Re-constructing “The Best of Cinerama”, And a new
restoration of “This is Cinerama” from o-negs
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The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: David Strohmaier, Hollywood, USA
new one sheet poster designed by Martin Hart of American Widescreen Museum
It was around August of 2014 when I got an e-mail from
John Mitchell and
David Coles asking if I was
going to put together the last and lost Cinerama travel adventure title
“The Best of Cinerama”. Regular readers of In70mm.com will probably know
who these two gentlemen are, both are Cinerama fans from Down Under and John
has the backyard cinema capable of showing 3-strip Cinerama. They argued
that since all the travelogues have been remastered and four of them having
been restored from the original negatives, I should consider reconstructing
“The Best of Cinerama” feature.
Some of you may know this title that was created with select clips from all
the shows, except “Windjammer,”
and was released in 1962 just before
“How the West Was Won.” The
production was supervised by former Cinerama Producer Merian C. Cooper and
this was to be his last film work after a long and glorious career. Working
along side Cooper were the film’s two editors, Lovel S. Ellis who worked on
several Cinerama productions including “Search For Paradise”
and long time Cinerama postproduction editor, Norman Karlin. The Executive
Producer was Max E. Youngstein who would produce the hit film “Fail Safe”
two years later.
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The 2015 European Cinerama
Remastering the soundtrack of "The Best
is the continuity, or the bible, that original editor Norman Karlin created
after the assembly of “Best of“.
The postproduction process was performed at the Forum Theater in Los
Angeles, which was Cinerama’s studio facility. This process was to be a bit
unusual as funding was very restricted, due most likely to budget overages
on “How the West Was Won.” The Cinerama editors assembled the work
picture in a few months using old existing prints of the five travelogues
and then screened the film for the Cinerama executives.
Lowell Thomas was
brought in to record new narration to cover scenes originally narrated by
others in “Cinerama Holiday”
and “South Seas Adventure.”
sample page from “the bible” as the story takes us from a Venice boat
regatta to the Coliseum in Rome.
Then executives came up with a cost cutting measure to create the theatrical
prints. The negative was not to be duped or cut but the prints were to be
simply created out of Cinerama’s existing inventory of prints, then cleaned
and rejuvenated at Pix Fix, Gunther Jung’s company, which Cinerama often
used to clean up used prints before returning them to theaters. That’s why
no negatives were ever located for “Best of” in the vaults.
Peskay threads up the Spirit DataCine scanner with original negatives at
FotoKem’s digital labs in Burbank.
To further encourage the reconstruction of this lost title, John Mitchell
informed me that he had an original 7-channel soundtrack archived years ago
on analog tape. This was certainly good news as “Best of” had a lot
of changes and scenes that were shortened from the original cuts of the
shows as well as the new narration by
Lowell Thomas. Then
I discovered another major critical find, Norman Karlin’s detailed
continuity of each cut in the film with exact timings of each shot and each
sequence. So between these two archival finds, I was able to totally
reconstruct the complete film accurately just as it was seen and heard back
and Tom March, the executive producer of the project, get ready to scan
another roll of “This Is Cinerama.” Each 6-perf panel was scanned at 2K.
My digital reconstruction took
about five weeks to complete and I sent out Blu-ray copies to David Coles,
John Mitchell and Tom March. The only comments from these three august
Cinerama fans were that whenever shots from
“This Is Cinerama” appeared,
there was a noticeable “loss in picture quality.” When
Greg Kimble and I worked
on “This Is Cinerama” six years ago, we had no funds for scanning
negatives and had to revert to the substandard optical 65mm negative then
using a telecine bay to create the digital files. Scanning for HD 6-perf
Cinerama film was not exactly possible for normal vendors back then without
redesigning their systems and even if they could, the cost of doing the
three panels would have been cost prohibitive.
Strohmaier with Greg working on the DaVinci Resolve to compensate for the
badly faded color.
Warner Brothers was busy with
the help of Hewlett Packard, finishing up their scanning operation on
“How the West Was Won” and we could not afford them anyway. Only a few
years later when Image Trends stepped up to the plate, were we able to
actually scan the 6-perf negatives of the four remaining travelogues at a
reasonable cost. I realized that to make “Best of” have a consistent
picture quality throughout, we would have to scan “This Is Cinerama”
shots from the original negative just as the travelogues had been done at
color adjustments had to be made on each shot due to the age and fading of
the negatives. Here the B panel is scanned for the canoe trip through
Florida’s Cypress Gardens.
