Wham!'s <I>Last Christmas</I> gets 4K restoration
December 18, 2019

Wham!'s Last Christmas gets 4K restoration

LONDON — Cinelab (www.cinelab.london), here, recently provided restoration services for the new 4K re-release of Wham!’s Last Christmas music video. The restored and remastered track comes 35 years after its original release from Sony and director Andy Morahan.

Morahan unearthed the original 35mm rushes and worked closely with teams at Cinelab London and Nice Biscuits to breathe new life into them. To start the process, the team at Cinelab London had to take the original film rushes and scan them with a 4K scanner. After the film footage was transfered into a digital file it was sent on to Aidan Farrell at The Farm for the color grade, and then to Russ Shaw at Nice Biscuits for the edit.

“It was very strange for me to experience the film again in such sharpness,” recalls Morahan. “Over the years you get used to the softness of the original, but we’re really happy with how it turned out. This project was particularly challenging as we only had seven out of the eight rolls of original film. This meant we had to blend 95 percent of the new footage with what was originally captured on telecine. This is no easy task. Imagine trying to stretch an old tubular TV screen into widescreen. The image would get stretched and distorted. It's a similar principle taking old analog scans and merging them with those from a 4K scanner. Thankfully, Russ at Nice Biscuits, Aidan at the Farm, and Joce (Capper) and Sonji (Clarke) at Cinelab have unrivalled experience in both analog and digital technology.”
“When Andy mentioned this was coming up, we literally jumped at the chance to get involved,” adds Russ Shaw, who serves as VFX supervisor at Nice Biscuits. “It’s an absolute Christmas classic and having worked on several George Michael projects previously, it was something I was very keen to help out on. However with only seven out of eight rolls of film, and with the video consisting of many long dissolves in and out of shots, it meant we had to do careful work merging between the 4K newly re-scanned material back in to the originally finished video for the missing scenes. When the original film went through the telecine at SVC in 1984, the lens would have been very different from the precision-produced lens used by Cinelab London today, so to get shots to mix over meant quite a fair amount of warping of the image in Flame to try and disguise this.”
According to Cinelab London’s head of new business/restoration specialist Sonji Clarke, the studio’s task was relatively straightforward. “The original film was in great condition and shot so well, Andy Morahan knew exactly what was needed. Cinelab London scanned seven rolls of original 35mm at 4K on our DFT Scanity 4K HDR scanner and sent digital files (4K 16-bit log DPX) - allowing for maximum flexibility in the grade - to Nice Biscuits for them to begin post production. Our task was to ensure the beauty and details of the original film negative were captured in the very best way possible - future proofed.”

The re-release premiered on YouTube on Friday, December 13th.