We’re very excited for the release of the new Anne of Green Gables Restoration Boxset. Have you ever wondered what exactly takes place during the restoration process? Wonder no more! Here, we take an in-depth look at the restoration process for each of the first three films.
The original Anne of Green Gables film was shot on 16mm film in the mid-1980s, which was inherently grainy; film stocks did not start having a finer grain structure until the late ’80s and early ’90s (when Road to Avonlea was shot – making it a different restoration process). When Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel were produced, the original film was transferred to 1″ analog video tape, which tended to degenerate from copy to copy, making the original release of the film on VHS and DVD quite grainy.
The original 16mm negative was cut on film and assembled onto separate A&B rolls so that it could then be printed in a checkerboard pattern to create film release prints. These prints were of a very high quality and were used in a portion of the restoration of Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (discussed in the next section). The edits on these A & B rolls were spliced together with hot glue. Over time, the splices tended to shrink and cause bumps at each edit. To minimize the bumps for transfer to digital beta, a single strand wet-gate interpositive was made from the A&B rolls for the 2004 Collector’s Edition Restoration. This interpositive was also transferred to HD for the current restoration instead of the original, cut negative. The creation of this interpositive had helped to reduce the negative shrinkage bumps and the wetgate had eliminated a larger percentage of negative scratches, but many cuts still had to be removed manually at each edit after the film was transferred to HD. For the HD restoration, it was decided that the interpositive would provide a much cleaner source than the original negative, with less colour degradation than the original, which had been overly handled after many years.
As part of the restoration, the entire film had to be re-colour corrected and packaged with titles and credits in HD. This process was supervised personally by Kevin Sullivan, who oversaw any flaws, colour imbalances, sparkle removal and deterioration that needed to be repaired. The original soundtracks were remastered and remixed in Dolby 5.1. by the original sound mixer, Daniel Pellerin.
Collector’s Edition vs. Restoration Edition: What’s the Difference?
The first three films were released theatrically in Japan, and widescreen 35mm negatives were created in a 16:9 format. Kevin Sullivan’s goal in restoring the films in high definition was to present all three films in a widescreen format. The original television transfer of the films was in a 4:3 square transfer with picture missing on either side.
The HD format has as many or more pixels as the actual film emulsion. The HD restoration was able to preserve as much sharpness and information as existed in the original film negative, and as much colour latitude and depth as the original negative. The original standard definition transfer had a much brighter, more saturated video look than the new, more cinematic, subdued colour palette of the restoration. The object of the restoration was to provide the greatest screening quality for the films whether they were broadcast on HD television, in BluRay, or on an average DVD. The Collector’s Edition that was created in 2005 had only been restored onto standard definition digital beta tape and only existed in the square, 4:3 format. The difference between the 2011 HD restoration and the 2005 digibeta restoration can also be found in the number of lines of information; where the new restoration features 1080 lines, the 2005 digibeta featured only 525 lines, which was the limit for that format. As a result of the increased information, all four Anne films can now be screened on any widescreen television without any video line degeneration. When digibeta is screened in widescreen, it degenerates because of the 525 line limit.
Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel
In addition to having the same splice shrinkage, colour degradation and negative sparkle and dirt as Anne of Green Gables, the first 30 minute reel of Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel had a very deep negative scratch in the emulsion layer of the film. This accident occurred during the creation of a 35mm theatrical negative in the early 90s, damaging the first reel beyond repair. This meant each shot in the first reel had to be completely rebuilt from a variety of sources. The shots were the handed over to a special effects company (Pix Ray) who were responsible for determining what method could be used to repair the film, depending on the action that was happening onscreen. In some cases, each frame of the film had to be completely Photoshopped in order to repair it, particularly during sequences where action was passing across the screen. In some cases, Kevin Sullivan determined that the damage was too significant, so scenes were reconstructed using outtakes. Fortunately, second and third takes, particularly among the principal performers, were as good as, or – in some surprising cases – even better, than the chosen takes. Sullivan was particularly pleased by the opportunity to revisit original material and to make alternate choices. In several other cases, the restoration team was able to use sections of the 35mm theatrical interpositive that predated the scratches and allowed them an easier facility of replacement.
In addition to removing the impossible scratches, Pix Ray was able to completely reduce excessive grain in certain sections of both Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel. In some cases, they completely replaced buildings and skies that had accentuated the graininess. The original Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel soundtrack was remastered and remixed in Dolby 5.1 by Daniel Pellerin.
Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story
The third Anne film was shot in 1998 on 35mm film, so it translated to HD very well. The biggest challenge with this production was finding all of the random pieces of the film, because it had been cut down to create a significantly shortened theatrical version of 130 minutes for Japanese theatrical release. During this cut down process, an interpositive of the entire film was produced. The interpositive was then cut down by 60 minutes to create a master negative for the Japanese release prints. It became impossible to transfer the original negative in its entirety because of splice shrinkage, so it was necessary to transfer all of the interpositive and all of the trims from the interpositive and to reassemble them in HD.
Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story had many visual effects and matte shots that were originally created in standard definition. Each of these sequences had to be recreated by Pix Ray using original green screen elements and embellishing them with completely new matte work.
The entire film also had to be re-colour corrected and packaged with titles and credits in HD. Finally, the original soundtracks were remastered and remixed in Dolby 5.1.
The Kevin Sullivan Restoration Collection is now available on ShopAtSullivan.com.