the Lasergraphics Director 10K scanner. “We have just under 15 petabytes of storage here,” said Bailey. “That’s working storage, because we’re working on 8K movies since [some places in the world] are now broadcasting 8K.”

Steven Anastasi

Our first stop was to look at the Lasergraphics Director. We then moved on to MPI’s climate-controlled vault, where we were introduced to Steven Anastasi, VP of technical operations at Warner Bros. Anastasi explained that the original negative vault has climate-controlled conditions with 25% humidity at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the combination required for keeping these precious assets safe for future generations. He said there are 2 million assets in the building, including picture and sound.

It was amazing to see film reels for 2001: A Space Odyssey sitting on a shelf right in front of me. In addition to the feature reels, MPI also stores millions of negatives captured throughout the years by Warner productions. “We also have a very large library,” reported Anastasi. “So the original negatives from the set, a lot of unit photography, head shots in some cases and so forth. There are 10 million of these.”

Finally, we were led into the color bay to view the film. Janet Wilson, senior digital colorist at MPI, has overseen every remaster of The Wizard of Oz for the past 20 years. Wilson used a FilmLight Baselight X system for the color grade. The grading suite housed multiple screens: a Dolby Pulsar for the Dolby Vision pass, a Sony X300 and a Panasonic EZ1000 OLED 4K HDR.

“We have every 4K monitor manufactured, and we run the film through all of them,” said Bailey. “We painstakingly go through the process from a post perspective to make sure that our consumers get the best quality product that’s available out in the marketplace.”

“We want the consumer experience on all monitors to be something that’s taken into account,” added Feltenstein. “So we’ve changed our workflow by having a consumer or prosumer monitor in these color correction suites so the colorist has an idea of what people are going to see at home, and that’s helped us make a better product.”

Our first view of the feature was a side-by-side comparison of the black and white scanned negative and the sepia color corrected footage. The first part of the film, which takes place in Kansas, was shot in black and white, and then a sepia look was applied to it. The reveal scene, when Dorothy passes through the door going into Oz, was originally shot in color. For this new release, the team generated a matte so Wilson could add this sepia area to the inside of the house as Dorothy transitioned into Oz.

“So this is an example of some of the stuff that we could do in this version of the restoration,” explained Wilson. “With this version, you can see that the part of the image where she’s supposed to be in the monochrome house is not actually black and white. It was really a color image. So the trick was always to get the interior of the house to look sepia and the exterior to look like all of the colors that it’s supposed to. Our visual effects team here at MPI — Mike Moser and Richie Hiltzik — was able to draw a matte for me so that I could color inside of the house independently of the exterior and make them look right, which was always a really tricky thing to do.”

Wilson referred back to the Technicolor three-strip, explaining that because you’ve got three different pieces of film — the different records — they’re receiving the light in different ways. “So sometimes one will be a little brighter than the other. One will be a little darker than the other, which means that the Technicolor is not a consistent color. It goes a little red, and then it goes a little green, and then it goes a little blue, and then it goes a little red again. So if you stop on any given frame, it’s going to look a little different than the frames around it, which is one of the tricky parts of color correcting technical art. When that’s being projected by a film projector, it’s less noticeable than when you’re looking at it on a video monitor, so it takes a lot of little individual corrections to smooth those kinds of things out.”

Wilson reported seeing new things with the 8K scan and 4K display. “The amount of detail that went into this film really shows up.” She said that one of the most remarkable things about the restoration was the amazing detail visible on the characters. For the first time in many generations, maybe ever, you can actually see the detail of the freckles on Dorothy’s face.

In terms of leveraging the expanded dynamic range of HDR, I asked Wilson if she tried to map the HDR, like in kind of a sweet spot, so that it’s both spectacular yet not overpowering at the same time.

“I ended up isolating the very brightest parts of the picture,” she replied. “In this case, it’s mostly the sparkles on their shoes and curving those off so I could run those in, because this movie is not supposed to have modern-day animation levels of brightness. It’s supposed to be much more contained. I wanted to take advantage of brightness and the ability to show the contrast we get from this format, because you can really see the darker parts of the picture. You can really see detail within the Wicked Witch’s dress. I don’t want it to look like it’s not the same film. I want it to replicate that experience of the way this film should look if it was projected on a good print on a good projector.”

