The new 50th Anniversary Directors Cut of Lawrence of Arabia, which underwent digital film restoration processing at MTI Film, was awarded Best Archive Restoration/Preservation Title at the tenth FOCAL International Awards in London. The film was restored in 4K under the direction of Sony Pictures Entertainment EVP of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering Grover Crisp.
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.
“MTI Film congratulates Grover Crisp and the entire restoration team on this great achievement,” said MTI Film CEO Larry Chernoff. “Their hard work and dedication has made it possible for a new generation of film lovers to enjoy this great film in a beautiful and pristine condition.”