Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

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Scott J

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Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 1:12 am

While we wait for UCLA, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of image could be extracted from what has been released of the 25' cut of Phantom. This unmasking footage has been whacked with a some very strong settings - so there are some glitches, especially in some shot transitions. But it gives you an idea of just how much better the 1925 cut of Phantom could look with restoration. My tinting is based on the Photoplay presentation of the 1929 cut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbqpKUIOpUA
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 3:06 am

Scott J wrote:While we wait for UCLA, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of image could be extracted from what has been released of the 25' cut of Phantom. This unmasking footage has been whacked with a some very strong settings - so there are some glitches, especially in some shot transitions. But it gives you an idea of just how much better the 1925 cut of Phantom could look with restoration. My tinting is based on the Photoplay presentation of the 1929 cut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbqpKUIOpUA


If you've done this from the 16mm print - then you are to be congratulated! The 1929 film version that has been circulating for years has serious nitrate decomposition damage in Christine's Boudoir scene - and here it is gone. Also you have managed to get rid of the tram lines!

I don't suppose the 1925 version will ever replace the 1929 version as the film is now in the public domain and with all those DVD's etc., already out there it would likely as not be a very unprofitable venture to bring out yet another.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 8:10 am

I'm confused.

Your post mentions the 1925 version, but this is mostly material
from the familiar 1929 Eastman House print.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 10:39 am

This cleanup was done to the 2013 BFI presentation of a 16mm print of the 1925 cut. So it's true to that at least - I don't know if BFI made any alterations to this scene. Here's a comparison (not mine) between the 1925 and 1929 unmasking scene https://youtu.be/pM0NTRM5R80?t=2m36s

And here's a before and after cleanup comparison of the 1925 version - https://youtu.be/D-09S6YTKe8 - May take a moment for it to finish uploading. :wink:
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 11:34 am

Scott, that is simply - WONDERFUL work.

With the added stabilization and speck cleanup that a releasing company could do, and a competent recording of the original score, that would be actually good enough to give up waiting on UCLA.

Thanks you.
-Craig
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 12:27 pm

That is pretty incredible improvement---even just the image stabilization really helps.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 12:44 pm

Wow! This is quite a spectacular improvement. I was watching the BFI print of the '25 version the other day and I can't believe this is the same print. Great work!
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostTue Oct 06, 2015 2:57 pm

Scott, I'm not clear on one point:

Is your 2013 source standard DVD, or Blu-Ray?

Obviously, if the former, the latter would kick your excellent work up yet another notch. (As would too of course, seeing it outside of Youtube compression.)

-Craig
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostWed Oct 07, 2015 12:53 pm

I thought all releases of the 1925 cut were in SD; has it ever been released in any HD format?
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostWed Oct 07, 2015 2:21 pm

I think that's the case, Mark (SD only), but as I don't own them all, I'm not sure.
Last edited by wich2 on Wed Oct 07, 2015 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostWed Oct 07, 2015 4:22 pm

Scott J wrote:While we wait for UCLA, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of image could be extracted from what has been released of the 25' cut of Phantom. This unmasking footage has been whacked with a some very strong settings - so there are some glitches, especially in some shot transitions. But it gives you an idea of just how much better the 1925 cut of Phantom could look with restoration. My tinting is based on the Photoplay presentation of the 1929 cut.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbqpKUIOpUA


What program did you use for the clean up?
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 1:13 am

:o Very impressed with the overall pictorial quality. Gee, Mary Philbin sure could breath well. :oops: Can you do this with the scenes that were totally omitted from the 1929 Re-issue. Such as the introductory sequences with Christine and Raoul on the park bench? That would be great to see. Thanks much for sharing.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 7:09 am

" I thought all releases of the 1925 cut were in SD; has it ever been released in any HD format? "

The BFI release of the 1925 cut is in HD.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 9:15 am

If Scott, and/or anyone else, can do as good a job on that whole BFI HD '25 cut as was done on this clip, and marry it with a competently played version of the actual '25 full score, or one from its cue sheets, they have my Kickstarter dough.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 1:04 pm

Hey all! I've had some family emergencies since I last posted which have been keeping me busy. I did want to thank you all for the enthusiastic response. It's great to share this kind of thing with like-minded people who really enjoy it. :D

As far as the source I used - it is the BFI HD 1080p presentation of a 16mm John Hampton print from their 2013 Blu-ray.

And here's another clip from the 1925 version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze6aGmiSh0

This particular scene needs a lot more work to get it just right. I used very aggressive settings here as a kind of "one-size-fits-all", but this scene would benefit from different settings per shot and layering/rotoscoping of some moving objects to ensure they are not overly filtered. The far left side with those crazy black lines moving around could probably stand even stronger settings than I've used here. And the sequence as a whole has very bad warping all throughout the image that also requires generally strong settings. Anyway, lots to think about as far as the correct approach, but for what I've come up with here would generally stand as a good foundation for layering in weaker and stronger settings. I may have also gone a shade too dark with the toning - but again - this is all work-in-progress level stuff.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 1:24 pm

That one is looking great too. Wow. Just wow.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 1:54 pm

And "wow" again.

