Preserving History Film

DaVinci Revival Pro ($9,995) adds automatic film-restoration tools to the entry-level product, as well as additional interactive workflows, including grain and noise reduction (and addition!), aperture or sharpening correction, de-flicker, stain reduction, stabilization and registration of RGB-separated images.

"The program comes with its own Linux operating-system installer," adds Adams. "You should really start with a virgin machine—an HP Z-series machine with a hexacore CPU would be perfect—and install to a freshly formatted hard disk. The software is also designed to work on lesser machines using an outboard render farm, but some of the tools like grain or noise reduction are very processor-intensive. The RGB registration-correction algorithm works in three colors simultaneously."

Other processes work faster and wouldn’t so greatly require multiple processors. "Dirt and dust removal, the stabilizer and de-flicker aren’t required for the entire length of the film," explains Adams.

When asked about the need for specialized hardware peripherals, Adams refers to DaVinci’s sister product, DaVinci Resolve, which is the colorist’s leading tool. "Resolve is more of a hardware-specific product using the Blackmagic Design DeckLink card and an NVIDIA CUDA-compatible video card, such as the Quadro FX 4800, to provide a fast-response GUI."

Revival only requires a DVS Centaurus card for I/O of SD and HD. All other resolutions, including 2K and 4K, are displayed on the GUI computer monitor. The system itself employs DPX files, which can be obtained from most film labs directly.

"When the projects are complete," explains Adams, "most producers simply copy the DPX files back to the lab or to a video distributor for film, DVD, broadcast or Internet distribution. The system itself only supports SDI output to a monitor or perhaps tape storage, but this is rarely required."

Brownlow would like the de-flicker tool. "I was told when I started in this business that silent films were a waste of time," he explains. "They were jerky and flickering…."

When asked about de-flicker, Adams explains, "Most of us think that the flickering is a built-in attribute of old films. This isn’t so. The flickering is due to uneven aging of the film stock. Some frames faded more than others, and when projected, the uneven density of the image would cause flicker. We can fix this now."

Brownlow laments that the predecessors of today’s producers saw no value in saving their prints and negatives. "Seventy-three percent has been destroyed. That’s like a publisher taking Tolstoy, Dickens and Fitzgerald, and pulping every copy, and you can’t see the original manuscript[s] because they’ve burned [them] as well."