I’ve learnt a whole lot of lessons in the restoration of the ‘English, August’ negative. It all began when Upamanyu Chatterjee asked for a DVD of the film.
Readers of this weblog will know that the 35mm negative of English, August was damaged by Prasad Laboratories in Madras (now Chennai) because of poor storage. Ironic given that I chose to work with them because they were the best processing and printing laboratory in India.
I was later told by several established filmakers, cinematographers and producers, “welcome to the club”. The club is a group of people who have lost the Original Negatives of their films due to poor storage conditions in India.
So for aspiring filmmakers here are the five things to look out for.
And when I use the word Laboratory you could replace that with a Digital Post Production Facility too.
Choose Your Laboratory Carefully
- Ask to see their previous work.
- Something they have done in the last six months.
- Speak to the producers, directors, cinematographers and editors and get a sense of their personal experience.
- What is the extra mile the facility will go for you?
- Will they treat you with respect or will you be given short shrift.
- Remember, they need you more than you need them.
Proper Storage- Make your Laboratory Accountable
- Ask to see where they store your original masters.
- Is it temperature controlled?
- Is the temperature maintained 24×7?
- Do they have dust filters?
- How often are these cleaned?
- What backup system do they have for all this?
Pay your Laboratory for Storage
- Don’t take this for granted. (I did as did so many others)
- Let’s not forget the Lab also has to survive.
- Offer to pay for storage.
- This will be music to their ears and in all likelihood they will go the extra mile.
Check your Negative / Master from time to time
- Drop in from time to time.
- Buy your Lab Supervisor lunch.
- Make friends with them.
- You’ll learn a lot about cinema as well.
- If it’s tape then run it through a machine.
- If it’s film negative open it and have it wound gently so the layers do not pack too tightly.
Budget for a backup.
- If you are shooting on Tape then make sure you have an onsite and an offsite backup.
- Have three levels of backup.
Do the same for all your sound.
- Your Location Sound Tracks.
- Your ADR.
- Your Sound Design Tracks.
- Your Final Mix and Stems.
- Your Dolby M.O. Disk.
I know this sounds ridiculous but think of this:
- We never made a Internegative of English, August.
- We were penny wise-pound foolish.
- When we found the Original Negative was in a poor condition we telecined it to tape.
- The tape was captured to an expensive high quality tested drive.
- I thought we were safe.
- When I began the process to master the DVD I found the drive was dead.
- We had never thought of making a clone of that drive.
- We felt that the “tried and tested drive” was fail safe.
If you are originating on 35mm Film Negative make a budget for:
- A timed Internegative.
- Store that carefully.
- If you are going the DI route even then make a timed Internegative.
- Or if you can afford it strike a second safety negative which you store carefully.
- If you have a huge budget then I’d urge you to make a YCM master on 35mm too.
But that is another story.
Title Junkies Here’s a link for you to watch the titles for Road, Movie. It’s a homage to those wonderful “The End” title cards that would appear as a flourish in movies.
They were done by the amazing team at Shine Studio.
The DVD of Road, Movie is out on Amazon (USA) on February 22, 2011.
Pre-Order your copy.
Director of Photography Michel Amathieu and I along with the amazing colorist Chris Wallace have supervised the DVD transfer.
Reader Shashi asks if my simple poll of your favorite scene fromÂ English, August will lead to a DVD. Mayur Doshi has his favorite scene. Though Rishi Tandon, Shaswat and Prashant are getting impatient.
I’ve located two 35mm prints ofÂ English, August. A reel from them is being sent to various post production facilities in Bombay to determine what they do to restore the film. Â I do recall seeing a very good print in Delhi which the Directorate of Films Festivals has. The subtitles were random. The Telugu dialogs especially in the final scenes were not subtitled which made the end difficult to follow. But what this does mean is that the print is “clean” for the most part. Clean in film lingo means without any text or subtitles on the image. This helps in the restoration process.
Once we get the results of the tests I’ll be a step closer towards the end of this process.
I’m planning on writing about the restoration process and also why my film got into this situation.
So let’s say this: 2011 will be a good year.
What’s your favorite scene from English, August?
I’m taking a poll and will post that as a teaser.
“Road, Movie is a classic, touching journey of self discovery.”
Here’s Kevin Thomas’ review in the Los Angeles Times.
My team is thrilled.
July 2Ã¢Â€Â“July 8 4:50pm daily
Laemmle Sunset 5 (8000 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood)
Tribeca Film is coming to Los Angeles!
Ten Films! Two Weeks!
June 25 Ã¢Â€Â“ July 8
Tribeca Film, supported by Founding Partner American ExpressÃ‚Â®, brings you the best of independent and foreign film (including titles from the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival) online, on demand, and in theaters all across the country. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can see Road, Movie screening from July 2 Ã¢Â€Â“ July 8 at 4:50pm daily at the Laemmle Sunset 5 (8000 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood).
Tribeca Film titles range from romantic comedies and animated sci-fi thrillers to sports documentaries and rock-and-roll biopics. Check out the other Tribeca Films screening in Los Angeles and around the country here http://www.tribecafilm.com/tribecafilm/tf-filmguide/
If you canÃ¢Â€Â™t make it to a theater, you can still watch at home – Tribeca Film is also available on Amazon On Demand and Vudu in the US until mid August.
See you at the movies!
I’ve been away from this weblog for a while.
We’ve been preparing for the US release of Road, Movie. It’s an historic moment and one my cast and team are thrilled about.
But for now here are responses to your questions.
Claudio: Yes the film on Ramanujan is in the works.
Ajay: SBS had the rights to screen English, August. Not issue DVD’s. I’ve written elsewhere about the challenges I’m facing on this. I hope there will be a DVD of English, August sometime soon. In the meanwhile there’s Upamanyu’s book which is my favorite too.
Prasad: I’m trying to convince Sony Music about releasing the soundtrack with Michael Brook’s amazing music. This is a tough one.
Navin: I saw Road, Movie in the cinemas with audiences at different show times. The reaction all across was amazing. I loved that the audience got the story of the film and let themselves go on the ride. It’s a different matter that some reviewers in the Indian media did not get the film. But then I’ve always found that Indian audiences are far smarter than reviewers. We don’t have any critics as yet so until then it’s audiences zindabad. And for me watching my film with an audience is the best film school I could ever go to.
There are few review / essays worth reading from Siddharth Pillai and Chintan-Flying and Mathures Paul.
Ares: Thank you! It’s feedback like this which makes us do what we want to do!
G: Thank you. I love your 9 points. Did you notice that the wall of posters behind the drivers seat has a poster from the film Mela.
Baiscope Wallah: Road, Movie premieres on April 25, 2010 in New York and then is released through Tribeca Films. Visit August Entertainment for all the details on the US release.
The Music of Michael Brook.
Behind the scenes on Road, Movie