Restoring old monolith’s of cinema is an art of itself. The colourisation and renovation of highly damaged WWI footage in Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old is a fine example of this craftsmanship; providing new life and new meaning to an important piece of history over 100 years old.
American distributors, The Criterion Collection, are also familiar with this restoration process, bringing monochrome classics to contemporary audiences and into their own esteemed ‘collection’. Challenges in the area of restoration can vary greatly. Where for one film an original negative simply needs to be scanned into a higher definition and polished off, for another, celluloid needs to be tracked down and put through a gruelling process of sprockets and cogs to bring it up to date.
In two fascinating videos looking into this process, the restoration of both Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent and The Man Who Knew Too Much, can be examined.
In the restoration of the Foreign Correspondent, the task seemed relatively straightforward. Once the film had taken the best part of two days to be scanned into 2k quality, the Criterion team go through a meticulous process of colour correction and picture manipulation to bring the film up to contemporary standards. As commented by Russell, working at the restoration department, maintaining authenticity is key: “The idea is to make it look clean, but not create artefacts or put anything that wasn’t there.”
On the other hand, the process of restoration for 1934 effort The Man Who Knew Too Much demonstrates the sheer endeavour of the team to maintain the original creative intentions of Hitchcock and his crew. After having to track down a near-original copy of the film from London’s BFI, they went about scanning the nitrate film through several different processes in order to retain its quality and prevent from further damage.
The process of restoration for both these films can be seen for yourselves in the two videos, below: