It’s a brief one this week; we’re busy working on wrapping up lots of things here, including sending some nitrate film back to it’s real home. Most of what is here is related to the Flip the Frog project. The Abbott and Costello Rarities set is finished and off to replication, happily. Back to cartoons.
It’s been a Flip the Frog heavy week. I gotta say I feel really privileged seeing this stuff first.. and so happy it’s going to be on Blu-ray. A bunch of the animation students at CCS got to see me geek out showing some of the transfers for the first time a few days back…
Some technical details for those who are interested:some of the material we’re scanning at HD, others at 2k, and others at 4k. I’ve love to do everything 4k, but it’s just too expensive. What we’re trying to do though is make a 4k on the fine grains and the original camera negs. The negs tend to be a little more beat up than other material, but are so beautiful that there’s no way we can’t use them. Most of the time, we’ve been pulling all the material we plan to transfer on each cartoon together to make it easier to compare notes between the various masters on any particular title.
So far, the MGM fine grains (also called protection prints/ lavenders/ master positives) on each of the films are easily the cleanest materials, and frequently they have both the track and the picture. These materials seem to have been untouched every time a new release was made, and that is excellent news for this go round. Each transfer session is exciting in this sense because, while the picture isn’t much of a surprise, the soundtrack often is. That isn’t to say we’re unhappy with the picture quality- it’s really amazing on nearly everything.
The transfers from Monday for a few of the shorts had really fun music at the beginning- so much so that I got on the phone with my friend David Gerstein (a project partner) and played them as soon as I was able. Dave loves this sort of thing even more than I do, and his help on this particular project is invaluable. He had heard at least one of these recordings before. I really had to share them with all of you this week, so here they are.
Past releases of these cartoons have featured some of them, but my goal is to have each film as it was in it’s original release. When you find a master positive with the track that’s easy in that you know this is what was used as the master for in the first release. While some of the Flips have these masters, some don’t, so we’re in the process of going through as much material on those ones in an attempt to be sure to have the original version for each.
For some of the titles, these MGM fine grains are invaluable is that they’re more complete than any other version. The later Celebrity Pictures releases of these cartoons are missing their original titles, and sometimes are missing footage.
We were happy a fine grain showed up on Puppy Love a title that has footage missing from most prints. This print seems to be complete, but now the challenge to to make sure we find a complete soundtrack since there isn’t a master of that as complete as the picture. Our friends at the Library of Congress may have the solution to this problem; they have a worn but complete 35mm release print from the 30s.
A fun little aside: these projectionist notes appear at the front of many of these early Flip cartoons as well as many other films, making notes to make sure to sync the film correctly with the sound disc. by 1930, some theatres only had a sound on disc setup, while others had started to convert to the sound on film format.
Here are three openings from the transfers a few days back, with really fun music cues at the beginning. I’ve included a little of each cartoon as well. Two of these are picture and track, with the last one just the track (from Spooks). I especially like the cuckoo clock.
Some materials on Spooks had already been transferred, and other will be getting transferred this next week- I’m excited to see them. for now, here’s the beginning of the fine grain soundtrack.
Enjoy these ‘sneak peaks’- and have a good week everyone!