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Apropos a possibly 'restored' version of BLOW-UP in which the qualities of
 colour and focus were
inconsistent, Murray Pomerance asks:
 
> I write then, to ask if anyone knows details of the apparent restoration
> of this film--details which could shed light on the inconsistency of a
> print such I saw yesterday.
 
I do not know of this restoration, but there are a number of possible causes for
 the problems you
describe.
 
If all the visual properties appear consistent throughout the film EXCEPT focus,
 then my first port
of call would be gate pressure on the projector (i.e. the volume of force with
 which the film is held
against the hole between it and the shutter between intermittent movements).  I
 have had to deal
with a number of problems caused by polyester prints and insufficient pressure.
 Polyester, which
in the last decade or so has been replacing cellulose triacetate as the main
 base material for
35mm film, is a lot thinner than CTA.  Thus projectors which were designed for
 use with nitrate or
CTA stock often cannot cope with the increased pressure needed by polyester,
 resulting in worn
out gate plates and failure to keep the film pressed firmly against the base
 plate.  If the film is not
held firmly in place then the distance between it and the lens starts to change.
  Result: the picture
swims in and out of focus.
 
If you are convinced that the problem is printed onto the actual film (which, if
 the focus problem is
shot-specific, is likely to be the case) then there are all sorts of possible
 culprits.  If a shot is used
more than once in the film, then it may be derived from a copy of the camera
 negative rather than
the original (hence, during the late '20s, when a lot of productions were made
 in both silent and
sound versions, each shot was taken by two cameras simultaneously in order to
 produce two
separate camera negatives).  Obviously the copy will not be as sharp.  If the
 print derives from
three-strip separations - where the camera negative or a preservation master
 exists as three
separate b/w components which register the red, green and blue components of the
 image
separately - then those separations may have shrunk to differing degrees, making
 it impossible to
align, or "register" the negatives accurately enough to make a perfectly focused
 combined copy.
I would say that those are the two most likely reasons.
 
Cheers
Leo
 
 
P.S. did anyone spot the boom mike in 'Titanic' (just after the lookouts in the
 crow's nest are
enjoying a spot of male spectatorship on K & L; the sound technicians obviously
 thought that
the top of the frame would be so dark that the same principle would apply as
 with the iceberg)?  If
even the great James Cameron can't vanquish them, then I guess the rest of us
 don't stand a
chance...
 
----
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.