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March / April 2019

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Page 13 of 51 12 POST MAR/APR 2019 FILM RESTORATION t's funny how the effects of time can have a profound effect on perspective. And, in a number of ways. Consider the groundbreaking docu- mentary They Shall Not Grow Old, for which aged, scratched, jumpy foot- age from World War I was restored to pristine condition and retimed to run smoothly. In doing so, it brings the hazy past into the present, and brings the reality of the subjects — often lost due to the condition of the old film — into sharp focus. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Peter Jackson, the production uses state-of-the-art post production techniques and technologies, turning damaged early-1900s hand-cranked black-and-white film with no sound into pristine, authentically colored se- quences paired with actual sounds and voice recordings from those who lived through the experience. What's more, the film was presented in stereo 3D. "When it all came together, what really hit you was the humanity of the people in the film. They just jump out at you, especially the faces," says Jackson. "They're no longer buried in a fog of film grain and scratches, and shuttering and sped-up footage. You understand that these were human beings." HISTORY COMES TO LIFE The film was co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW WWI Centenary Art Commission and the British Imperial War Museum in association with the BBC. Four years ago, the Imperial War Museum approached Jackson about making a documentary on any aspect of the First World War for the 100-year celebra- tion of the WWI armistice, but there were caveats: that he use their original archival footage, and that he use it in a fresh, original way. Jackson decided on a documentary that captures the shared experience of the British infan- try soldiers at the Western Front, albeit with 100-year-old footage restored to present-day standards using today's computer technology. To ensure this was even possi- ble, Jackson and the crew at his New Zealand-based Park Road Post Production spent a few months devising a restoration pipeline for the black- and-white footage in the film, as did Burbank, CA-based Stereo D for the colorized portion that turned back the clock, so to speak. Park Road began working with scanned raw footage, completing an initial contrast level pass and a grain reduction, to give it consis- tency before it could be colorized," says Matthew Wear, Park Road colorist. Making this even more challenging was the fact they were not working with all originals, but with duplicates, and even duplicates of duplicates. Moreover, the footage had been filmed on hand-cranked cameras, where the original speeds were fast but unknown. So Park Road began the arduous task of solving that problem so the footage later could be retimed to run at a more natural 24 fps — a process that required a lot of trial and error. The results deter- mined that the actual crank speed had ranged from 10 fps to 18 fps depending on the cameras and operators. For the black-and-white shots, the Park Road team had to devise a method for eliminating artifacts that resulted from the retiming process. "The grain and scratches were easy to fix, it's really just paint work and a lot of hours. The bigger problem was in the retiming. When you have film running at 13 or 14 fps, you have to make up extra frames to get to 24 fps, and in doing that, you'll get artifacts," says Ian Bidgood, director of engineer- ing — picture. It was an issue Stereo D had to address for the material being colorized as well. Once Park Road unlocked the speed conversion ratio formula, they provided that vital information to Stereo D, which was tasked with restoring and retiming, then colorizing, between 300 and 350 shots (for approximately 35 minutes of the 99-minute documentary), and con- verting that footage into stereo 3D. Meanwhile, the initial work at Park Road resulted in a cleaner black-and- white picture running at 24 fps for the rushes. "At the very first stage, Peter had to make a choice from hundreds of hours of footage, and all that mate- rial had to go through an initial pass in terms of speed changes and some cleanup and grain reduction," says Bidgood. Once the shots were selected by editorial, they were pulled for more intensive work. RESTORATION AND COLORIZATION Stereo D began collaborating with Jackson three years ago on a proof- of-concept test, working under the direction of WingNut Films, particu- larly in the colorization phase. Stereo D ended up handling three phases of the project: restoration, color creation and stereoscopic 3D conversion. "If it was a shot we were taking from the beginning to the end of the process, we performed a full restoration," says Mark Simone, overall producer at Stereo D, and this includes fixing all the scratches, the heavy grain and missing frames. "For us, the major challenge of this project was figuring out how to retain or unearth as much of the original quality and resolution of the footage as possible. Oftentimes this would lead us to fully reprocessing shots once we had discovered a new technique that yielded encouraging results. Peter really instilled a sense of importance that we do all we could to honor the original material, even if it took multiple iterations to get it right." Using proprietary and commercial tools, the group began the restoration process, cleaning the footage, removing dust, scratches, tears, chemical splotch- es and other defects, and repairing the black-and-white footage. This included removing the grain, which was fairly large, and then giving it consistency. Overall, the state of the footage varied; some of it was remarkably clean, while most of it was in dire shape. There were instances when entire frames could not be used, requiring the artists to "cut" a usable portion of an image and use it to "patch" that part of a degraded frame. "You can fill in holes in the footage, but you have to be careful. You don't want to be mak- ing up things in the frame that weren't there to begin with," says Wayne Stables, Weta Digital VFX supervisor, who acted as quality control between Stereo D and Jackson. "You take your best and hopefully well-researched and educated guess as to what might be there." As part of this transformation process, the artists also retimed the footage based on the information pro- vided by Park Road. Then they painted out the artifacts that occurred from TIME WARP BY KAREN MOLTENBREY FACILITIES USE MODERN TECHNIQUES TO GIVE 1900S FILM A NEW LOOK I

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