Dr. Strangelove 4K restoration notes

peter-sellers-as-dr-strangelove

We are kicking off our This is Digital Cinema Series with a 4K restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy DR STRANGELOVE. One of the most exciting aspects of our conversion to digital cinema is the ability to show remastered classics in best possible conditions. Digital prints do not degrade, like film, so our presentation will bring you the film as the restoration team envisioned with crisp clear image and impeccable sound.

Sony Pictures has provided notes on the restoration and what was required to return this film back to its original glory. We have attached the notes, from Sony Pictures Entertainment Museum website, after the jump.

Through over-printing and damage created at the time of initial release, the negative of Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War black comedy DR. STRANGELOVE or: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB was destroyed at the laboratory over forty years ago. This presentation will detail the history of the preservation aspects of the film, including the decision to digitally restore the film at Cineric, Inc., a New York laboratory that specializes in film restoration.

Chemical stains, scratches and dirt were either printed into, or physically embedded into, all existing film elements. After examination and testing, it was determined the best elements for the restoration were a 35mm fine-grain master positive, a 35mm duplicate negative and a 35mm print. Each element represented a different manufacturing generation from the original camera negative, resulting in wide variations in density and contrast. It was felt that the only way to restore the film correctly, given the many different elements, their poor condition, and the need to maintain the filmmakers’ aesthetic intentions, was to use a complete 4K digital workflow.

Somewhat emulating the digital intermediate workflow, the selected film was prepared for scanning and processing. Cineric used a specially adapted Oxberry film scanner to convert the various elements into data files in 10-bit log DPX, and Dan DeVincent, the lab’s Director of Digital Restoration, created look-up tables (LUTs) designed to optimize the scanner for each element and achieve the dynamic range of 35mm film. A LUT could be applied on the scanner, for example, to bring a shot from the print much closer to the fine-grain, and bridge it even further using density and contrast correction.

Cineric engineers also developed a wet-gate scanning technique that eliminated many flaws. Although most of the flaws in the surviving film elements were manually removed, Da Vinci’s Revival– automated image-restoration software–was also used to find and fix other imperfections. During later passes, the Cineric team corrected other anomalies such as flicker and unsteadiness, and density fluctuations were addressed in a final color-correction pass. At each phase of the restoration there was careful examination of the results to check for introduced artifacts or for anomalies that may have been left in the image.

A Lasergraphics Producer 2 Motion Picture Film Recording System was used to record out to film. Because the recorder had been designed for use with color intermediate film, the film-out process had to be adapted for the black and white DR. STRANGELOVE. Cineric used other proprietary LUTs to ensure that any future version of the film for exhibition, whether through 35mm projection or digital cinema projection or home-video editions of the picture, would retain the exact look of the restored film master.

Visit the Sony Pictures Entertainment Museum website for more information, including before-and-after pictures and details about restorations of other classic titles.

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