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March 14, 2013


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The Siren

Glenn, this is blogging as a public service--fascinating, wonderful to read. Thank you so much. I want to ask a couple of questions. First, I haven't seen the recent digital Children of Paradise restoration that played Film Forum--is that the one Mr. White is talking about, and did you hear similar complaints from other people?

Second, did you personally find new or eye-opening information here?

Glenn Kenny

Thanks Siren. Very glad you enjoyed. First, I have not caught up with the new version of "Paradis" and am not likely to soon (I"m gonna be very busy over the net couple of months) and James' mention is the first I've heard about it being problematic.

As for two, I always learn something when I have exchanges with James. The material about pushing contrast in black-and-white, say, explains to me certain anomalies I've seen over the years. My biggest takeaway in this exchange is a guarded optimism in the hope that enlightened and genuinely movie-loving technicians such as James remain at the forefront of this field.

The Siren

Glenn, this was the first I'd heard anyone complain about Children of Paradise too, that's why I was curious. And it was also encouraging to me; he's very prominent and so clear-eyed and history-minded. Fingers crossed for others like him.

Ted Kroll

Thanks for this discussion and I agree it reassuring to know that there are people on the job that take seriously the value of their work beyond making a buck.

My question is about the preservation of digital materials after the restoration occurs. Now and then, Dave Kehr brings up the fact that the media that holds the digital data is more volatile than good old film stock. Mr. White passed over that in your exchange. How are these restorations maintained after they are created? Do they sit in a box somewhere - are they sent up to a cloud? You would think the the plastic DvDs would last 'forever', but then I got a closet full of wonderful 45's and LPs that are just sitting there.

Glenn Kenny

Ted, the omission of that topic is on me, not James. And it was deliberate, because it's a complicated question with complicated and still evolving answers. I wanted to keep this conversation focused. I know some experts on the subject who, at the moment, are keeping their powder dry. When they're ready to talk, I'll likely run a piece with their input.


Thank you for this interview, Glenn, and big thanks to Mr. White for offering his genuine expertise and experience to the often expertise-starved online discussion/debate which so often surrounds these restorations.


"That said, there are times when one can be too deferential when working with original talent. I'm talking about those rare occasions when a director has decided this is his opportunity to "fix" an aspect of the film he was never satisfied with, or "update" it in some way to bring into line with his current thinking."


And the issue of preservation of digital materials is an important one. My guess is that they would use the industrial standard in archival of IT data: LTO tapes, stored somewhere safe. From what I know, Hollywood studios currently keep their "film" masters in LTO tapes in salt mines, and since technology changes so quickly, they actually store the tape reader units with them too. Of course, as technoly moves on, they will actually have to take out the tapes and rewrite them into the newest LTO standard every few years... and they do have plans to do that. Much flakier, indeed.


I attended a presentation by Grover Crisp, the Senior Vice President of Asset Management and Film Restoration & Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures (I think I got the full title right), on the state of digital restoration and exhibition at last years San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

He had plenty to say on the subject, including the inevitable shift to digital screenings of classic films at most (but by no means all) theaters. But he was very clear that digital masters are no substitute for prints, and that it is his policy to strike and store a preservation print of every film that is restored and remastered at Sony.

D Cairns

I saw Mr Crisp talk about Laurence of Arabia, and he admitted that they had not yet managed to produce a film print from their digital restoration that looked as good as the digital version. He said that the films need to be stored on drives, and the information on the drives needs to be migrated every few months (or was it years?) to prevent it degrading. The big studios can afford to do this so their digitally restored or digitally produced titles should remain safe. Films in the hands of smaller companies are at risk...

Pete Apruzzese

Terrific piece, Glenn.

As for negative notices about 'Children of Paradise", here's a few:


Robert Harris - http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/324100/a-few-words-about-children-of-paradise-in-blu-ray


However, there are plenty of positive notices also. Haven't seen it myself.


Just a precision : Children of Paradise was not supervised by Gaumont but Pathé.

david hare

And another five or six pages of comment on the appalling Enfants du Paradis "restoration" here:

At one point I was hoping this discussion which was then being followed by Criterion people might lead to a recall and the possibility of a newly supervised encode or at least a half way competent regrading of the original 4k scan for a new BD but the damage - very expensive damage - had already been done. Of course nobody at Pathe or Ritrovate or even Lab Eclair will own up to anything being wrong. Too many reuptations and a hell of a lot of dought up in smoke. And Pathe is touting the 4k around the joint at various fucking festivals and competitions as a restoration triumph!

Kevin O

What an excellent interview Glenn - there hasn't been anything of this quality in a print publication, such as Sight & Sound.


Last month true value had a Milwaukee tools show

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