From: JEFFREY PAULL (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Sep 04 2008 - 15:01:04 PDT
Thanks for so clearly and fully, the thoughts that you deal with,
and the materials you deal with when you make new prints.
You've made me respect anew, the problematic work you people do, and the ethical concerns that are
reflected in your work, but, probably way too often, taken for granted.
(And sometimes by high-minded folks).
Re: Reading about Robert Nelson's 1/4 in. tape sound compared to the old optical tracks reminded me of the following:
I was about 15 years old and already a movie tech fan when CinemaScope came in with its high fidelity sound tracks.
(This is also the time when hi-fi and LPs began to replace 78s.)
I had grown up, of course, with the compressed and de-SSS'd music and dialogue in feature films,
with very limited dynamic range and top end. I didn'tknow any different. Sound track music sounded sort of generic orchestral.
It was the aural equivalent of shallow depth of field making the background in a shot, soft.
You could recognize the presence of the setting, but you were drawn to the characters' sharp faces.
Well, I remember seeing the first few films, (The Robe, among others) and being aware that the hi-fi
stereo sound drew my attention to the individual instruments themselves, rather than the more diffused music as "atmosphere"'.
Those were violins playing, now, and those are english horns, etc., which spoiled the movie illusion for me
as I was made aware of the orchestra and the musicians separate from the images, actions, story on the screen in front of me.
The Toronto film Festival, many years ago, had a yearly catagory of Open Vault newly restored films.
One year they had Carl Dryer's Joan of Arc, and it was explained that since it was made, nobody (including us film school student types)
had ever seen the "original", because after its one or two initial showings, the neg was sent to Germany for duplicate prints,
and the lab caught fire and the negative was destroyed. So the producers or distributors made Dreyer reconstitute the movie
from the outtakes, which is what everybody had been seeing all these years.
Well, a year earlier than this screening, somebody from a mental hospital in Norway, I think, phoned the Danish film Institute
explaining that they had found an unopened mailed package in a storage room in the basement, I think it was,
and they opened it up and saw it was 35mm film, and was the Institute interested in checking it out.
It turns out it was the only surviving projection print from the original neg.
And it was a new 35mm print, meticulously struck from this pristine original print, that we would now see.
They ran it with a live chorus singing what I believe was original music,tho in theatres back then it would have had an orchestra.
That, for me, was one of the Toronto International film Festival's class acts.
No need to answer this, just wanted to pass these along.
You seem like people I would like to meet and shake your hand(s).
On Thu 04/09/08 12:46 , Mark Toscano email suppressed sent:
> I'm glad this came up, because I think it's a really interesting issue, and
> one that Andrew and I (and many other archivists) grapple with all the
> The idea that one can be 100% faithful or definitive when it comes to
> preserving and re-presenting particularly this kind of work is incredibly
> flawed, but it's obviously still a key consideration. But it's just as
> important to be flexible and realize that compromise is necessary and even
> interesting in pretty much every single project. It's often hard to
> determine what even an approximation of "definitive" or "faithful" means.
> I think Andrew and I both tend to be on the conservative side, e.g. not
> digitally cleaning soundtracks beyond fixing actual damage to them,
> understanding as best we can an intention and aesthetic and context of a
> work to inform the decisions we make, i.e. not assuming anything.
> With "experimental" work, this absolutely necessary attention to detail and
> understanding of intention and limitation is crucial, and it's really hard
> sometimes to decide where the lines are drawn. We do it as responsibly as
> we can.
> When working on Robert Nelson's Grateful Dead, I was faced with two options
> for the soundtrack. I only had the optical track, and the original 1/4"
> tape. The soundtrack is a collage from the band's first album. The 1/4"
> tape sounded fantastic, and the optical sounded lousy. But the prints of
> the film that circulated always had those optical tracks, so the muddy,
> indistinct sound was technically how the film has always been heard. In
> this case, I decided to use the 1/4" tape, deciding (and confirming with
> Nelson) that the muddiness wasn't at all an intended or desired quality of
> the film. But since the 1/4" tape had no sync, we had to futz around quite
> a bit with speed correction before it sounded right, something we checked
> by laying it against a transfer from the optical, and also simply by ear.
