“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Richard III,” Digitally Restored with Innovations from MTI Film, Among the Finalists for Focal International Award

Two classic films that underwent digital film restoration processing at MTI Film are among the finalists in the 2013 Focal International Awards. Lawrence of Arabia and Richard III, both restored under the direction of Sony Pictures Entertainment EVP of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering Grover Crisp, are nominated for Best Archive Restoration.

David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time. Prior to its 50th anniversary release by Sony Pictures last year, the film went through a meticulous restoration and re-mastering in 4K.

Throughout the film were sections where camera rolls had suffered exposure to the desert heat that caused the emulsion to dry and crack. This resulted in hundreds of small, vertical fissures in each frame. Although the problem, which appeared as white columns or streaks of light in release prints, had always existed, it had clearly grown worse over the decades. The cracks were thin, irregular lines 1 to 3 pixels wide separated by as little as 1 pixel in a 4K frame.  It was initially thought that the problem was confined to 2nd unit footage, but thorough investigation revealed that almost every reel of film was affected. Moreover, each defect was unique so that one solution would not work for all.

Over months of restoration, MTI Film developed new algorithms, creating and modifying existing software, to address the problem. Considerable manual intervention was also needed. In some instances, scratches ran through multiple shots. These needed to be removed with great care to avoid affecting underlying imagery and grain structure. This was particularly challenging when faces were involved.  Color correction was done by Scott Ostrowsky of Colorworks.

Restored under the aegis of The Film Foundation, Richard III stars Laurence Olivier in what has been called the best film adaptation of Shakespeare. The new restoration is the most faithful ever to the original 1955 UK release. Working from original Vistavision negative, the film was scanned and restored in 4K, resulting in dramatic improvements to picture and sound. Again, MTI Film and its Correct DRSTM system where enlisted to repair a wide variety of problems resulting from age and maltreatment.

“MTI Film was honored to contribute to the restoration of these two exceptional films and we extend our congratulations to Grover Crisp and the entire restoration team on their recognition by the Focal International Awards,” said MTI Film CEO Larry Chernoff. “Thanks to their hard work and artistry, these films can be enjoyed by a new generation in the form that the filmmakers intended.”

The 2013 Focal International Awards will be presented May 2 at the Lancaster London Hotel.