Image Systems, (formerly Digital Vision), announced that its Phoenix Refine restoration system was recently used by Paris-based film and digital lab Éclair to restore the 1940s French classic Les Enfants du Paradis in 4K. Directed by Marcel Carné the film was shot in Paris and Nice during World War II’s German occupation of France. In 1995 it was voted “Best French Film Ever” in a poll of 600 French critics and professionals.
Screened at this year’s Cannes and Bologna Film Festivals, the film is more than three hours long, divided into two epochs: Boulevard du Crime, set in the mid-1820s; and L’Homme Blanc seven years later. The restoration project was vital as the physical condition of the original negative, owned by film giant Pathé, was badly damaged and in danger of falling apart. When it arrived at Éclair the original negative was held in 11 film cans housing approximately 2,000 feet of material. The team at Éclair faced a number of challenges as they had to contend with a lot of moisture and mold as well as missing frames and huge wear and tear. Due to the popularity of the film in its day it had also been copied numerous times adding to its demise.
Using a further two copies of the original negative the team at Éclair was able to reconstruct the film in its entirety. It was scanned at 4K in Italy and sent to Éclair on disk. Éclair initially used the Phoenix Refine stabilize tool and then applied a pass to fix some of the easier problems such as dust and dirt on the frame. They then applied a second pass to remove scratches and following that used the system’s auto fix and paint tools for repair and touch up, removing further imperfections.
Charlotte Quemy, head of Éclair’s digital restoration department, explained, “This was new territory for Éclair as it’s the first restoration project that we’ve completed in 4K. Phoenix provides the starting point for a project like this and straight away we were able to use the system’s automated toolset to remove a number of imperfections. Problems that we couldn’t repair with the paint tool we repaired with the auto fix tool, which is very powerful as it allows us to accurately rebuild parts of the image. Being able to set several defaults on the same image, such as stabilize and scratch, is extremely efficient and significantly speeded up the workflow.”
Christian Lurin, Éclair manufacturing manager, added, “Phoenix played one of the most important roles in this process because our schedule was very tight. We started in January and we had to deliver the film for Cannes in May. It was extremely well received in Cannes and was shown in front of a panel of restoration specialists. Image Systems’ restoration technology played a big part in that success.”