(gentle piano music) - Thanks to Bank of America, our corporate underwriter, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS we are doing a 4K restoration of The Civil War series.
- To allow a new generation to see it as beautiful as possible, and to introduce the war and those characters, and let them feel it the way we meant people to feel it when we first made it.
It still works that way.
- When we shot The Civil War standard television had a resolution of 480 lines vertically.
And high definition television is 1,920 lines.
We are now transferring that material shot 30 years ago into ultra high definition 4K which has 3,9840 lines of resolution.
The ability to take that material that's 30 years old that would've initially been transferred at 480 lines, and bring it to viewers at home at 3,840 lines is an incredible testament of the archival power of that film.
- Now with a chance to do 4K restoration of the original, it's gonna be amazing to look at on the big screen and on your home televisions.
- The first step in the preservation process is called conservation.
And that's where a motion picture film is so extraordinary.
It is a carrier of moving images that can last for a very long time if it is protected in appropriate environmental conditions.
- At George Eastman House we store a safety film in vaults with 40 degrees fahrenheit temperature, and 30% relative humidity.
Our vaults have constant air filtering and circulation.
The Civil War was shot in the late '80s on Kodak stock.
In the late '90s it was then stored at the George Eastman House vault.
So, when we got the film out of the vault, we found out that the film was beautifully conserved.
The first step in the whole process was inspecting each reel of film and checking that the splices were strong enough to go through the preservation process.
This was an edited negative, so it had a very high number of splices that are the joins that put together two pieces of film.
Over the years splices can become brittle and open up, so we needed to check that the splices would not pop open during the process.
Again, the film was in great condition, and only a couple of reels needed special attention.
And we fixed splices using, again, cement or a special tape for film.
A/B cutting is a very smart way to hide splices from the final print.
- Back in the old days when we cut the negative in 16mm you had to create what are called A and B rolls.
- Basically in A and B rolls of film, original camera negative is edited together with blank leader in a checkerboard fashion.
- And so, you would checkerboard the edits across the A and B rolls.
So, shot one is on A roll, shot two on B roll, shot three on A roll.
- So, while splices are present in the negative, once the two rolls are printed one after the other, splices will not be visible in a print.
The next step in the process was cleaning film.
Original camera negatives usually handled very little, and so the film was very clean.
So, the pass in our ultrasonic film cleaner was needed only in order to remove very fine particles of dust.
The third step was scanning.
We scanned the film on our Arri Scanner at 4K, and we also created an infrared matte in order to have the further steps in the process.
- They were able to scan all of that negative, over 50,000 feet of 16mm negative.
And from there I cut every single shot back together digitally, and from that removed all the black and then cut them together into one seamless line.
And this was all based on the original guide, the broadcast guide.
Cut it together frame by frame all the way through over 11 hours of documentary film.
And from that point we go into what's called grading, which is the color correction of the entire series.
- The negative, when it first comes up, it almost has a black and white monotone quality to it.
It comes up very flat, and by flat I mean just lifted blacks, highlights are kind of suppressed, so it looks very kind of flat.
It has no contrast.
We would simply start by adding contrast and see where the image is naturally taking us.
- Within that we can pull out the blacks, and pull out the whites, and see more information within that.
And also have more within all the color.
If you look at the cannon shot, all the details that were on the cannon, there was little highlights on top of the cannon, that's been restored.
It was in the original negative, it'll be in this new redo, the new restored version.
Before you had pretty much yellow and a little bit of blue.
Now you can see little wisps of purple, of pink, all these different colors, and so much more detail within even the grass.
The details in the grass and the cannon.
- The increased detail in the imagery is going to actually draw the audience in more.
You can see people's eyes clearer.
You can see details of the battlefields more.
You can see details of guns and clothing.
The locations are clearer.
Your eye is just totally captivated by the richness of the detail in these photographs.
I think the more important thing is seeing people's eyes.
You can really see into Grant's face or Lincoln's face.
There's something much more emotionally telling that's coming through in people's expressions because of the detail in the faces.
I think that's the biggest change that people are gonna see.
16 is, in some ways, a difficult medium to deal with in contemporary usage, both for broadcast and for the cinema.
And so, the fact that the project was done in 16, even though it was exquisitely made at the time, it's subject to all the limitations of 16mm photography.
And particularly image stability, we found to be something where we, both there were challenges and there was also the opportunity to make the program, to reveal qualities in the program that had never been visible before, because dynamic resolution is affected by image stability.
And so, we were able to tease out of Buddy's beautiful photography more detail and more content, actually, because we had a rock solid stable image, and we were also to do further stabilization.
It's both tricky and also very revealing.
I've been very pleased with the way that's turned out.
- We are basically transforming.
We are stabilizing and image that once, because of the nature of 16mm tended to bounce.
You don't notice it if you're looking at action in a film, but if you're shooting an archive, oh, by the way, that's 90% of our film, there's a little bit of bounce.
Now it's all stabilized and the images are woven together with a kind of preciseness.
They're much clearer and sharper.
They're between what I shot and what I held in head now, and that's mind-blowing.
The archives just jump out at you.
The details are better, the whites are whiter, the blacks are richer, and deeper, and more inviting, the green is diminished a little bit.
And it is a revolution.
It's so moving that I've cried several times just looking at things.
The famous iconic cannon shot, that sunset that Allen Moore took is now the way we saw it.
It's the way we experience those things.
- And so, there's this one shot in particular, it's the bridge at Antietam, and you're looking at it and you're just like, "Is this real?"
And suddenly you see water move and you see leaves blowing in the wind, and you see a bird fly by.
And we'll switch back, we have the old reference, the original pass, and now just to compare to what we're doing on the 4K updated pass.
And it is just stunning, it's like all the detail you get back.
All the things you can see in the tree, and the leaves, and the water.
And you just sit there and sometimes I'm working with Dan in the room, and we'll just have to take a beat, take a breath, and we'll just sit there and enjoy the image for a minute.
We'll take a pause from work and we'll look at it and take it in.
And just realize that what we're doing here is really adding to our history for future generations.
We'll be long gone and dead, and people will still be watching this remastered version, which I'm very excited about.
- But there's something about film that's so magical, so we still are out, we're working on a series on the Vietnam War to complete a trilogy of the Civil War, the war about the Second World War, and now the Vietnam War.
And Allen Moore still working on it, Buddy Squires, we're still shooting film most of the time to get the kind of quality that we want.
And while George Lucas himself once sat me down and tried to prove to me there was no difference, and in fact I couldn't tell the difference, I still feel the difference about it, and so that's what matters.
We've converted mostly to digital everything including shooting, but we hold onto a little bit of the old form just as you wanna just not do everything on some computer program.
You wanna be able to take your brush and dip it in paint.
- Ken has just created this amazing body of work about who we are as Americans and what America is as a country.
If you look at his body of work as a whole, it's an amazing portrait of who we are as a people and as a nation.
I think each one of those films is a kinda part of a large mosaic that he's been creating over his career in terms of what this American democracy is all about and who we are as a people and as a nation.
- Ken Burns is one of the major documentary film makers of our time.
This is the reason why George Eastman House is so proud to be preserving his work.
The Civil War is one of his greatest achievements.
It is the ultimate visual history of the Civil War.
So, it is only natural for us to consider the preservation of this film as a contribution to the cultural heritage of our time.
Preserving The Civil War is, in a way, preserving a bit of history.
It is a modern interpretation, a modern analysis of one of the most important moments in the history of the United States.
- [Narrator] Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you.
How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been.
But oh, Sarah, if the dead can come back to this Earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you in the brightest day and the darkest night, always, always.
And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air at your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead.
Think I am gone, and wait for me, and we shall meet again.
(gentle music) (triumphant music)