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Yellow Layer Failure, Vinegar Syndrome and Miscellaneous Musings by Robert A. Harris

Robert A. Harris - Main Page

A Bits Extra:

A Few Notes on Lawrence of Arabia: Superbit

About a month ago I spent a rather long day - 13 hours to be exact - making near final color and density changes on the High Definition master of Lawrence of Arabia.

It was no secret that the previous release was problematic, but with new faces within Columbia's home video area, and a Herculean effort from Columbia's Asset Protection guru, Grover Crisp, who had been instrumental in the re-timing and creation of the new batch of 70mm release prints, Lawrence as a video project was taken back to the drawing board.

The main effort took us all the way back to the "uncorrected" high definition transfer created several years ago, which was derived from a restored 65mm interpositive.

Earlier audio anomalies were eliminated as Mr. Crisp came forth with the original 6 track masters created in 1988 for the restoration.

The starting point removed layers of color and density correction as well as additional (and unnecessary) electronic sharpening added along the way.

New digital processes added secondary color controls, which were not available to a HiDef large format transfer at the time that the earlier work was created.

After having spent weeks making certain that the new 70mm prints were properly corrected, Grover was very aware of the proper look of the film.

A great deal of time was put in doing the first pass at color and density for the new release, overseen by Sony mastering supervisor Jim Ward at Complete Post in Hollywood, literally starting from a fully uncorrected master.

After this pass, the studio shipped the master east where we spent our day at a new mastering facility in Manhattan, further correcting and honing the image on a shot by shot basis.

At the thirteen-hour mark, my eyes began to go, and with that caveat, the master and its clone were shipped back to the studio for further work, especially on the final reels.

Now in compression and authoring, the release should be a version on video as close as possible to that which we created for the restoration fifteen years ago with David Lean and cinematographer Freddie Young overseeing the final production process.

It has been confirmed that there will be no new electronic sharpening.

Although there is some question as to whether the final compression will allow the first half of the film to run to completion on disc one, the overriding factor must be one of quality and not quantity.

The image of the transfer as viewed on a 32" high definition monitor is like looking through an open window to the desert; a testament to both the pin-registered transfer device via which it was mastered to video and to those who oversaw the actual film to tape transfer.

Sony Pictures and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment have given their full support and cooperation to this project. Enough cannot be said of the extremely diligent efforts of Crisp and his team, without which the production of this DVD would not have been possible.

I fully expect this to be an awesome release.

Robert Harris

Lawrence of Arabia: SuperbitLawrence cinematographer Freddy Young (holding lens) and Robert A. Harris.
Left: The new Superbit DVD release. Right: Lawrence cinematographer Freddy Young (holding lens) and Robert A. Harris.

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For more on the original film restoration of Lawrence of Arabia, be sure to visit this link at The Widescreen Museum.

Don't forget - you can CLICK HERE to discuss this article with Robert and other home theater enthusiasts online right now at The Home Theater Forum. And speaking of that, thanks to the HTF's Ron Epstein for the picture of Robert seen in the column graphic above.


Robert A. Harris - Main Page


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