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Lowry Digital Restores "The Robe"


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#1 Sue Smith

Sue Smith
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Posted 28 October 2008 - 01:09 PM

The Oscar®-winning, classic motion picture The Robe has been digitally restored by Lowry Digital utilizing the company?s proprietary Lowry Process? to create pristine, new picture elements that maintain the visual intentions of the original masterpiece produced in 1953. The restored film will premiere at the Rome International Film Festival on October 30, as part of the festival?s ongoing partnership with The Film Foundation. The restoration was a collaboration between the Academy Film Archive and 20th Century Fox with funding from The Film Foundation.

?As the first CinemaScope film, The Robe represents an important milestone in cinema history,? says Schawn Belston, vice president of Asset Management and Film Preservation at 20th Century Fox. ?The restoration of the film was a unique and complicated challenge, and we chose to work with Lowry Digital because they are a clear leader in advanced image processing. The final result of their work on this film is a testament to the fact that, beyond their extraordinary digital toolbox, the people at Lowry Digital sincerely care about recreating the authenticity of the original cinematic experience.?

The Robe was released in CinemaScope format, which was a new way of presenting images in a widescreen 2.55:1 aspect ratio. The biblical epic was directed by Henry Koster and photographed by Leon Shamroy, ASC, with Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature in starring roles. The film garnered two Academy Awards® for Best Art Direction and Costume Design among its five nominations, including ones for Best Cinematography and Best Picture.

?The Robe is the most complex and challenging restoration Lowry Digital has done to date,? says Lowry Digital?s Chief Operating Officer Mike Inchalik. ?We worked from an amazingly disparate array of elements, including original camera negative, black-and-white YCM separations, and more than a dozen different types of duplicate negative from different eras.?

The elements were scanned at 4K resolution and converted to digital files using IMAGICA® film scanners that are specially designed to gently handle older, shrunken films. The images were color corrected to achieve the look of Technicolor dye-transfer prints of the era, using the Baselight? color correction system. The images were then faithfully restored using The Lowry Process?, a proprietary technique that employs complex temporal image processing to regain detail and resolution to restore consistency, and to reverse the effects of duplication like grain build-up, softening and excess contrast. Physical problems like tears, dirt, misregistration and shrinkage were also repaired.

?The Lowry Process? incorporates some extraordinarily powerful imaging algorithms that have been fine-tuned over the past nine years,? explains Inchalik. ?Even more importantly, the experience we have gained in treating a myriad of imaging problems through nearly 400 major feature film restorations proved to be essential on The Robe. We are proud to have worked on such an important project.?

Lowry Digital, a subsidiary of Adlabs Films Limited and a member of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, delivered new negatives, digital data archives, and a new HD master to serve home video markets, all of which are true to the restored film. The print that will screen at the Rome Film Festival was made from these new negatives, and will be shown in its native 2.55:1 aspect ratio.

?Restoring The Robe to its original CinemaScope glory was a painstaking task and a tremendous responsibility,? says Lowry Digital?s Chief Technology Officer John Lowry. ?I doubt it would have been possible even one year ago. It required our very latest technology. We worked hand-in-hand with Schawn Belston and Michael Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, to make the right aesthetic decisions. Using The Lowry Process?, we have also prepared the film for today?s high-definition home viewing environments, and The Robe will be ready for any format or viewing system the future brings as well.?
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