> Anyway, so the film is restored now, but it's restored back to something
> that was technically never seen. But in this case, it seemed valid to me
> In the case of Fuses, it's really tough. I haven't seen the new print, but
> I've heard vivid descriptions. I think what Andrew did here is very
> exciting and totally valid. The argument is easily made that when Carolee
> was editing and modifying the footage, she was probably working in a
> what-you-see-is-what-you-get mode. The fact that an intermediate master
> had to be made in order to make the film printable was a technical
> necessity that was not intended to bear on the appearance of the film,
> though of course it unavoidably did. More complicated is that fact that
> these resulting less clear, more murky prints are the way nearly everybody
> has seen the film over the years, which give them a certain validity, as
> Caroline K eloquently pointed out. So the argument for both to co-exist is
> not invalid, although part of me does wonder what this does to focus
> attention away from the experience of the film itself, when one is
> comparing them in terms of clarity,
> color, and so forth.
> A similar thing came up recently with me for Standish Lawder's Necrology.
> Cinema Lab made a new print from the original negative, and Standish liked
> it, but felt very ambivalent about it, because he felt the people in the
> movie suddenly looked "alive", when previously they seemed more "dead".
> This is largely due to the improved print stock and the better lab work
> done than he was getting in the early '70s. With Brakhage's painted film
> Nodes, the original internegative made in 1981 was not exposed well, and
> about half the actual color was simply not expressed, and the forms and
> details were incredibly murky. A few years ago, the lab made a great new
> negative from the original in which the full range of color was now
> apparent, and the detail of Stan's painting visible as it had never been
> before. Another quandary. And I fully expect similar questions to come up
> with Window Water Baby Moving, as all prints and negatives since the
> mid-'60s have been
> made from an intermediate, not from the original. So probably 90% of the
> people on this list have seen only a third generation print from the
> internegative, 9.9% have seen a 2nd generation print from the master, and
> .1% have seen anything directly off the original (maybe Fred?).
> This all extends to blowups to 35mm, presentation on video, preservations
> of installation or multi-screen works...
> I like Morgan Fisher's own approach to restoring his super 8 installation
> Color Balance: he re-shot it.
> Anyhow, didn't mean to go on so much, but hope this is of interest and
> perhaps sparks some conversation and debate!
> Mark T
> --- On Thu, 9/4/08, Caroline Koebel cgkoebel
> @BUFFALO.EDU> wrote:
> > From: Caroline Koebel cgkoebel
> > Subject: Re: [FRAMEWORKS] Fuses restored version
> > To: F
> email suppressed
> > Date: Thursday, September 4, 2008, 8:10 AM
> > Hi Andy & All,
> > I screened the new Fuses print from Anthology at SUNY
> > Buffalo on April 12,
> > 2007, as part of ┬│April Thursdays of Experimental
> > (thanks to Andrew
> > L. for enabling this to happen). A digital transfer of
> > restored Fuses
> > concurrently screened in looping projected DVD form as
> > of Carolee┬╣s
> > retrospective ┬│Remains to Be Seen┬▓ at CEPA Gallery in
> > Buffalo.
> > I agree with Andrew (Lampert) that the colors and
> > of the restored
> > version are more intense--and this results in the
> > footage┬▓
> > interpretation. Out of shadowy parts of the former
> > emerge detail and
> > clarity. For instance, I remember James Tenney coming
> > the fore in a
> > manner unobserved in the earlier version. My take on
> > ┬│two Fuses┬▓ now
> > circulating in the world is that it is ideal to
> > present both
> > together. While the new Fuses holds clear attractions,
> > there remains
> > something incredibly seductive about the ┬│lostness┬▓
> > parts of the image of
> > the old version. Long live Fuses and Fuses.
> > best,
> > Caroline
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at (address suppressed)
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.