Chicago's Only Film Restoration System Arrives

Reprinted with permission from Screen Magazine, July 24-31, 2000.

With contracts signed for the restoration of five classic movies for DVD release, Screen Time Images (formerly Sensory Technologies) bought Chicago's first Revival Digital film restoration system.

The $130,000 DaVinci & Sierra software for direct-to-disk recording is the first to be purchased in the U.S.

Said Screen Time president Sean McKee, "Buy this represents a giant step forward towards bringing more of this type of work to Chicago."

McKee and partner Karen Sheehan restored and remastered Orson Welles' classic "Othello" for DVD release with producer Michael Dawson of Intermission Productions. Through Intermission, Sensory Technologies is restoring five old movies, some going back to the 1940s for DVD release: "Our Town", "Dementia-13" (one of Francis Ford Coppola's first films); "Jack the Ripper", "Mutant" and the Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone.

With the new Revival Digital restoration system, Screen Time Images has positioned itself to become a leader in this emerging market.

As McKee explained it, Revival runs on multi-processor SGI hardware and works in conjunction with a Sierra digital disk recorder and a VTR, such as digital betacam, noting that "the image quality is far superior to anything else on the market."

"We look at each film in Revival on a shot-by-shot basis and then determine the regions of interest where scratches and dirt are," he said. "With the proper settings, the system assists us in removing the troublesome areas. For really difficult scenarios, such as half a frame missing due to emulsion chipping, the system offers manual paintbox-type tools for touching up by hand." The system also has the ability to handle HD and film resolution images.

In addition to Revival Digital, Screen Time also has another exclusive Chicago restoration tool: The MTI DRS (Digital Restoration Services) system, which allows for 3:2 pulldown cadence repairs and standards conversion. The company also owns the suburbs' only Discreet Logic Flame and Flint compositing and effects system, hardware filtering and proprietary in-house techniques.

"We can also recreate an entire scene digitally," stated McKee, citing as an example what he and Sheehan were able to accomplish in "Jack the Ripper's" opening scene where the image was so bad all the flaws could not be cleanly removed.

"The film opens with a shot of London Bridge," he described. "We digitally created new water and a new sky, matte paintings for each; cleaned up the buildings; recreated the people and vehicles; color corrected and blended it together. We displaced our digital water on the Y-axis using the luminance values from the water in the original scene to match the motion. When we finished, we had a very convincing recreation."

With plans to buy DVD authoring and mastering solutions, McKee and Sheehan's goal is to provide an end-to-end restoration, authoring and mastering solution for clients by the fourth quarter of this year.

Screen Time Images (formerly Sensory Technologies Inc.) is located at 974 Estes Court Schaumburg,IL 60193 - phone, 847-534-9000

-----Dutch Ryan