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Electric Pictures restores rare motorcycle media for ‘John Penton Story’

July 8, 2014
Electric Pictures restores rare motorcycle media for ‘John Penton Story’

LAKE FOREST, CA — Electric Pictures (www.electricpictures.tv) recently provided telecine and film restoration services for PENTON: The John Penton Story, a feature-length documentary about the American icon and motorcycling pioneer who revolutionized the motorcycle industry in the 1960s and ‘70s. The company transferred and restored dozens of hours of Super 8mm and 16mm film including rare racing and test footage, interviews and home movies, dating back more than 50 years.

Produced by Pipeline Digital Media (producers of The Motocross Files and  The Carlsbad USGP:1980) and directed by Todd Huffman, PENTON: The John Penton Story is the tale of the son of an Ohio farmer who grew up to become a champion rider and manufacturer of a revered line of motorcycles.  Narrated by Grammy-winner Lyle Lovett, the film mixes archival material and interviews with Penton’s family members and many of the world’s top motorcycle racers. The film was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and is currently in national theatrical release via “theater-on-demand” distributor Gathr.

At Electric Pictures, Super 8mm and 16mm film elements, both black & white and color, were transferred to video using the company’s DFT Shadow telecine systems. Additional archival material from video sources (primarily Betacam) was up-converted using Blackmagic Design Teranex standards conversion technology. Video transfers were delivered in the form of high resolution (1920 x 1080), high bit rate Apple ProRes files suitable for editorial purposes and of sufficient resolution to be used in DCP masters shown in theaters.

The work continued over a six-month period as Pipeline Digital Media continued to accumulate film and video assets. Ultimately, Electric Pictures transferred more than 5,000 feet of film to HD video.

“To do this story, we had to search through old films, pictures and home movies from people, practically, around the world,” says Huffman. “It’s something that we have been working on for about six years.”

Electric Pictures employed a variety of processes to improve the image quality of the aging film and video source material. Its telecines are equipped with wetgate devices which proved useful in scratch and dust removal. The Teranex system also includes tools for cleaning and noise reduction. “The technology we used helped a lot,” says Electric Pictures president Grace McKay. “We were able to enhance the look and feel of the film material to a remarkable extent, especially compared with what could be achieved with more conventional technology. We produced images that looked very good even when the film itself had problems.”

Electric Pictures continues to offer telecine services and caters to independent producers, documentarians, film libraries and other parties with large volumes of aging film assets. “Most other sources for these services are huge companies with high overhead costs,” observes McKay. “We’re a small company with low overhead. We’re a value-based provider. We can deliver the same quality as large L.A. post houses, but at a significant price advantage.”