Sony Pictures Entertainment completes 4K restoration of six titles
October 22, 2021

Sony Pictures Entertainment completes 4K restoration of six titles

CULVER CITY, CA — Sony Pictures Entertainment recently completed the 4K restoration of several feature titles that are part of the second volume of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection series. On October 12th, 4K restorations of Taxi Driver, The Social Network, Oliver!, Sense and Sensibility, Anatomy of a Murder and Stripes were all released, most with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

Restoration of the six films was completed over a period of several years by Sony Pictures Entertainment under the supervision of Grover Crisp, EVP asset management, film restoration and digital mastering, and Rita Belda, VP of asset management, film restoration and digital mastering. The version of Taxi Driver included in the new collection is derived from a restoration completed in 2011, but this is the first time it is available to consumers on disc in 4K. 

Taxi Driver has been restored several times, including a photo-chemical restoration, completed by Sony Pictures in partnership with New York’s Museum of Modern Art for its 20th anniversary release in 1996. For the 2011 4K digital restoration, the original camera negative was scanned via a specially-designed 4K scanner, equipped with wetgate technology, at restoration laboratory Cineric in New York. It was then color graded and re-mastered at Colorworks on the Sony Pictures studio lot in Culver City. MTI Film performed extensive digital cleanup, removing imbedded emulsion dirt and  repairing torn frames and scratches.   

As restoration was nearing completion, Crisp organized a special screening for director Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who were then in London. 

“We set it up for them to come into the Sony screening room at our London headquarters, one of the few theaters in London at that time that had a 4K projector,” he recalls. “They were nice enough to come in on a weekend and after the screening Thelma sent notes with changes the director suggested. Colorist Scott Ostrowsky and I then went back through the film, made all the changes and sent just those scenes back to London for another screening by the director, which he approved.” 

Crisp worked with colorist Sheri Eisenberg at Roundabout Entertainment in preparing the 2011 4K files for this release. The restoration process for each of the other films was equally rigorous. 

Belda notes that, while digital imaging technology has provided a host of new tools for addressing dirt, scratches and other common problems, restoration has become more demanding due to the quality of today’s high resolution image formats. 

“HDR’s greater contrast range means more detail is visible,” she says. Referring to the restoration of Ang Lee’s 1995 screen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, she adds, “Details, including dirt and scratches in the original film elements, which were not perceptible in the previous SDR version. This required additional restoration hours to address the dirt and wear.”
Crisp was familiar with Oliver! prior to its 4K restoration this year, as he had been involved in a photo-chemical restoration of the film in the 1990s. In that instance, black and white separation masters had to be used as source media for some scenes due to missing or damaged camera negative. More advanced scanning technology made some of those elements useful this time around. 

“But there were surprising exceptions,” Crisp notes. “We discovered a 1970s’ era 35mm interpositive, made from the camera negative, that proved to be useful for several earlier replacements, as well as the two missing reels. Those reels could be replaced without having to deal with the defects inherent in the separations, which made for a nice improvement.”

For 2010’s The Social Network, a winner of three Academy Awards and a nominee for five more, Sony Pictures’ restoration team had the benefit of working with two of director David Fincher’s close collaborators, producer Peter Mavromates and colorist Eric Weidt, who captured detailed notes from Fincher himself. The result, says Belda, is an HDR master that embraces “the wider contrast and color capable in HDR, while remaining true to the director’s vision.” 

Although it had only been a little more than a decade since the film’s release, current technology made it possible to achieve a new level of refinement in the imagery. “The colorist addressed small details the director wanted to adjust,” explains Belda, “including slight framing adjustments to composition, as well as addressing almost imperceptible flaws in the visual effects.”

HDR remastering of the classic 1981 comedy Stripes was also completed under the supervision of its director, Ivan Reitman. Restoration began by scanning the original 35mm negative at 4K, including material for a special extended version. Sony Pictures technology specialist James Owsley notes that Reitman was deeply interested in the restoration process and took advantage of the greater clarity and deeper colors of the HDR imagery to improve aspects of the storytelling.  

“Now the mud and sweat of basic training, the garish neon signs of the mud wrestling club, and the fiery explosions of the final rescue are brought to life as a background to the non-stop laughs of one of the 1980s’ funniest films,” he recalls.

The oldest title in the new collection, the 1959 Otto Preminger film Anatomy of a Murder, was also previously restored photo-chemically, with extreme care taken to resolve issues of aging and use. In preparation for the new restoration, it was found that sections of the original camera negative had been replaced by poorly-made duplicates, mostly in the decade following the initial release.   

Although there were two fine grain masters in the inventory, it turned out both were made from a duplicate negative.  

“Fortunately, the duplicate negative proved to be in good shape and did not have the poorly-made sections printed into it,” Crisp says. “It became our go-to source to replace the problematic sections.”

Volume 2 of the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection is now available for purchase. The first volume of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection included restorations of Lawrence of Arabia, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, Jerry Maguire, A League of Their Own and Gandhi.