Image Trends would not be able to
help this time as their scanners were going to be tied up on other projects
so another way had to be found. Andrew Oran of FotoKem authorized some tests
in their 35mm Spirit DataCine bay to see if their system could do 6-perf
scanning and after some extensive software changes, it worked. The test
results were identical to the Image Trends scans and with these results,
Tom March, the
ultimate Cinerama aficionado, decided to cover the cost of the scanning of
the entire original camera negatives of “This Is Cinerama”, not just
the scenes needed in “Best of”. Therefore I was to re-composite the
panels and re-restore “This Is Cinerama” at the same time as updating
“Best of”. This process was to take me an additional six months of
typical raw scan that has been barrel warped.
On more than one occasion we came
across film that was badly damaged. In four separate incidents the sprocket
holes had crumbled off of the left edge of the negative due to the excessive
amount of prints made for this title over the years. 35mm clear perf repair
tape was used to mend as best as possible, one of these areas was over 14
Once scanning for the panels is finished, it goes to another area of FotoKem
to be barrel warped using special settings with the “Nuke” software. This
warp corrects for some of the image distortion in the original camera lenses
where things appear bent at the top and bottom of the frame. This would
often appear on screen as bent horizon lines and this was certainly evident
in the old 65mm version. Both Image Trends and Warner Brothers used this
technique to correct their Cinerama scans.
is a composite of the 3 panels, in SmileBox, of the Cypress Gardens scans.
Preparing for a Cinerama scanning session requires a great deal of planning,
especially since “This Is Cinerama” negatives were not in any kind of
linear order. When the negative was cut back in 1952, it was divided into
sections to fit as much footage as they could onto each lab roll. These were
called “B, A, C” rolls so each section with its matching panels would go
through the printing and processing procedures at the same time to aid in
keeping consistent color across the panels. Baker or B panel was always
first on the roll then A and C.
is a sample of how the negative was organized, section 2 and section 16 were
on the same B,A,C roll. The blue highlight indicates a shot that will
eventually appear in “Best of”. This was certainly a strange way to cut
negative, so to avoid any confusion, I also created a visual back up of the
is a visual back up reference of the same B, A, C roll. Each cut is
illustrated and these images were taken from the earlier 65mm transfer of
“This Is Cinerama”. Again the blue marks indicate shots for use in “Best of
The next step is to composite the three images using Final Cut Pro. This
takes up quite a bit of time to get good blends between the panels, as well
as balancing the color between the panels, and then eventually a lot of dust
busting and blotch removal will be needed.
A final composite image can now be created to do any last color adjustments
or other fixes before assembling the cut together for the final film. Often
my computer system would be rendering overnight, almost every night, to
process these procedures.
are mounted on the Final Cut Pro timeline within a 16 x 9 format, thus the
slight squeeze. Video level 3 is Baker panel, 2 is Abel and level 1 is
Click the image to see enlargement
attention is taken to line up each panel for a good blend. Soft edges are
used on the Baker panels to help make the blend more pleasing. Here is a
proper digital blend example between B and C panels. At some early Cinerama theater
screenings when projectors were not aligned properly, this woman who is
standing right on the blend line, would have three legs and four eyes.
Mark’s Square from the old 65mm transfer.
Click to see enlargement
Flicker Alley has said they are interested in releasing “Best of”
sometime mid next year. Currently I am also starting to test scan the 6-perf
originals of “Cinerama’s Russian Adventure” as the next restoration
same frame from the new restoration scanned off of the original camera
negative. Note the increase in detail and the slightly wider image on A & C
Click to see enlargement
The Hal Dennis Estate has located the 6-perf negatives and early
tests we have done at FotoKem are looking very promising. Flicker Alley had
also indicated an interest in releasing this title as well for next year.
"Best of" will have its first screening at
Weekend at the National Media Museum in Bradford on October 18th.
Producer Randy Gitsch is currently having the film copyrighted for Cinerama
Inc. with the Library of Congress. Tom March has created a new DCP of the newly restored “This Is Cinerama”
as well as the “Best of” for any future theatrical showings, however
there are no plans for a re-issue of “This Is Cinerama” on Blu-Ray at
The Best of Cinerama - adverts
advert. The compilation feature "THE BEST OF CINERAMA" was produced and
released in 1962. The film credits carry a 1962 copyright date, and the film
screened seasons at several US venues during that year - starting on
Tuesday, November 13, 1962 at the Cleveland Palace. It did not open in New
York until Dec. 25, 1963 - and it never screened in L.A.
to see enlargement
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