cover story : reeling in the past : preservation: thousands of old films may be gone with the winds of time because of chemical deterioration. but ucla's archive is trying to save the best of them. - polyester film inc
Three years ago, Bob Gates, the chief protector of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, hunted through Warner Bros. film vault and found something that looked like a gem.
There, sitting on a pile of corroded movie cans and dusty shelves, a 12-
Original printing of scrolls of "Holy Lady. "A long-
The film, which won the 1929 s, was one of the works of Colin Griffith, the great beauty of the period.
It depicts the romance between Lord Nelson and Mrs. Hamilton, all of which are spliced between naval battles (
Near katanna Island).
Gitt opened each jar excitedly-
Only one sticky brown powder was found, the residue of the deteriorated nitrate film stock.
Of the 12 reels, only two can be salvaged.
Film historians and archivists are familiar with this disappointment.
Experts say 21,000 in Hollywood
Short films and feature films made before 1950 were made with nitrate stock, the main material of the time, and about half of them have disappeared forever, including 90% silent films.
Perhaps the problem is most evident in the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the world's largest repository of feature films after the Library of Congress.
In the film department of the archives, the underfunded team of three experts had to adopt a disturbing classification method to decide which of the thousands of films needed to be saved most for future generations.
"Many of our films are under siege and the process is accelerating over time," Gitt said . ".
"We are doing our best to protect the most important rare films.
But we can't always predict what people will think is important after 30 years.
"This effort is considered critical, especially given the growing historical importance of visual media.
Some experts suggest that one day historians will rely as much as possible on moving images to understand 20-Century culture.
Michael friend said: "The archives at the University of California, Los Angeles, are truly shocking in the cultural sense, but still seen as a non-essential major," director of the film archives at the school of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
"Film resources are as indispensable as books, but they are not considered as art forms of our time.
"The Film and Television Archive at the University of California, Los Angeles, at the old Technicolor factory on the corner of Hollywood Romaine and Cahuenga Avenue, now known as the TV center building, has about 40,000 short films and
In addition, the archive has a collection of approximately 27 million-foot Hurst metropolitan news short films and more than 40,000 TV shows and titles.
The archives's feature film department was founded in 1972 after Paramount donated a large amount of old nitrate-
University of California Los Angeles film
Later, prints from Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. , Republic and RKO Pictures followed suit.
The archive began its television collection in 1965 in conjunction with the College of Television Arts and Sciences. The feature-
The classic film;
Films considered important for artistic, historical or technical reasons, and "orphan films "---
For example, the function discarded by the studio or the original print donated by the director's widow.
The archives also receive prints from independent and retired producers, celebrities and private collectors and borrow films from archives around the world.
The staff are also looking for obscure movies in the forgotten studio vault and warehouse, and acting according to the tips of movie lovers.
In the cool and dark corridor of the archives, about 10,000 nitrate films are stored on 60 double beds
Doors on three floors.
A separate part of the building is about 30,000 acetate
Widely used movies after 1950.
Many acetate fibers.
Based on the film needs to be preserved, but this material is a little more durable than the old nitrate
The film drew a warning from the protectionist: "The nitrate will not wait.
"Overall, Gates said there was an urgent need for UCLA to keep about 400 feature films, 5,000 hours of short news films and about 300 video TV shows.
The archive focuses most of its limited resources on its vast--and aging--
The collection of feature films notes that more and more films need to be paid attention to every year.
Featured on the center's important list include Gene Autry's 1946 film, Sucheng Su;
1943 films starring John Archer and Marjory Lord, shantytown;
A short film called "one day with Jack Dempsey" in his 20 s, along with the full 12-
From 1942 to 1946, the Sherlock Holmes series was filmed by Universal Pictures.
One of the series's films, Sherlock Holmes and spider woman, suffered severe nitrate deterioration on three of the seven scrolls, Gates said.
These projects are one of the many film rescue work being carried out in the archives.
Three feature film technicians in the center can only save or restore about 25 shorts and 15 longer features each year ---
They admit that this speed does not match the deterioration speed of the film lens.
"I felt bad when I first started working here," said Jere Guldin, vault manager at the archives . ".
"There are things you can't save.
"Saving means extending the life of a film, usually by moving the film from a nitrate stock to a longer period of time --
Long lasting acetate or polyester film.