Dorothy’s ruby slippers also presented a challenge to Wilson. “They are so red and so bright. They’re so light-reflective, but there were times when they were just a little too distracting. So I had to isolate this level at the same track with slippers and bring them down a little bit so that it wasn’t the first and only thing you saw in the image.”

If you are wondering if audio was part of this most recent restoration, the answer is no, but it had been remastered for a previous version. “As early at 1929, MGM began recording its film music using multiple microphones. Those microphonic angles allowed the mixer to get the most balanced monophonic mix, and they were preserved,” explained Feltenstein. “Twenty years ago, we created a 5.1 surround mix that was organically made from the original elements that were created in 1939. It is full-frequency, lossless audio, and a beautiful restoration job was made to create that track so you can improve upon what I consider to be close to perfection without anything that would be disingenuous to the production.”

In all, it was an amazing experience to go behind the scenes and see how the wizards of MPI created a new version of this masterpiece for today and preserved it for future generations.

This restored version of The Wizard of Oz is a must-see visual extravaganza, and there is no better way to see it than in UHD, HDR, Dolby Vision or HDR10+. What I saw in person took my breath away, and I hope every movie fan out there can have the opportunity to see this classic film in its never-before-seen glory.

The 4K version of The Wizard of Oz is currently available via an Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and digital.


Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya

Review: Neat Video 5 noise reduction plugin

By Brady Betzel

One of the best (and most underrated) tricks in an online editor’s tool kit is to have good image restoration techniques. Removing digital video imperfections — from flicker to digital video noise — is not easy, and not easy to do well. That is, unless you have good noise reduction software like Neat Video.

While Neat Video might not be that well-known, once you see how simply (or intricatly) Neat Video 5 works inside of apps like Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve, it will be hard to forget the company’s name.

(While the software was recently updated to 5.1.5 — with expanded GPU support as well as support for new versions of Resolve, Adobe and Nuke — nothing really changes for this review. You can check out a detailed list of the updates here.)

Neat Video 5 is a noise reduction plugin. In a Windows OS environment, Neat Video is compatible with apps like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer, Vegas, Magix, Edius, Virtual Dub, and the OFX-compatible apps Nuke, Fusion, Scratch, HitFilm, Mamba, Natron, Flame, Baselight and DustBuster. In a macOS environment, Neat Video 5 is compatible with After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, OFX, Resolve and Media Composer. In Linux, the software is compatible with OFX-compatible apps and Resolve.

Neat Video 5 comes in three flavors: Demo, Home and Pro. The Demo version works in up to 1280×720 resolution with a watermark. Home is literally made for the home user: It will process video up to 1920×1080 resolutions, it will use up to one GPU, and it is for non-commercial use. The cost is just $74.90 for most apps (Resolve is $89.90). The Pro version has no resolution restrictions, will work on two or more GPUs simultaneously, and can be used commercially. The Pro version starts at $129.90 per app ($159.90 for Resolve). Because Neat Video 5 for OFX works with so many apps, it only comes in Pro ($249.90) and Studio ($349.90) versions. The Studio version adds the ability for a floating license. You can see all of the pricing details here.

If there is one line you should take away from this review, it is this: Neat Video 5 is by far the easiest and best noise reduction software I have used in any application to date. And while this review is focusing on the Resolve version of Neat Video 5, all other apps work in much the same way. You can find Neat Video’s software-specific Quick Start Guides to help. Once you install and register your Neat Video 5 license, removing digital video noise is as easy as applying Neat Video 5 to a node in the color tab, clicking on “Prepare Noise Profile,” clicking on “Auto Profile,” and clicking “Apply.” Then, unless you want to fine-tune your noise reduction, you are done. Obviously, I have somewhat simplified how Neat Video 5 works, but essentially it can be done in as little as three steps per clip, and the results are typically amazing. If they aren’t amazing, you can jump back into Neat Video 5 and manually adjust specifics until the noise reduction looks correct. But I will say that in about 90% of cases, the Auto Profiling will do all of the noise reduction work necessary.

