Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Challenging Scene Restoration


This is a restoration example of a very short scene (16-frames, approximately 1-second of film) from the continuing restoration of The Trail to Yesterday being conducted by Bart Santello and Psychotropic Films LLC. 

As you can see from 'as-scanned' not restored footage (left frame), this sequence of frames was damaged and degraded resulting in 'jittering' of the frame as it indexed through the scanner.  And as you watch the sequence it looks like there are some missing frames (jump-ahead).

In this case the each frame of the DPX sequence was first manually realigned in DaVinci Resolve prior to use of automatic processing software - VIVA by Algosoft-Tech, that processes each DPX frame using artificial intelligence and neural network technology to clean and restore.  Several passes with adjusted setting were employed using VIVA to ensure a deep clean (dust busting and Luminance correction).

Any remaining artifacts were manually removed in DaVinci Resolve along with final stabilization.  Again, the result was excellent compared to the original nitrate footage scan. 


Monday, September 7, 2020

Restoration of Split-Frame Scene

This is a restoration example of a very short scene from the continuing restoration of The Trail to Yesterday being conducted by Bart Santello and Psychotropic Films LLC. 

Due to deterioration of sprocket holes in this 100-year old Nitrate print, mis-alignment during the digital scan resulted in a split frame sequence.

Before the restoration could begin, each frame of the scene was digitally realigned in Davinci Resolve (video editor). 

The first pass of the restoration used software by Algosoft-Tech (VIVA), that processes each DPX frame using artificial intelligence and neural network technology. Then the result was put back into Davinci Resolve Studio for manual restoration to clean up any remaining artifacts. 

I started with this very short scene in order to develop a process for other scenes in the film with a similar split-frame issue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The following slides are part of the historical research I'm doing for background into the production of "A Trail to Yesterday".  I clipped news articles on the film from trade and entertainment magazines at the time.  There were even 'inside the industry' and 'rumor' columns where just a sentence or two could reveal great insight on where, why and hows of the production.   And leads to new information which then becomes stories in their own right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Another Mystery of the Production

While researching digitized movie industry trade journals from the time of  The Trail To Yesterday, I came across this mention in Motion Picture News touting a scene that is not in the film copy I have.   There is a scene in the film where the heroine Actress Anna Q. Nilsson sees a snake while on her horse, leading the horse to a wild gallop as she faints. Then rescued by the lead Bert Lytell.   

When I first saw this scene after reviewing the digitized film from the archive in Amsterdam, my first thought was that the 'quick-sand' scene (as described in Charles Alden Seltzer's book version - 1913)  was replaced with the snake scene in the movie.  This makes sense since both in the book and the movie this marks a turning-point where the heroine begins to trust the cowboy Dakota (Bert Lytell).

So why did this trade journal 'rumor' not come to fruition in the film?  My speculation is that this film shot in March and screened in May of 1918.  The studios at the time cranked out many films in a year.  From my research, the star actor, Bert Lytell, was in four pictures between March and August.

Therefore, the extra time and production cost to do a quick-sand scene may have lead to it being scrapped and replaced with simply calling-in a snake wrangler, placing the snake near the horse and setting up the photography.

In addition, I believe it would have not been edited out of this foreign distributed version of the film; since a quick-sand scene would be considered a high-value scene.

Hopefully further research will lead to a conclusive answer to this mini-mystery.

 Archived Motion Picture News clipping on this topic.


Friday, August 21, 2020

Film Restoration.....Eye of the beholder

This is my 'workspace' in DaVinci Resolve's editing environment for the next step in the process of restoring of "The Trail to Yesterday". [A Metro Pictures Corporation, 35mm film release in 1918].

As I move frame-to-frame, I further remove manually any remaining artifacts from the film's decay; or, scratches and other handling defects the 'first-pass' automatic AI-based software method didn't catch. 

I have to think about what level of completeness in the restoration am I willing to undertake to achieve the quality I expect from myself.  Every frame is 1/16th of a second so I know that the mind's-eye won't be able to recognize a certain level of detail. 

I haven't come to terms yet that I may need to examine the time involved crafting each frame with the realization that such a level to detail involves time.  Is that last 10-15% of 'quality' in the digital film repair, visually relevant to the viewer's perception?  

The opportunity to bring something back to consciousness after over 100-years of being stored in an archive and essentially forgotten, brings an overwhelming sense of responsibility to do right with the media restoration and production, before being returned to society as a restored work.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

"Trail to Yesterday" restoration showcased in presentation on Artifical Intelligence

Psychotropic Films is employing the latest software technology that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to assist in the analysis and repair (restoration) of  “The Trail to Yesterday” (1918).  The following presentation by Algosoft-Tech (below) discusses the latest advances in AI and how AI is utilized in software to locate and correct defects in film. 

