First Person: Creative Group Restores Gojira
There is, perhaps, nothing more satisfying than employing a modern arsenal of advanced tools to rescue and reconvene a classic film. We have been working with Classic Media doing restoration work on Ishiro Honda's 1954 sci-fi film classic Gojira (Godzilla). As the film represents the first Blu-ray release for the company, the challenges of bringing the enduring pop-culture icon into the modern age of high definition were legion. Attention had to be paid to every frame of picture and audio content to bring the venerable super-dinosaur back to life, while purposefully retaining the look and feel of a classic movie.
The first task at hand was assessing what we had to work with in terms of actual footage, and from there we developed a technical strategy to accomplish each step to wind up with a visually cohesive product. The original film was created in the early 1950s and, as with many films from that era, it wasn't stored properly. We encountered problems such as simple age staining, mag tracks that were physically distorted and warped and therefore out of sync, dirt, dust, and even pieces of hair.
The question for us quickly became how much time and technology we wanted to throw at this. We view the restoration process in much the same way one would approach buying an old house. You want to modernize and restore, but not so much that you clean it up to the point where it has lost its character and charm. Once we knew what kind of monster Gojira really was, the restoration process began with transferring the film over to HD video. This was accomplished through a Cintel International C-Reality telecine film scanner that allows us to sample film at high resolution very quickly. By employing the C-Reality Oliver scratch-removal technology during the scan and processing through a Digital Vision DVNR system, the resulting digital version enjoyed a significant reduction from the effects of dirt and other surface damage.
The next step was to go back into the HD master for each clip to color correct to an HD SR1 tape. For this we employed a Da Vinci Systems 2K system that allowed us to deliver precise hue, saturation, and luminance control in realtime to generate corrected black-and-white definitions and balance. We were successful using the Da Vinci noise reducers to accomplish this with an eye out for retaining the original grain structure. Once everything was transferred, our next step was to use our Sony online room to put the corrected pieces together, creating one motion picture.
Simultaneous to the video correction, the audio was processed in the online room using a Sony audio board to fix the audio that was literally stretched out of sync or slurred. If things didn't sound right, we would perform surgery through DSP or through finding the same word or syllable with acceptable inflection in some other part of the movie and substituting. Gojira happened to be a Japanese feature at one point in time that was subtitled in English or dubbed over in English. The audio was then married to picture for a complete presentation. Along the way we used Autodesk Smoke software to further clean up the HD digital master visually before we sent the project to another company to produce the actual Blu-ray information.
We love the Da Vinci 2K because as far as the tools go, it's the best color corrector on the market. There are tricks that we can do using the Power Windows feature for multilayered area isolations for sections we want to vignette to visually repair, such as the left side of a scene, to the degree that the viewer would no longer know there was damage.
The Digital Vision DVNR noise reducer was also a powerful tool to reduce the grain levels for comfortable viewing and acted as an electronic dirt cleaner. As it recognizes a big piece of dirt flying by, it will zap it. This and the Oliver system really gave us the opportunity to quickly and effectively clean up the original into something enjoyable to view.
Last, Smoke worked remarkably well just because it can take unwanted things out and offers the best toolset on the market as far as painting frame by frame out. With the power available and with the deadlines, Smoke is the quickest way to get from point A to point B for us. In the end, Creative Group has the right toolset, both mechanical and digital, to make the job of returning sci-fi monster Gojira to its original visual glory for Blu-ray production.