Recovery includes enhancing the raw print that is inferior or incomplete for copying.
Many old films require both types of work, both laborious and expensive.
Gitt estimates, save and restore 90-
The price of the minute black and white movie is about $20,000, and the price of the color movie may exceed $60,000.
Vinyl in the file
The gloved technician must remove all the dirt and sand on the film with a blade and cut out the scratched part with scissors.
Thin film sprocket joints that often need to be replaced and torngluing.
New image must be edited in--
Sometimes after being removed from other files
After two separate photos of the film were found in the Czech Film Archive, Gates finally restored the "Holy Lady", although the photos were slightly damaged and covered with Czech titles.
Typically, the sound must be enhanced and synchronized with the original track.
Moreover, a very flammable nitrate film must be used very carefully throughout the process.
"You have to be passionate and meticulous, and sometimes it's hard to relax and enjoy the art of these movies, because the clock is always ticking," said Eric ahara, an archivist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"I try to make sure I get the space I need to create and detail.
Otherwise, I can't sleep at night.
"It is difficult to increase stress by restoring priorities for projects.
Even if there is a consensus now on which films deserve immediate attention, there are concerns that future generations may disagree.
Film enthusiasts use the "50 s" type of black film that expresses urban anxiety and paranoia as an example of the popular abandoned style decades later.
Ironically, the University of California, Los Angeles Archives struggle is carried out in the case of a surge in film repair work in major studios.
For decades, with the evolution of films from silent to sound to color, many Hollywood studios have moved their old photos to warehouses.
But with the spread of the video, yesterday's film dust has become today's nitrate goldper-
Cable and satellite transmission--
And the prospect of fiber
Now programmers are scrambling to feed the entertainment industry. -
Among other things--old films.
"20 years ago, you couldn't get money for movie protection," said Ralph sagant, president of film technology . ", a Hollywood-
Laboratory based on recovery
"Film companies now realize that keeping their old films is a form of asset protection.
In 1986, Ted Turner bought the MGM film library for $1.
3 billion was considered a serious overpayment.
With the "information superhighway" on the national horizon, this move is now considered very smart.
Turner Entertainment has saved and restored MGM movies from 1938-month 115 classic Technicolor-1953 era--
Including The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind--
Dick May, vice president of Turner Entertainment, said each unit costs about $70,000 and owns some of the film libraries of MGM, RKO Pictures and Warner Bros.
The company costs about $1.
Mei said that 4 million of the cost of recovery and preservation is incurred each year.
"Our policy is to protect everything.
We are working on the protection masters of 3,300 feature films, "said May.
"We will have high in the end.
Television, the public is getting to know more about high-quality images.
They want beautiful pictures. they should look like this.
"Some studios are experimenting with advanced repair techniques, including transferring old movie images to digital media, enhancing them electronically, and then transferring images back to 35-Millimeter film"The high-
The terminal electronics technology can make the image original and eliminate scratches and flaws.
But it may be too expensive, "said Phil Murphy, archivist at Paramount Pictures.
"It will cost $250,000 to finish a 10-minute movie.
Murphy said that in the past six years, Paramount has produced two sets of negatives for its 900 films, storing each print separately in separate refrigeration and humidity --
There is a controlled vault on each coast.
However, the University of California, Los Angeles Archives have far less resources to recover than studios and are expensive
Technology Film rescue projects must be carefully selected.
Archivists say their technicians will be bound by time before the cost of technology drops --
Consume the dirty work of manual repair.
Preservation work at the University of California, Los Angeles each year from the Martin Scorsese, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Sony film and entertainment, Mary Pickford Foundation and Hugh Hef
Sometimes the studio sponsors projects that work with the archives.
Other funding comes from university and government funding.
But the archive's annual budget, compared to the task, is only $350,000 for feature film preservation, so its resources are dwarfed.
Bob Rosen, director of the film archive at the University of California, Los Angeles, said it would take $50 million to preserve all the endangered features of the archive.
"Two big --
Budget movie or B-
"The bomber will cover it," he said . ".
He added that time could run out as thousands of titles need prompt attention.
Rosen said: "After 500, people will look back on this century of discovery movies and ask, 'Why didn't they get better care? '