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Author Topic: Reviewing Classic DCPs
Lincoln Spector
Film Handler

Posts: 44
From: Albany, CA, USA
Registered: Mar 2012


 - posted 10-25-2013 05:19 PM      Profile for Lincoln Spector   Author's Homepage   Email Lincoln Spector   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've realized that someone independent of the studios needs to be reviewing DCPs of classic films. A well-made DCP master can do wonders. A bad one can really mess things up.

Most of the ones I've seen have been excellent, but I've heard a lot of horror stories about others (many on this forum).

Now if I can just find a way to get the job.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12445
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-25-2013 08:13 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Start a website called "digitalclassicmovies.com" or something like that. You could probably get a few contributing writers right here at Film-Tech.

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

Posts: 4247
From: Bloomington, IN, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 10-26-2013 12:06 AM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Do you mean "inspecting" them for quality control -- before they go out to theatres?

Or do you mean reviewing them -- after they've already gone out to theatres?

If you want a QC job, I suspect you'll probably have to go work for them as an employee. There's probably already "somebody" being paid to do this -- the trouble is, they're either lazy or ignorant. Just go in and take their job. [evil]

Reviewing them when they're already in cinemas would be too little, too late. I doubt they'll re-do them.

And, besides, if you saw one of these at a well-run cinema, you might not know there are problems, because some mistakes can be hidden or minimized.

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Stephen Furley
Film God

Posts: 3057
From: Coulsdon, Croydon, England
Registered: May 2002


 - posted 10-26-2013 05:07 AM      Profile for Stephen Furley   Email Stephen Furley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Manny Knowles
I doubt they'll re-do them.

Some films have been re-done. Other than if restoration technology has improved, or better original elements have been found which were not available the first time this seems to be a total waste; why not do it right the first time?

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

Posts: 4247
From: Bloomington, IN, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 10-26-2013 04:58 PM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Ignorance or Evil. You choose.

They might redo for the reasons you suggest, but when I said "I doubt they'll redo them," I meant in the context of some "reviewer" complaining about it a week later.

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Marcel Birgelen
Film God

Posts: 2610
From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 10-26-2013 05:14 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Face it: In this "modern" world, the consumer is Quality Control...

If it appears to be really broken, they just release a patch for it later.

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Jarod Reddig
Master Film Handler

Posts: 377
From: Hays, Ks
Registered: Jun 2011


 - posted 10-27-2013 03:51 AM      Profile for Jarod Reddig   Email Jarod Reddig   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Boy aint that the truth.

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Lincoln Spector
Film Handler

Posts: 44
From: Albany, CA, USA
Registered: Mar 2012


 - posted 10-29-2013 06:03 PM      Profile for Lincoln Spector   Author's Homepage   Email Lincoln Spector   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Manny Knowles
Do you mean "inspecting" them for quality control -- before they go out to theatres?

Or do you mean reviewing them -- after they've already gone out to theatres?

I mean reviewing them in a screening room before they play in commercial theaters--as happens with new films.

The point is to judge the quality of the restoration and the DCP master. And if a bad review makes a studio redo the master, that's a good thing.

Lincoln

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7034
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000


 - posted 10-29-2013 10:13 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Stephen Furley
Some films have been re-done. Other than if restoration technology has improved, or better original elements have been found which were not available the first time this seems to be a total waste; why not do it right the first time?
Sorry in advance for such a shameless plug, but I try to address the reasons why some classic films are restored many times over while others are pretty much ignored in my new book, which is out on Thursday.

It's not just the rediscovery of new or better material that triggers a restoration. If a film is either an enduring commercial success with audiences, is celebrated by critics/academics or both, the chances are that it'll get regular makeovers. Probably the most extreme example is Metropolis, which has been the subject of at least five major restoration projects (discounting the Moroder version) since the '80s. OK, two of them were prompted by major footage rediscoveries, but those rediscoveries happened to a large extent because people were actively looking for them.

If critics and/or the public haven't judged a movie to be an enduring classic, and in the absence of 'back from the dead' rediscoveries (which can result in ordinary, unremarkable, and in some cases downright bad films having their fifteen minutes of fame, e.g. Beyond the Rocks), a surprising amount of decision making boils down to archivists' personal preferences - what they feel are 'good' films, worth putting in front of the public again, and what they feel aren't, and are content to leave on the shelf unless people come asking for them.

In short, studio archives and DVD/BD publishers will restore and re-release a title if they think it's going to make money (and also to keep a film in perpetual copyright - each new restoration is a new work of IP, with the copyright expiration clock restarting). Non-profit archives will do so if their curators think that it's good.

