Film Chest Adds Powerful Digital Tools To Film Restoration Project

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

If you’ve ever seen the deteriorating reel of a classic silent film that was made on silver nitrate file, you know how tragic it is to lose a film to history.  We’ve lost decades of the earliest years of cinema because Hollywood simply didn’t consider film preservation as important.   That attitude has changed, however, and not on large part to the digital revolution. And Film Chest has added some important tools to help restore old and classic films before it’s too late.

To handle the film preservation needs of their rather large vault of classic films, Film Chest has chosen the Golden Eye III film scanner and “Phoenix,” an appropriately named application by Digital Vision that provides high end film, video and digital restoration and mastering.  Both hi-tech solutions have been undergoing testing at Film Chests Bridgeport, Connecticut facility HQ.

“In the midst of all of our extensive work, we realized that it was simply inefficient to send negatives away for scanning. After we investigated all of our options, we found that the Golden Eye III and Phoenix offered us an amazing solution, from scan to final with great Digital Vision support, and hardware and software integration.” – Phil Hopkins, Founder and President of Film Chest

Originally developed for air defense reconnaissance and intelligence applications, the Goldeneye III Film Scanner is a high resolution scanning solution designed for archive and restoration. It works off negatives, prints and intermediates in all major film formats (16 / 35 / 70 as well as 8 mm), and can scan at 2k and 4k resolution.   And it does it pretty quickly, being able to scan film images at 15 fps for 2K and 4 fps at 4K. And it can go at such comparative high speed thanks to it’s capstan film transportation, which allows for continuous movement of the film with less wear of the film and perforations – especially old archive film that may be shrunk or have damaged perforation.

“We knew that Digital Vision had nailed the algorithms for dust-busting and grain reduction. Some of the other platforms could accomplish similar goals, but in weeks, not in hours. Phoenix was the only one that could do it on the time scale we needed. Hands down, Phoenix has been the best solution for our needs.”

Scans are then imported into the Phoenix Restoration Software, which is actually a suite of four utilities which can remove dust and scratches, repair, retouch and restore images frame by frame, and also operate from both completely manual and automated configurations that can also repurpose and re-master up to 4k output.   The process uses DVNR, a processing system that performs a gentle real time pass of grain reduction and “dust busting”, reducing the time spent on manual processing. And it practically specializes in problem cases:

“‘The Strange Love of Martha Ivers’ is a perfect example of a problematic film. The print belongs to the Library of Congress, and we were working with them towards a Blu-ray release of the film. We asked The Library to make a transfer, but when we began to work on the restored master they sent, the film was shrunken and destabilized. I spoke with the head curator, and they agreed to send us the original film elements, which is an extremely rare occurrence. The Golden Eye III transfer was absolutely as good as it could be, and the restoration was much better than it would have been on its own.”

Film Chest Media Group was founded by Philip E. Hopkins and Ralph E. Stevens, who helm the company.  They cater to clients such most of the major networks (including Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics), the studios and online streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Verizon FiOs, and Vudu.  They scan and restore over 200 movies every year and even provide services for private concerns like families looking to save old family memories.

“We must have a powerful ability to work with problem films, from S8, to 16, to old 35, we need to make the very best elements possible,” says Hopkins. “We manage a complex and frequently problematic library. This pipeline has given us an arsenal of tools that help us create beautiful and lasting projects. We couldn’t be happier with the Golden Eye III and the Phoenix.”

If you’re interested in trying out the Phoenix software, you can download a free demo copy here.

Hat Tip Pro Video Coalition

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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