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Ray Pointer

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  1. Low quality release prints did not just happen.  Substandard prints were being released to theaters in the 1970s. Graininess is due to many factors such as enlargement from 16mm.  Some low budget features were enlarged to 35mm for limited distribution, with this being accepted as a type of "documentary style." Since these were not generally mainstream releases, they did not gain that much attention.  What Jeff eludes to in his complaint is a combination of many issues that include film stocks, laboratory standards, technician skill and knowledge, and the esthetic tastes of Directors and Producers.  As film processing is being diminished in favor of digital imagery, the core of photo-chemical professionals who knew how to work with film stocks has nearly disappeared. There is already controversy over digital "restoration" and Blu-Ray releases of classic films that have been pushed too far in an effort to seemingly "improve" the images to the point that the original color palate and exposure balance has been violated. I saw a digital restoration of GONE WITH THE WIND eight years ago that horrified me.  While it seemed impressive to be able to see the texture of the costumes, I was bothered by seeing the makeup on the actors.  The purpose of film makeup is to "blend," making an image that should  be accepted as natural instead of  something artificial and painted on.  But most of all, I was horrified to see an electrical cord hanging from the Oil Lamp that MELONY holds as ASHLEY is carried into the bedroom after he was wounded following the Shanty Town raid. Obviously, I have seen this film many times because I ran it when I was a projectionist in the Detroit District in the 1970s.  The print that I ran of GWTW was a used EASTMAN print was was "acceptable,"  but nowhere of the quality of the original Technicolor version.  While the digital version was more faithful to the color balance, this was something that was making the film something that is was not in attempting to exceed what was intended to be seen. When THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was re-released in 1966, Paramount sent out unbalanced Eastmancolor Prints that shifted color balance every time a process scene came up.  While I had looked forward to seeing deMille's final epic, the experience was ruined by a false representation due to poor print quality.  So you see, Jeff, this is nothing new.  That doesn't excuse it, of course, but the continued practice of releasing poor film prints works against the concept of the ideal of projected film that many people still appreciate.  But if can only be as good as the stocks and the people handling them.  And as I said before, there are getting to be fewer people who know how to handle film anymore.
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