As for the OP's suggestion, I agree, though this isn't a new problem. When I first became interested in older movies as a teenager in the '80s, I'd go to see them at rep and re-run houses all over London as often as I could. New print re-releases ranged from 35mm prints that looked beautiful to ones that were umpteenth generation, probably blown up from a 16 interneg and with shitty contrast or midtones. Even reviewers in highbrow film mags like Sight and Sound hardly ever mentioned or tried to evaluate the quality of the prints they were seeing, I suspect because (a) they lacked the technical knowledge to do so, and (b) because 99% of their readers lacked it as well, and furthermore didn't care either.

The same thing appears to be happening with DCPs now - they range from lovingly produced from proper preservation elements, to upscaled-from-SD telecines from a 16mm airline print. It would be great if at least one of the trade mags or a reputable site such as this one carried DCP reviews that really gave theatre owners and programmers a good sense of what was worth booking and what not in terms of image and sound quality. Whether the distributors would support such an effort (e.g. by providing review copies in advance of the release) is another question, though.

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Brad Miller
Administrator

Posts: 17687
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99


 - posted 10-29-2013 10:21 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
I for one would be happy to do that on this site. There are enough of us locally to do the check-screenings in the FT screening room which is better equipped than most every commercial cinema anyway, so the "system" wouldn't be the cause of a poor review, and it could be a group review so that it wasn't just one person nitpicking things, but an average consensus.

Problem is, the studios don't WANT people to stray away from booking a repertory DCP of a poor transfer. Case in point, the Ferris Bueller DCP looks AWFUL!!! On the flip side, Back to the Future looks fantastic. While Universal would enjoy the good review, Paramount would want us to keep our mouths shut. [Razz]

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

Posts: 4247
From: Bloomington, IN, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 10-31-2013 03:41 PM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My question is: How receptive would any studio be to the idea of re-doing a DCP?

Worth a try, of course.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 7034
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000


 - posted 11-01-2013 12:46 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Unless it's one of a very small number of archive titles that is still able to earn serious money - which will likely have been DCP-ized properly anyway - not much, would be my cynical guess: the potential revenue involved is just too small.

However, if the drip-drip-drip effect of serious reviews of the technical quality of a re-release being out there followed by discerning audiences seeking out the better DCPs takes hold, a situation might gradually take hold whereby the bar is gradually raised. There are already one or two DVD/BD publishers who specialize in deluxe edition transfers of archival titles at premium prices, for a small market of customers who are willing to pay significantly more than the going rate for a studio re-release title (Janus/Criterion, Milestone and Kino being the major ones in the US).

The challenge is going to be to create a similar situation for theatrical re-releases. Time and time again, when I complained about (film) presentation problems that were avoidable either at no or little cost, the stock response from the distributor and/or theatre responsible was that I should be lucky for the opportunity to see this obscure film noir from the '50s on 35mm at all, and what would I prefer - to see it in a horribly dupey print, in the wrong aspect ratio, etc. etc. ... or on VHS or not at all? The only answer I can think of to this is for a critical mass to be concerned about getting it right, public expectations are raised accordingly and eventually, the savings involved in cutting corners in the remastering and technical presentation will increasingly look like a false economy.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10701
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 11-01-2013 09:00 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'll chalk it all up to bad standards of practice.

The folks making the classic movie DCP merely grab whatever "asset" is laying around and then use that as a source. There are various rules for authoring DCPs, but I'm convinced the rules, guidelines or whatever the hell they are don't mean squat. Just generate the DCP at whatever settings get it done in the fastest, most convenient manner.

Lots of classic movies are being released on Blu-ray. Most, but not all, of these movies typically have their original negatives or some other high quality film source carefully scanned as part of the process. They get a digital intermediate treatment pretty similar to that of any new movie shot on film.

Obviously there has to be some sort of organizational clusterfuck happening at the movie studios for a classic movie to have a great looking Blu-ray release, but then have a DCP that looks terrible.

Lots of movies have been digitally mastered and mastered again repeatedly. That also means multiple video masters floating around. Not everyone working at a company using/storing digital assets is technically astute. I personally know this is very true with advertising agencies and design studios. Some people just grab the first file or set of files they find that look like the right thing needed without any further inspection.

One obvious solution: incorporate a DCP authoring step in that Blu-ray production work flow when making a classic movie Blu-ray. That's probably already a standard procedure at some production companies. But I doubt it is standard procedure at all the major studios.

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Lincoln Spector
Film Handler

Posts: 44
From: Albany, CA, USA
Registered: Mar 2012


 - posted 11-01-2013 07:41 PM      Profile for Lincoln Spector   Author's Homepage   Email Lincoln Spector   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Stephen Furley
Some films have been re-done. Other than if restoration technology has improved, or better original elements have been found which were not available the first time this seems to be a total waste; why not do it right the first time?
Because people, institutions, and technologies aren't perfect, but they hopefully (not always) get better over time.

Example: From what I've heard, I'm pretty sure that 2001 was only scanned in 2K. Today, it would likely be scanned in 8K, and mastered in 4K.

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