film reporter

Cutting a new 'Blade': No bloodshed allowed

"You shouldn't put your foot through a Rembrandt. That's what we were being very careful not to do," Per Hallberg says of restoring Ridley Scott's 1982 classic "Blade Runner."

The futuristic Warner Bros. film recently was restored and remastered in 4K resolution with 5.1 audio to mark its 25th anniversary.

This new version — "Blade Runner: The Final Cut" — is slated for release Oct. 5 in one theater each in Los Angeles and New York. It also will be included in a "Blade Runner" box set — due out this year on both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD as well as DVD — that also will offer the original domestic and international versions, the 1992 version and the work print.

On "The Final Cut," sound man Hallberg's drive for great care and precision was echoed by others on the project.

"Colleges have courses (on 'Blade Runner')," says Kurt Galvao, director of feature postproduction at Warner Bros. "It sounds cliche, but the goal was to do it justice and to do it right."

The process — which included active participation from Scott — started with getting all of the film elements in the 4K resolution. "From the 4K you get much more detail," Galvao says.

Warner Bros. scanned the 35mm film in 4K, and Fotokem scanned the visual effects shots from 65mm to 8K. The 8K elements were converted to 4K, and the digital images were delivered to Technicolor Digital Intermediates for picture restoration. TDI colorist Jill Bogdanowicz — with additional work from colleague Stephen Nakamura — handled the 4K digital intermediate color timing and creation of the master.

Uniquely, TDI has access to a print that Scott had lab-timed around 2001. "We had that to look at," Bogdanowicz says. "So I got a good idea of where Scott expected this to start."

She adds that the project benefited from the new 65mm scans. "We had all that high resolution and all that detail to start working, which was really amazing," Bogdanowicz says. "Nobody's ever seen them this way before."

Visual effects were headed by supervisor John Scheele and included the work of Illusion Arts, Lola, the Orphanage and Sony Pictures ImageWorks. Says Galvao, "We gave matte paintings more depth and some detail that they didn't have before, so they blend better with the principal photography."

Also, the Zhora character's death scene was refilmed with actress Joanna Cassidy. "When she is crashing through the glass as she is being shot, you could always tell there was a stunt person," Galvao says. "We shot Joanna (with greenscreen) and put her face and hair into the body of the stunt person."

Bogdanowicz adds of the color timing: "We had a lot more control over the image than they did back in 1982. We lit the matte paintings quite a bit to darken certain areas."

Soundelux's Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers were supervising sound editors on the restoration project. "We wanted to accentuate the audio without making people feel like we did something," Hallberg says. "It's a great track. It's more inventive than almost anything that has ever been made."

The final mix was completed at Warner Bros. Studios. The sound mixers were Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett, and Soundelux's Chris Assells was the sound designer.

Warners will store the 4K master on digital files, prepared for future requirements. Says Galvao: "Technology progresses. Someday, theaters will be projecting 4K."