For tinkerers, or for those who need to go far beyond an Auto Profile, you can manually adjust your settings. But taking a step back, Neat Video needs an area of your image that has a uniform color and noise profile to process how it removes noise. The automatic profiling will do its best to find an area, but it doesn’t always work. What you need to keep in mind when building a good noise profile inside of Neat Video is that the area being processed needs to be as uniform as possible (think dark night sky or a wall painted in one color) — meaning no prominent features, a high noise level (something in the high four area is better), the largest possible sample area and no warnings from Neat Video.

So, if your automatic profile doesn’t do the job, you can find an area of your image that meets the above requirements and then build a profile. From there you can use one of the Neat Video 5 features, like “Profile Check.” Profile Check will highlight details that aren’t being affected by Neat Video, giving you a clear representation of what noise is being reduced and whether you need to adjust your profile to better reduce video noise.

At this point you might be wondering where you tweak advanced settings. When you load Neat Video, you will be in Beginner mode. To get into Advanced mode, go to the Tools menu, where you will see a lot of advanced functions that can help you fine-tune your noise profile. And if you still can’t get a good noise reduction profile, you can try out the “Generic Profile,” which can help you build a profile even if your video doesn’t have a large enough area of uniform noise. There are also presets — such as like light flicker, moire flicker, repeat frame issues, dust and scratch filters (including scan lines), jitter of details, artifact removal filter and more — that can solve certain problems.

Neat Video 5 is faster than previous generations. As in previous versions, there is even a tool that inside of Neat Video preferences that will run your CPU and GPU through a benchmark to specify whether you should run on CPU only, GPU only, or a combo of both. In Neat Video 5, if you have trouble with a clip, you can use up to four “Variants” of noise reduction in the new playback window to see how each profile works with your clip.

In terms of playback and rendering, noise reduction is never fast. However, inside of Neat Video the new playback window will typically play back your footage to preview the noise reduction before you jump back into Resolve. Inside of Resolve, even in just 1080p, my sequence would crawl to just a few frames of playback per second. It is one of the most processor- and GPU-intensive tasks you will run on your computer.

In my testing I applied Neat Video 5 to the first node in my color correction tree, followed by a basic color correction in a one-minute timeline. I took those same clips and compared my Neat Video results to Resolve’s Temporal and Spatial noise reduction tools. In terms of visual results, Neat Video 5 was superior. If that’s not the case for you, then jump into YCbCr viewer mode inside of Neat Video 5, isolate each channel and tweak each channel individually so you won’t affect your overall noise reduction if it isn’t necessary. Not only did Neat Video 5 handle normal noise in the shadows well but on clips with very tight lines, it was able to keep a lot of the details while removing the noise. Resolve’s noise reduction tools had a harder time removing noise but keeping detail. Temporal noise reduction really didn’t do much, and while Spatial noise reduction did work it would heavily blur and distort the image — essentially not acceptable.

To get a good example of how Neat Video 5 slams a computer system, I exported 1080p MP4s. Resolve’s built-in Temporal noise reduction took 1:03, while the Spatial noise reduction took 1:05. The Neat Video 5 render of the same one-minute timeline took 3:51 — almost four times as long. I was curious how much longer a 4K render would take. Using 4K (UHD) media, I applied a simple color correction and on a previous serial node that applied Neat Video 5. I exported a 4K (UHD) MP4, which took 52 seconds without Neat Video 5 applied and 16:27 with Neat Video applied — at least 16 times more render time! So while Neat Video 5 is an amazing tool, there is a trade-off in high render times.

To find additional training on more advanced noise reduction techniques in Neat Video, check out the video tutorials. I find myself watching these just because of how much you can learn about noise reduction in general. They aren’t as exciting as watching Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale, but they will push your knowledge in noise reduction to the next level.

Summing Up
I’ve used Neat Video for a while, so when I was approached to review Version 5 I immediately said yes. Noise reduction is post skill that not many possess.

If you are an online editor or colorist looking to separate yourself from the pack, learn all the noise reduction techniques you can and definitely check out Neat Video 5. Not only can Neat Video 5 work automatically, but you can fine-tune your noise reduction as much as you want.

And when demoing your color correction services, think about using Neat Video 5 to remove camera noise, flickering and chroma issues; color correcting your footage; and, finally, adding some grain back into your shot. Not only will your footage look better, but you’ll have a technical workflow that will definitely impress clients. Just don’t forget to account for the extra render time.


Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Joce Capper joins Cinelab London as creative director

Film lab and post facility Cinelab London has brought on Joce Capper as creative director/strategic business development. Capper has over 25 years of experience managing and growing post and VFX companies, most notably serving as managing director of Rushes, one of the UK’s most widely admired post houses, for 20 years.

Capper’s open approach in the leadership of talent, staff and new technologies — combined with her resourceful understanding of the scalable processes needed to meet budgets and timescales — has seen her play a huge part in delivering many multi-award-winning projects for leading brands and clients across the advertising, music, entertainment and feature film sectors during her career.

Since the closure of Rushes, Capper has spent the past 18 months in management consulting for Supernova Heights. In this role, she worked across multiple companies in the media industry, including Cinelab London. Now, she will take up her role there full-time.

”I’ve learned a huge amount about myself in the last year,” says Capper. “How much I enjoy the creative industries; and that being involved in productions with creative staff is key to my happiness. I am self-motivated, but I need to be part of a friendly and talented team, be somewhere I can make a difference and believe wholeheartedly in what the company is offering.”

Capper will work with the executive management and sales teams to continue to grow the profile of Cinelab London, its client base and its international reach. Part of her responsibility will also be to help educate the industry and the next generation of filmmakers on the skills and craft needed when shooting on film.

“I have known Joce for many years, previously working with her in operational and corporate roles at Ascent Media and Deluxe Entertainment,” explains Adrian Bull, co-founder/CEO of Cinelab London. “She will help us push the business forward; I am delighted to have her working with us full-time.”

Cinelab London adds sound mastering supervisor and colorist

Cinelab London, which provides a wide range of film and digital restoration services, has added two new creatives to its staff — sound mastering supervisor Jason Stevens and senior colorist Mike David.

Stevens brings with him over 20 years of experience in sound and film archive restoration. Prior to his new role, he was part of the archive and restoration team at Pinewood Studios. Having worked there his whole career, Stevens’ worked on many big films, including the recent Yesterday, Rocketman and Judy. His clients have included the BFI, Arrow Films, Studio Canal and Fabulous Films.

During his career, Stevens has also been involved in short films, commercials and broadcast documentaries, recently completing a three-year project for Adam Matthew, the award-winning digital publisher of unique primary source collections from archives around the world.

“We have seen Jason’s enviable skills and talents put to their best use over the six years we have worked together,” says Adrian Bull, co-founder and CEO of Cinelab London. “Now we’re thrilled to have him join our growing in-house team. Talents like Jason’s are rare. He brings a wealth of creative and technical knowledge, so we feel lucky to be able to welcome him to our film family.”

Colorist Mike Davis also joins from Pinewood Studios (following its recent closure) where he spent five years grading feature films and episodic TV productions and specializing in archive and restoration. He has graded over 100 restoration titles for clients such as BFI, Studio Canal and Arrow Films on projects such as A Fish Called Wanda, Rita, Sue & Bob Too and Waterworld.

Davis has worked with the world’s leading DPs, handling dailies and grading major feature films including Mission Impossible, Star Wars: Rogue One and Annihilation. He enjoys working on a variety of content including short films, commercials, broadcast documentaries and Independent DI projects. He recently worked on Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Farming, which won Best British Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June.

Davis started his career at Ascent Media, assisting on film rushes, learning how to grade and operate equipment. By 2010, he segued into production, spending time on set and on location working on stereoscopic 3D projects and operating 3D rigs. Returning to grading film and TV at Company 3, Davis then strengthened his talents working in long format film at Pinewood Studios.

Main Image: (L-R) Stevens and Davis

FotoKem colorist Mark Griffith: digital remastering ‘The Sound of Music’

By Randi Altman

Who doesn’t love The Sound of Music? Who? Introduce them to me and we’ll talk. Fifty years after it was released in theaters, this classic film about — well, you know what it’s about — was restored by Burbank’s Fotokem, home to one of the last feature film labs in the country. The studio completed the restoration of the 65mm musical through 8K scans from large-format film elements, downsampled to 4K for restoration and digital cinema mastering.

