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Scanning Cinerama Films

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in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written and photographed by: Tom March, USADate: 21.09.2011
John Sittig, director of Cinerama Inc. at Arclight Cinemas has authorized the Restoration of four Cinerama films as part of a 60th anniversary Cinerama preservation project. These films are "Cinerama Holiday" (1955), "Seven Wonders of the World" (1956), "Search for Paradise" (1957) and "South Seas Adventure" (1958). John has been working closely with Michael Forman from Pacific Theatres, the owners of Cinerama. Michael, a long time board member of the American Film Institute, is very concerned about film preservation, and has funded the digital scanning of these 3-strip Cinerama travelogue negatives.
 
More in 70mm reading:

Historic Big Screen Films Get Major Digital Makeover

The Cinerama page

Dave Strohmaier

Internet link:

Pacific Theatres
Arclight Cinemas
Image Trends Inc.
David Strohmaier

Hulahut
 
Image Trends, Inc. is an innovative digital software products developer and high-quality film scanning service in Austin, Texas. It has partnered with Cinerama Inc. to participate in this massive Cinerama three-strip travelogue digital restoration project. The Image Trends scientists and engineers who invented the computerized process called Digital ICE™ have now begun the lengthy digital scanning task. It is notable that only Image Trends’ Digital ICE has the capability of restoring original filmed images from beneath all the dirt and scratches that accumulate over time and it is accomplished in a completely automated and transparent way. Dan Sullivan, Image Trends’ CEO, commenting on the opportunity to restore these priceless and irreplaceable films, said, “Image Trends is proud to be a part of this historic effort.”
 
 
Dave Strohmaier and Dan Sullivan, CEO & President of Image Trends at Airport

Now that the digital scanning of the negatives has begun, Dave Strohmaier and I were invited to the Image Trends Lab to observe the progress of the restoration work. We took a flight early Wednesday, September 7th, from LAX and planned to return the following day. Upon arrival in Austin, Dan Sullivan was there to meet us at the airport.
 
 
A guided tour of Austin conducted by Dan Sullivan

The first item on the agenda was lunch. Dan took the scenic route and we were treated to a guided tour of downtown Austin. He pointed out that the normally clear blue sky was shrouded by smoke from nearby wildfires that day.
 
 
Lunch at the Hula Hut. Dan, Dave, Tom

The restaurant of choice was The Hula Hut, a Tahitian-style outdoor dining experience in keeping with the current Cinerama film being scanned – South Seas Adventure. Hula Hut is located right on Lake Austin.
 
 
Arrival at Image Trends. Dave Strohmaier, Dan Sullivan

After lunch it was a short drive to visit Image Trends. Their offices are at One Bridgepoint Tower overlooking Lake Austin in the heart of Austin’s 'Silicon Hills,' home to the development centers for many technology corporations.
 
 
The Big Meeting. Dan Sullivan, Dave Strohmaier, Martin Potucek-Senior Hardware Engineer, Michael Wilder-Senior Engineer, Wayne Galella-VP of Engineering

In the board room, Dan Sullivan and the project engineers reported on the stages of progress in the various phases of the restoration – the scanning, the color normalization, the dirt and scratch removal and the combining of the three image panels. There were numerous problems encountered due to the unusual “Cinerama” filming process and the age of the original negatives.
 
 
Evaluating a reel of "South Seas Adventure" negative under a microscope.

A recurring problem with all four travelogues being scanned is that they were lacquer coated many years ago to protect the emulsion. This coating, over the years, has deteriorated and is streaked in various places on the negatives. In an attempt to deal with this problem and find the best scanning solution, the negatives have been studied under a microscope in the film lab.
 
 
Dave Strohmaier with Dr. Edgar (CTO).

Dr. Albert Edgar (CTO) applied his imaging skills in the joining of the three image panels, shaping the panels and blending of the join lines to produce a near perfect result. Dr. Edgar, the holder of over 100 patents is deeply involved in the science of imaging. It was interesting to see framed copies of his patents lining the hallways and corridors at Image Trends.
 
 
Dave and Marty observing the ScanMaster 4000 as it scans SSA.

The heart of the scanning operation is Image Trends’ ScanMaster 4000™ with Digital ICE. The Digital ICE automatic defect detection and correction technology ensures dust and dirt-free images. Marty Potucek, Senior Hardware Engineer, points out that Image Trends had to develop a special 6-perf gate to scan the unique Cinerama frames.
 
 
SSA Negative being scanned in 6-perf gate and photographed with Hi-Res camera on right.

A “state of the art” film transport system moves the Cinerama negative through at about one frame per second. An advanced 16 megapixel Princeton Instruments industrial CCD camera produces archival quality digital images with a high dynamic range equal to the image quality of the film. The camera is mounted on a large granite slab to ensure it is vibration-free.
 
 
Server Room, Michael Wilder DSC01475a.jpg

A single 35mm Cinerama frame when scanned at 3K is saved as a 72MB file in the server. The scanning of these large files results in massive data accumulation. A Cinerama movie consists of more than 500,000 frames so the total data being stored in the server is over 40TB.
 
 
Combined Frame from South Seas Adventure, The Te Vega at Port.

All this effort ensures that the Cinerama travelogues will be presented again in their best light in 2012. "South Seas Adventure" will be the first film to complete the scanning process and will be featured at the 18th Bradford International Film Festival in March. We were shown movie clips and sample frames from SSA during our visit. The images look wonderfully restored.
 
 
First Archive LTO-4 Tape and First 2TB Hard Drive delivered by Image Trends both loaded with Cinerama scanned images.

We left Austin the following morning and carried back the first lot of restored images from "South Seas Adventure". Dave Strohmaier will continue with the restoration completing any additional touch-ups to the images and finally assembling them into the complete roadshow presentation with surround sound and all the extras.
 
 
  
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