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The Association of Moving Image Archivists opens its annual “Reel Thing” conference Wednesday evening with the premiere of a new version of Bob Fosse’s 1979 musical All That Jazz that has been restored in 4K resolution.
The conference, which runs through Friday at the Motion Picture Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theatre, will examine at some recent restoration projects, and the challenges of preserving our motion picture history in the digital age.
Schawn Belston, senior vp of library and technical services at Fox Filmed Entertainment, related that the decision to do the 4K restoration of All That Jazz was a Fox collaboration with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Film Archive, which share technical and artistic knowledge and help identify films for restoration. This might be driven by market need, the artistic merits of the production, and/or whether the preservation of the title is in jeopardy.
All That Jazz, Fosse’s semi-autobiographic classic, was nominated for nine Oscars including best picture and best director, and won the categories for art direction, costumes, editing and music.
It has actually had restoration work done—both photochemical and digital—over the course of the past 15 years. “All that Jazz was in a bit of trouble because all of the optical sections were done with CRI, a reversal negative that Kodak made that was very chic in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Depending on how they were processed, they could fade very quickly,” Schawn Belston, senior vp of library and technical services at Fox Filmed Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Another key aspect of the restoration is preserving the original artistic intent of the filmmakers–something that Belston said he learned from All That Jazz’ Oscar nominated cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno when they were working on an earlier film-based restoration of the Fosse movie more than a decade ago. “The first time we showed him what we were working on, we got to the casting scene, ‘On Broadway,’ and there were shots of the theater where the producers were sitting. It was beautifully lit and you could see every seat it the theater,” Belston related.
“[Rotunno] looked at me shaking his head and said ‘just because I shot the movie so you could see all of these seats doesn’t mean anyone intended you to actually see them.’ We ended up retiming the movie with him. Now that scene is much much darker; you can barely see the seats.”
To create the new 4K version, a print of the previous Rotunno-supervised version was used as a blueprint by digital colorist John Persichetti at Colorworks, who worked to precisely match the cinematographer’s intent.
The use of 4K–roughly four times the resolution of today’s more commonly used 2K for cinema–is getting a lot of attention in the restoration community. Explained Belston: “Now the economics work out that is it not extremely more expensive to do things in 4K, so why not try to get the highest possible resolution?”
He added, however, that the optimal resolution for a restoration project depends on the source material, for instance one might scan a 65mm Panavision negative in 8K. Film elements on other projects, he added, might not contain 4K information.
The 4K restoration of All That Jazz will be used as the master for an upcoming Blu-Ray release, and 4K Digital Cinema Package (the digital equivalent of a film print) will be created for repertory cinemas.
Watch THR.com for an upcoming photo gallery with further details of the All That Jazz restoration.
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