For the restoration of The Sound of Music, which was directed by Robert Wise and photographed by Ted D. McCord, ASC, Andrew Oran and his team began by creating the highest Continue reading

Petr Harmy brings restoration expertise to NanoTech’s 4K Studios

Film editor Petr Harmy, who created Star Wars Despecialized Edition, and who has extensive film restoration and remastering work under his belt, has joined the NanoTech’s 4K Studios. For those who aren’t familiar with this offering, Harmy, a Star Wars purist of sorts, created the “despecialized” version of  the original Star Wars by going through and correcting all additions and changes that the later special editions added.

NanoTech Entertainment is a technology company that brings the 4K experience to consumers via it’s UltraFlix streaming service.

Harmy is joining the 4K Studios team as they prepare to launch the new “Remastered by 4K Studios” effort, where films that have been previously released in 4K will be remastered using second-generation tools and techniques that differentiate them from other offerings of the same film.

“I’ve always been a big proponent of presenting movies in the best possible quality while maintaining their original artistic integrity,” explains Harmy. “I am very excited to be joining the 4K Studios as part of the UltraFlix team.”

“As someone who grew up part of the Star Wars-generation, I’m very excited to have Harmy joining the 4K Studios team,” says Alex “LX” Rudis, head of 4K Studios. “His Despecialized Edition Star Wars has a remarkable aesthetic sense and fantastic attention to detail. When I first viewed his work on Star Wars, I was emotionally transported back to the very first time I saw the film. I feel that Harmy’s attention to subtle aspects of color grading and shadow detail will provide similar depths of emotional impact to the 4K restoration and master work that we provide for UltraFlix.”

Rudis says that even though the same films offered on UltraFlix might be available on other streaming services, 4K Studios’ goal is to offer what he calls a “true cinematic experience.”

Starting in February, UltraFlix viewers will start to see the “ReMastered by 4K Studios” Logo appearing on films that are updated through this program.

Digital Vision, makers of Nucoda, acquired by management team

Twenty-six-year-old industry staple Digital Vision, which makes the popular Nucoda color grading suite along with restoration and film scanning solutions, has been acquired by its management team — Kelvin Bolah, Greg Holland and Claes Westerlund.

Nucoda

Nucoda

Digital Vision says the acquisition, from Swedish company Image Systems for 6.1 million in Swedish currency, will provide significant funding for future investment in R&D.

Bolah will become CEO, while Holland takes the role of worldwide VP of sales, and Westerlund becomes worldwide VP of operations. As part of the acquisition, the entire Digital Vision team will remain with the new company, as will all of the company’s offices in London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York and Sweden.

“Digital Vision’s staff, customers and partners were of the utmost importance in this acquisition and our main reason for the management buy-out,” says Bolah. “Having worked with them for many years and seeing their passion, expertise and the amazing projects they produce, we knew we had to keep the Digital Vision brand alive. With the investment that the company now has we will be able to accelerate the R&D and engineering to deliver our award-winning products in a timely fashion to a global customer base.”

Digital Vision’s current product range includes the Golden Eye 4 archive scanner; the Bifrost Archive Bridge, a scalable solution suitable for archives of any size; the Nucoda color grading suite;  Phoenix film restoration software; and Thor hardware designed for realtime 4K image processing.

Athena Studios, VES/Bay Area restore the ‘lost’ Black Angel

EMERYVILLE, CA – Athena Studios (http://www.athenastudios.com), which specializes in production and animation services for film and multimedia clients, and the Visual Effects Society (VES)/Bay Area, have partnered to restore a legendary, Star Wars-era short film called “Black Angel.”

3 Black Angel

Thought to be missing for more than 30 years, “Black Angel,” which was last seen in theaters across Europe and Australia in l980 as a lead-in to “The Empire Strikes Back,” was shown recently at the 36th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival.

To view clips of the restored film, please see:
http://www.athenastudios.com/project_blackangel.html

After reading a 2012 Wired Magazine article about how “Black Angel,” believed to be missing, had been located by an archivist at Universal Studios, Athena Studios producer Brice Parker joined with VES/Bay Area chair David Tanaka and contacted the film’s director, Roger Christian, with an offer to supervise the film’s restoration at Athena Studios.

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