SonicPool Post Production Restores Black Like Me

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After years in the vault, Black Like Me has been restored to its best picture ever.

It was a great challenge to restore a film with such historical significance, and an incredible opportunity to work on something that still has tremendous social value.

SonicPool Post Production has been hard at work restoring Black Like Me, an iconic and society changing book and movie. Black Like Me is a nonfiction book by journalist John Howard Griffin first published in 1961 that was turned into a film in 1964 starring James Whitmore. John Griffin, a true Renaissance man and journalist, wanted to uncover the difficulties that black people faced in certain areas of the South. Under doctor’s supervision, Griffin artificially turned his skin black. He set out to travel across the South and soon realized that both races gave each other animosity, whether it was white to black or black to white.

Appearing in an age where segregation was still the norm in the South, it has been said that Black Like Me is just as important to as To Kill a Mockingbird for how it tackles race issues and problems in American society. A lot of film programs, and middle school curriculums alike, have included this in their curriculum for being one of the films that changed a nation. Jason Weichelt, finishing artist on the project, said, “I had actually seen the film in film school about 20 years ago. It was a great challenge to restore a film with such historical significance, and an incredible opportunity to work on something that still has tremendous social value.”

To restore a film is no easy feat, but SonicPool was ready for the challenge. Operators took extreme care when handling this film and its’ original 35mm reels. Working from the original cut black and white negative, SonicPool had the six reels of Black Like Me scanned to 2K dpx files. Ricky Hayner, one of the finishing artists said, “For its age, the film was in remarkably good condition. Similar to the content of Black Like Me, the film itself stood the test of time." But this was just the beginning of the workflow. The files were then imported into SonicPool’s Blackmagic Revival system for the restoration process. Multiple passes in the Revival system removed heavy dirt and dust along with scratches and other damage associated with the OCN elements provided. While the restoration process was being completed the files were also sent to DaVinci Resolve for a color grading pass in 2K resolution. Upon completion of the restoration, the fixed files were imported back into the DaVinci for the grading pass to be applied to the newly restored reels, as well as versioning for HD television and home video release. The original sound was also restored at SonicPool from optical negative elements. New mixes in stereo and 5.1 were created, and scene-to-scene noise, click and pop removal were applied to the entire feature. Final elements in 2K and HD were delivered back to the client for future versioning and archival storage.

Phil Vo, audio engineer, cleaned and restored the entire audio track that was an antiquated analogue mix and brought it into the digital realm. The production and post production techniques and technologies have advanced significantly over the past four decades allowing Phil to enhance the mixers intended mix, and process the audio for de-noiser, de-clicker, and de-crackle. Furthermore, Phil was able to create a faux 5.1 and stereo mix for playback on modern devices. Phil considered it “an honor to perform a restoration on such a historical film.”

Jason Weichelt, finishing artist said, “We could not have restored the film to its current condition without the use of Revival and DaVinci software, as well as our ProTools audio suites. Both tools offer tremendous features that are just not found in any other tool sets out there for post production. The ability to restore audio and video is a great addition to our post production services and to our Blu-ray and DVD authoring departments here at SonicPool.” Ken Smith of Pacific Title Archives an Executive Producer on this project is “extremely happy with the results. Jason, Ricky, Adam and the SonicPool team did a tremendous job on the film, they really went over and above on this film. It really had challenges scene to scene contrast and continuity issues being that it was shot in Black and White as well as scratches, dirt and splices. The audio was very hollow, empty and noisy but they were able to enhance it beyond my expectations.”

The SonicPool Business Development team was instrumental in securing distribution for this iconic film across all media channels and IP platforms through Video Service Corporation of Toronto, Canada. The film will be released on DVD in North America by Video Services Corp (VSC) on December 18, 2012. For VSC President Jonathan Gross, this project has been in the works for a long time, "I'm very proud to be bringing this seminal film to DVD. It's been a pleasure working with SonicPool again and we're excited for everyone to see this new restored version."

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SonicPool, founded in 2001 by two post production specialists Patrick Bird and John Frost, is located in Hollywood and is comprised of over 50 Offline Editing Suites, 8 Online Edit Suites, 1 THX Theatrical Stage, 3 Theatrical Mix stages, 7 Audio Editorial suites, production offices, machine room and Commercial quality 2D & 3D Blu-Ray, DVD Authoring Suites. The company’s post production services include Sound and Picture Finishing, Main Title Creation, Edit Suite and Production Office rentals, and Deliverables.

contact: Caitlin Hassler | Caitlin(at)sonicpool(dot)com | 323. 460. 4649

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