I do some amateur restoration of old photos and audio myself; and sometimes, you simply can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear... But with TLC, you CAN often make a perfectly serviceable LEATHER one!

Thanks again, Scott. (Not to mention, a bit of shame in the direction of other entities like the BFI who have presented this source - and have had their Commercial effort totally shamed by your Private one.)

-Craig

P.S.- And the clip proves again that while the romatic leads aren't the best actors in the world, and no version of the film is a cinematic masterpiece, the story DOES hang together better as a multi-plot/character piece in the earlier cut.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 2:22 pm

I think I am wondering - as are a thousand other Nitratevillians - is - when do you think you'll have the whole film finished? :D :D :D
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostThu Oct 08, 2015 11:04 pm

Working on a release of this would be a dream come true, but I really would want to do it the right way - with respect to the work of people and companies like David Shepard, Kevin Brownlow, Dennis Doros, Scott Macqueen, Mark Roth, Grapevine, Flicker Alley etc. These people are some of my heroes, and the income that comes in from a release like Phantom helps them fund many worthy projects that might otherwise have more difficulty seeing the light of day. I'd hate to think I might have done anything to take away even one sale from them. I'd rather do something to enhance a release of theirs.

Also, take a look at this image comparison to see how good the UCLA material used as a patch in Photoplay's 1929 presentation is compared to the Hampton 16mm dupe -
http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/146016

The UCLA really is spectacular.

If any crowdfunding is done, it should go towards any organization that has the means to get all the UCLA materials scanned in at least 2k and then do a legit reconstruction. I would like to work towards something like that but have no idea how. The next potential blu-ray after Image, BFI, and Kino's releases may be from Milestone. If we could raise money to help them get ahold of UCLA's material for a release - that would just be amazing. But again, how? :?

Otherwise, if all of that is an impossibility and the 1925 version remains neglected and no one is interested in doing any enhancements/cleanup with it - I would gladly do the work through crowdfunding to compensate me for the time it would take to do it right with what's available. I just would want to do it with the permission of whoever holds the 16mm prints.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostFri Oct 09, 2015 9:10 am

Scott J, would you be willing to talk about your process for doing this? What is the software you're using, etc.?

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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostFri Oct 09, 2015 12:06 pm

I have great admiration for the pillars of Silent Film preservation and restoration. That's why a point touched on here has always mystified me. I, and others, have said this before, but it's cogent to this thread:

WHY, when it's considered artistically and historically important to get as close as possible to the Original Release versions of most classics - NOSFERATU, METROPOLIS, BIRTH OF A NATION, the works of Keaton and Chaplin, etc. - is that same standard not applied to poor old PHANTOM OF THE OPERA?

Is it really just because, having grown up with it, many folks prefer the ersatz "Silent-cum-Talkie" cut?

That just seems oddly discordant to me.

-Craig
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostSat Oct 10, 2015 3:35 am

Universal was incredibly stupid to recut Phantom. The changing of Carlotta was just plain dumb. There is no need to ruin a movie Just to Ruin a Movie. Now all these years people are trying to Restore the Recut instead of restoring the original version to its AUTHORS INTENT. Maybe that makes me stupid for commenting on it. Hollywood stupid rubs off. Lift up a rock in Hollywood you find stupidity.

Imagine not knowing they had Billions of $$$ in Silent pix & throwing all that away. MGM bought hours of reels of Napoleon. Burnt all of it. Now that is an example of forward thinkers. :oops:
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostSun Oct 11, 2015 2:19 am

The software is simply AviSynth and then Sony Vegas for the tinting. Avisynth is free and amazingly powerful - however, it is extremely complicated. The techniques I've used for this cleanup come from years of trying different methods on various projects. I should probably do a youtube tutorial at some point. I am by no means a pro at using the avisynth scripting language, but with time and patience (and the doom9 forums) you can do some very amazing things with video.

Craig - I agree with you and others that it is very puzzling that Phantom has never received a really proper restoration. Perhaps the funding just isn't there. I remember reading that Milestone is working towards a new blu-ray, but they want it to be a new restoration - maybe with the UCLA materials? If funding is an issue, maybe we could use crowd funding to help them out.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostSun Oct 11, 2015 8:07 am

Thanks for that, Scott J. (and you really should do a tutorial!). I guess if I can figure out Audacity, AviSynth should be manageable.

You did a superb job on Lon and Mary.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 3:05 pm

Have just returned from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival where I saw PotO (Photoplay restoration) with an orchestra yet again - yes I'm a lucky boy. It's always a slightly frustrating experience though because as already stated, the altered 1929 version has become the de facto cut while the far superior 1925 version never gets a modern live outing, let alone a decent restoration/release.

Does anyone know exactly why this is the case? It's quite unique in silent film as far I'm aware, that a later cut has supplanted the original, available, longer superior version. As Scott has so brilliantly proved, the issue is no longer about picture quality. Even if it was, few consider the visually superior 1942 Gold Rush recut as anything other than an interesting alternative to the restored 1925 version. I mean, how often does the 1942 cut get screened publicly? So why is PotO's 1929 equivalent so lauded?
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 4:05 pm

Brent wrote:Have just returned from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival where I saw PotO (Photoplay restoration) with an orchestra yet again - yes I'm a lucky boy. It's always a slightly frustrating experience though because as already stated, the altered 1929 version has become the de facto cut while the far superior 1925 version never gets a modern live outing, let alone a decent restoration/release.

