Anatomy of a Project: The behind the scenes on trying to find and organize a Thunderbean title.
I’m very happy to have had a little time to get back to working on some Thunderbean projects. There’s many hard drive surrounding my work area at this point, all with various pieces of various projects. In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to wrap quite a few projects that are close. No less than seven of the ‘special’ sets have everything scanned, and three ‘official’ sets are getting close at this point.
I thought I’d write a little this week about the basic stages of producing a Thunderbean title, using the Flip the Frog Blu-ray set as an example. It’s been a long and overall fun journey on this project. I’ve gone over some of this a little before, but I thought it might be fin to show how the process went all together.
The Flip set has been in progress the second longest of any of the current titles. We started Flip in 2014. The longest dates back to 2011, and currently has 93 different films scanned for it (more on that project sometime soon). There’s been set backs, delays, and generally too many things that prevented ol’ Flip from getting closer to the finish line. I need to take the blame for this more than any one else, but I’m happy to have waited since so many other cool things have shown up in better quality since.
One of the biggest interrupters was Flip’s old friend Willie Whopper, and the full time production on that set in 2014 and 2015. I switched gears to work on that set more out of necessity, since a small window opened up with so many things lining up, not the least of them being David Shepard managing to acquire the rights for the films from the series that hd been sold to Modern Sound Pictures in the early 60s. I don’t regret the decision at all for lots of reasons, but Flip wasn’t too happy. He looked directly at us from the screen and, while clenching his fists, said ‘Damn!’.
An early (and often ongoing) stage on any of these projects is to figure out where the ‘bodies are buried’ as it were. Early on on this title, I had a lot of conversions with David Shepard of Film Preservation Associates. David remembered when the material was transferred from Blackhawk Films to UCLA, and, amazingly, often remembered what existed on each individual title! This information turned out to be invaluable since we were looking for the best on each film. David had made sure many of the titles were preserved when the nitrate started to deteriorate, and this saved many of the titles. In most cases, happily, the nitrate was in excellent shape, although there were of course issues with some of the material, as to be expected.
The project *really* owes a big part of its existence to Dave Gerstein. He is dedicated to Flip on a cellular level, and has been invaluable in helping. One of the first things he did was provide me with a page of chronological title sequences. This came in incredibly handy when looking at the master material.
Now, you’d *think* that there would be one ‘master’ for any given film, right? In the case of the Flips, there was a whole basket of materials for some films to sort through, and no elements for others— although most had ‘some’ kind of master material. We looked though all of the Flips that could be pulled at UCLA, and spent an exhaustive time winding through the best material to check for quality and completeness. Here is the list from that evaluation; note that you can usually see what title sequence the print has. I made these notes to determine what to scan and what not to. Note the Flip opening versions match Gerstein’s list above. There’s a few terms here that are notes for the type of material, but I’ve also usually made a note that it truly was that particular element, since at times it wasn’t 100% accurate. (click to enlarge):
The next stage was to look at the list of *all* the Flips and determine what elements to pull to scan for each. It turned out that many of the films would need multiple elements scanned to get the best versions. Here is the preliminary list of those choices, including checking for other elements and borrowing some elements from collectors and friends to check the quality. Happily, additional 35mm elements have shown up on some of the titles, but we’re still working on getting the very last pieces scanned for the project.
The Flip materials have been scanned at three different facilities, with a majority of the material scanned in Toronto in 4 and 5k. The cleanup of the material has presented (and continues to present) a great challenge in keeping consistency as well as checking for completeness.
Once the scans are done, we organize the scans into folders for each film. Al the different elements that have been scanned for each particular film goes into the folder, making it much easier to find, compare and combine the footage. (click to enlarge)
The funniest thing about getting the material chosen is that often an element looks really good— until you see the even better element. Here is a frame from ’Stormy Seas’ from the master positive:
…and the same from from the original camera negative:
I’ll go into some detail next week on the digital cleanup process and show how it works.
Have a great week everyone!