You can see in this presentation at 35:45-min, a featured a scene from The Trial to Yesterday  demonstrating the effect of the Algo-Soft software to assist in the restoration of film scanned to digital from 104 year old 35mm nitrate film stock.

How Recent 'AI' Breakthroughs Are Transforming Moving Image Restoration from Psychotropic Films on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"The Trail To Yesterday" (1918) - Restoration Teaser

The restoration of this silent era film; "The Trail To Yesterday" (1918) is currently in development by digital filmmaker Bart Santello and Psychotropic Films LLC.

This 'teaser' was made to serve the purpose of demonstrating the success to date of the restoration process; convey a sense of mystery behind this western's melodrama; and provide credits and production information to collaborators, historians and film preservationists that are currently, or may in the future provide assistance in this digital restoration. 
  The Trail to Yesterday (1918) - Restoration Teaser from Psychotropic Films on Vimeo.
I was able to locate the only known surviving nitrate print of this film.  It was discovered at the eyeFILM Museum in The Netherlands.  This was the Dutch distributed version that survived and was re-titled at the time as "The Revenge of Dacota"

The motivation for this restoration and preservation project is the fact that this movie was filmed in Arivaca, Arizona, the town where the filmmaker leading this restoration resides.  There will also be an accompanying documentary film produced that will cover all aspects of this film's discovery, restoration, history of The Trail to Yesterday's filming in area, the history of Arivaca, Arizona at the time of the filming in 1918.

Restorer and Filmmaker:  Bart Santello (
Production Company:       Psychotropic Films LLC (
Donations to the project:

Based on a novel by Charles Alden Seltzer (1913)
Production Company:  Metro Pictures Corporation
Director:  Edwin Carewe
Scenerio: June Mathis
Camera: Robert S. Kurrle

Dakota: Bert Lytell
Sheila:  Anna Q. Nilsson
Duncan: Harry S. Northrup
Ben Doubler: John A. Smiley
Langford:  Ernest Maupin

Friday, August 16, 2019

Production, Cast & Crew

I created this graphic from a frame in the film.  I was making a presentation book about the film for a conference I was planning to attend.  It's a first-glance introduction to the framework of the production.  The background image from the film help shape the perspective  of the genre.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Where and How, Then and Now

Where was this photo taken over 100-years ago?  That's what I plan to weave into the documentary film I am creating which will accompany the reintroduction of a restored Trail to Yesterday

As I restore the film, I am cognizant of the shot-locations I think would make for an interesting "then-and-now" comparison.  What assists the forensics when determining locations, is the mountains that ring Arivaca.  The topography of the location rolling hills and nearby mountain ranges will greatly assist in 'orientation', but the depth of field was set by the lens on the camera at the time of filming. Therefore, finding the location of some of these scenes will be challenging.

The photo below is an example: To those who live in Arivaca, Arizona, this image at first glance would seem to be the old stagecoach road to Arivaca that is now paved-over.  This hilly and winding road is now known as the Arivaca Road.  Or this could be a ranching or mining road much further south from the Arivaca Road today. 

The clues to figuring this out are somewhere in this still frame.

So I have an idea to assemble several small teams of photographers, filmmakers and local explorers, with each team provided an envelope containing several still-images taken from the film at locations in Arivaca.   Then those teams would go out into the surrounding hills and attempt to find the location where the filming took place 100-years ago.  The filmmaker in the group will document, then create a short-film on the experience.

The photographer in the team will document the found location with both still images and video.  The GPS coordinates, camera and lens setting will be recorded.   Later the exploring team and the documentary film team will return to marked locations to deliberate and  conclude whether or not the actual filming location was found.  

The created short films from each team documenting this location hunt, serve two important purposes: First to assist the overall documentary in showing locations then and now.  Also, each team's short-documentary will be shown the at forthcoming Arivaca Film Exhibition the first week od March 2020.

I'm going to get some feedback and see if i can put it together.  Bart Santello

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Scenario Team

Originally, only three of the five reels were found for the "Trail to Yesterday".  At that time a scenario team was assembled of interested Arivaca residents (Arivaca, Arizona is where the movie was filmed in 1918), to review a rough copy of the scanned footage to see if a story could still be assembled from the surviving elements.

Everyone in the scenario team read the book "The Trail to Yesterday" by Charles Seltzer (1913) and this provided a perspective in comparing the film to the book.  Since the surviving film contained reels from the beginning and end of the movie, with the middle reels missing, we felt it would be still possible to reassemble the film with a coherent story.  Missing would be the depth of characterization and plot development

Fall 2018 Update: I was contacted by the archive that the two missing reels were discovered by an intern in mislabeled canisters. This was fantastic news and means we now have a complete film to restore, preserve and re-release for public presentation.

Scenario team: From far left going clockwise: Mary Kasulaitis town historian. Mark and Wendy Dresang, Dutch translators.  Gina Aroneo and Paul Lowes, educators in English and history and myself (Bart Santello) behind the computer/projector.