Does anyone know exactly why this is the case? It's quite unique in silent film as far I'm aware, that a later cut has supplanted the original, available, longer superior version. As Scott has so brilliantly proved, the issue is no longer about picture quality. Even if it was, few consider the visually superior 1942 Gold Rush recut as anything other than an interesting alternative to the restored 1925 version. I mean, how often does the 1942 cut get screened publicly? So why is PotO's 1929 equivalent so lauded?


You make a good case! I think that when I first had an opportunity to see POTO, I was quite disappointed. It was not the film that my father had remembered quite distinctly after seeing it at "The Auditorium", Melbourne in September of 1926. For one thing, that scene of the man with the lantern just drags on interminably and plays no real part in the film at all.

Probably because the 16mm print was all that was left of the original release and that it was in only fair condition was the reason behind the focus on the 1929 issue. Of course nowadays wonders can be done with computer restoration and this version could indeed be brought back to a life it has never had. (As has been so adequately shown by our esteemed colleague here). We shall probably never see it done though as money can be made out of continually churning out the 1929 version and there is no money to fund a public domain print restoration.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 6:23 pm

Does anyone know exactly why this is the case? It's quite unique in silent film as far I'm aware, that a later cut has supplanted the original, available, longer superior version. As Scott has so brilliantly proved, the issue is no longer about picture quality. Even if it was, few consider the visually superior 1942 Gold Rush recut as anything other than an interesting alternative to the restored 1925 version. I mean, how often does the 1942 cut get screened publicly? So why is PotO's 1929 equivalent so lauded?


Actually, the '42 redux is the version that the Chaplin Estate sends out. The 1925 version was, for many years, the seldom-seen of the two.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 9:28 pm

Donald Binks wrote:I think that when I first had an opportunity to see POTO, I was quite disappointed. It was not the film that my father had remembered quite distinctly after seeing it at "The Auditorium", Melbourne in September of 1926. For one thing, that scene of the man with the lantern just drags on interminably and plays no real part in the film at all.


I'm extremely curious - what did your father tell you about that screening? I would love to hear all about it. I can only imagine how splendid it was - especially all those color sequences! It's still a beautiful film, but to see those sets and costumes in color! :D One can only imagine how totally different the film experience was. Wish I had the know-how to do some colorization myself.

Also - Any recollection about the original title sequence? I keep wondering just what the Phantom would continue to do throughout the opening titles. For instance, does he just continue looking around and moving his fingers, or does he do something particularly interesting or startling at some point? This wonderful compilation shows all we have of the original titles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3sBCsDZMI4 I keep thinking that it could be recreated, but what should the recreation actor do?
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 9:42 pm

The UCLA print looks in remarkably good shape (judging by the single frame) compared to the Hampton print found everywhere.

I did appreciate the HD scan of Hampton print found in the BFI, but Scott J shows it to be an uncut gemstone. If he got to work on the UCLA's materials, I would hope the '25 would start to knock off the '29 "definitive Phantom" off its perch : the '29 is a cut-down version using the second best takes, Camera B shots, cropped AR and mismatched frame rates between material shot in 1924-1925 and 1929. Its only an epitome of the film that audiences of 1925-1926 would have seen.

I would add the titles from the trailer as they exist and exorcise the 1929 titles (with the possible exception of "Directed by Rupert Julian"), replace the B&W 16mm footage with the Technicolor 2-strip footage where it exists and cut out the few seconds with the Man with a Lantern and I would suggest you would have the most complete and faithful '25 version.
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Re: Tinkering with the 1925 cut of Phantom of the Opera

PostMon Oct 12, 2015 9:59 pm

I'm extremely curious - what did your father tell you about that screening? I would love to hear all about it. I can only imagine how splendid it was - especially all those color sequences! It's still a beautiful film, but to see those sets and costumes in color! :D One can only imagine how totally different the film experience was. Wish I had the know-how to do some colorization myself.

Also - Any recollection about the original title sequence? I keep wondering just what the Phantom would continue to do throughout the opening titles. For instance, does he just continue looking around and moving his fingers, or does he do something particularly interesting or startling at some point? This wonderful compilation shows all we have of the original titles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3sBCsDZMI4 I keep thinking that it could be recreated, but what should the recreation actor do?


I'm afraid that I can only give my father's impressions in general terms. He knew I was studying the picture - this would have been about 1969 and I asked him about where "The Auditorium" was - as it was not in existence in my time. He said that he remembered seeing the POTO there and that it was a blockbuster film for its day. It also scared the living daylights out of most who had seen it - especially the women folk. I wish I could tell you more, but my father has been dead now these past 44 years. I wish I had asked him to do some more serious recollections and to have written them down, but one doesn't think of doing all this when one is young alas.
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"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
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