Culver City, Calif. — Frank Capra’s 1934
comedy It Happened One Night was
recently the subject of a lovingly painstaking 4K restoration by Sony Pictures
Entertainment in advance of its release on Sony’s newly-launched Video
Unlimited 4K download service. The first film to sweep the five top Oscars
(Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Best Adaptation), It Happened One Night is the first of
five Capra classics slated for re-release in 4K over the next few years.
“This film is incredibly important to the studio,” observes
Rita Belda, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Executive Director of Asset
Management, Digital Mastering and Film Restoration. “It put Columbia on the map
in terms of audience awareness and box office. It has been beloved and
critically acclaimed from the moment it was released.”

The original 35mm negative that served as the basis for the
restoration was in poor condition. Belda notes that in the 1930s it was common
practice to use original negative to produce film prints for distribution. As a
result, the negative suffered from damage due to
overuse. Furthermore, a number of damaged scenes had been replaced by poor
quality duplicate elements.
Restoration at Colorworks, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s DI
facility, began with a newly manufactured
wet-gate Fine Grain Master, which had been made from the Original Negative, and
was scanned at 4K.  The digital files then went through a lengthy digital film restoration
process at Prasad Corporation, to address dirt, tears, scratches and other artifacts.  The final restored files were graded in 4K at Colorworks.
Special care was taken to restore the film in a manner
faithful to its original look. Belda points out that while dust and scratches
were removed, the texture of the film grain was preserved. “The film was
photographed by Joseph Walker who used filters to create a soft, glowing look, particularly
in shots of the female stars,” Belda explains. “The
result is a rich look with a lot of range in the mid-tones. The amount of
detail in the negative was startling. It is so beautiful!”
Colorworks senior colorist Scott Ostrowsky notes that the
Baselight system that he used to grade the film has sophisticated tools that
allow him to apply subtle, highly nuanced adjustments. “This film has a soft,
shadowy elegant look and we wanted to be sure to capture that without stepping
on the image,” he says. “You don’t want to crush the blacks.”
The greatest challenge involved those scenes where damaged
footage had been replaced by lesser quality duplicate frames. “It was very
difficult to establish consistency between those scenes and the high quality,
fine-grain print,” Ostrowsky says.
Successfully restoring films like It Happened One Night is not simply a matter of technology, Belda
notes. It is a result of the passionate commitment of the restoration team, all
of whom, she points out, are film lovers themselves. “We have a wonderful
partnership with Colorworks,” she says. “Their colorists understand the value
of our library, and the challenges we face.”
It Happened
One Night
is now available on Sony Entertainment Network’s Unlimited 4K
download service. The Video
Unlimited 4K download service is accessible when using the Sony 4K Ultra HD
Media Player (FMP-X1) with Sony XBR-55X900 and XBR-65X900A Ultra HD TVs and the soon to be shipping
XBR-55X850A and XBR-65X850A models.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a
subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass
motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production,
acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and
distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new
entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information,
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