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.