A new shine to the crown jewels

Victoria in Dover (1954) and the Sissi trilogy (1955, 1956 and 1957) all feature Schneider as a real life European royal: Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom in the former and Empress Elisabeth of Austria in the latter three.

Broadcast every Christmas in Germany since 1967and sold to 125 territories worldwide, the original Sissi film is enduringly popular, though currently only available in standard definition - the last telecine having been done in 1998. International distributors Beta Film recently decided that the time was right to create high quality HD versions of all four films for broadcast and Blu-ray DVD. After a rigorous testing period, Beta Film chose ARRI Film & TV for the image remastering and Taurus Media Digital for the sound remastering.

Interestingly, there exist two original camera negatives for each of the four films, as different language versions were created by cutting together alternative takes of every shot. The project therefore involves a total of eight completely unique camera negatives, all of which will be scanned on an ARRISCAN in HD resolution. The overriding goal of the remastering process is to maintain the well known and well loved pastel look of these films, while at the same time increasing the quality, brilliance and depth of the rich color palette. For this reason it was deemed vital to remaster from the original negatives, rather than dupe negatives. 

Fortunately, the negatives are not in particularly bad condition for their age, so the majority of the material can be scanned using the standard ARRISCAN transport with pin registration; those parts which are in worse shape can be scanned with pin registration disabled. Due to the gentle transport of the ARRISCAN, the fragile original negatives - which have already been handled too often - can be used without fear of further damage, avoiding the loss of quality that scanning dupe material would necessarily entail. The ARRISCAN is also able to handle the various splices in the original material without exacerbating the degradation.

All of the films were shot in Agfacolor, a color process that Agfa in Germany developed during the 1930s, in response to Technicolor and Kodachrome. The Agfacolor negatives lack orange masking and in contrast to ‘normal’ color negative, the blue layer of Agfacolor is the sharpest, while the red layer is the least sharp. This, however, can be compensated for during the scanning process due to the ARRISCAN’s ability to set sharpness levels for each color channel separately.

ARRISCAN Archive Tools >>

  • 6K
  • LED
  • Double flash
  • Wetgates
  • Archive gate
  • Sprocketless transport
  • Archive transport modes

After being scanned, the material will be put through the ARRI Relativity system for grain management. By experimenting with various settings of the degrain and regrain filters offered by the Relativity software, a setting was found that greatly pleased Beta Film, as it significantly reduced the grain but still kept the look of a classic movie. Perhaps the biggest challenge of the restoration has been the removal of partial color flickering caused by variable deterioration of the negatives over the last half-century. The Relativity degraining process smoothes this partial color flickering to a certain degree, and the remaining correction can be made using the Da Vinci Revival color correction software from Blackmagic Design.