Case Study: Restoring Rock & Rule | Gamma Ray Digital

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Case Study: Restoring Rock & Rule

Restoring 'Rock & Rule'

The War was over... The only survivors were street animals: dogs, cats and rats. From them, a new race of mutants evolved. That was a long time ago.

The Challenge

Gamma Ray Digital was asked to restore Rock & Rule, an animated feature film originally released in 1983, for DVD release. The only elements available were two well-worn release prints, and the better of these two was made up of reels from three different prints of the film. Damage included dirt, scratches, splice marks, reel change marks, chemical stains, and smudges. Working under time pressure and tight budgetary constraints, we embarked on the challenge of making this print suitable for large-scale DVD release.

The Restoration

In restoring this film, the decision was made early on to telecine to HD. This would allow for future HD releases, and for the initial DVD it gave us a higher quality master to work with. The 35mm print was transfered to HD tape at 1080p24. A best-light transfer was chosen as the most practical option given the budget -- because this was a release print, grading decisions had been made at the time the print was struck in 1983. Any additional color correction would done digitally after restoration was complete.

Our MTI CORRECT system was used for the digital restoration, because it allows us to remove most defects quickly, without damaging the underlying grain structure of the film. The restoration process involved frame-by-frame evaluation and repair of defects - roughly 112,000 frames in all - taking approximately 3 weeks for our restoration artist to complete. Defects ranged from simple dust to extensive emulsion scratches [see "Focus On Restoration" sidebars for detailed images]. In particular, the heads and tails of most reels were badly damaged from being handled in the projection booth when the film was originally released.

Rock & Rule is a hand painted, cell animated film, and that added another level of complexity to the process. In many instances throughout the restoration, small defects in the original cells became apparent as they tracked across the screen. It was decided that we would approach the project as if it were a preservation job, cleaning up only defects in the print but not defects that existed in the original animation. This approach would preserve the integrity of the film and the original intent of the animators.

Minor color correction work was required to match the original look of the film, because the print we had to work with consisted of reels from three different prints made at two different labs. We worked with director Clive Smith, who advised us through the color correction process.

Rock & Rule was originally relased in 1983 by MGM/United Artists, which renamed it 'Ring of Power.' Our restoration was based upon a 'Ring of Power" release print, so the final challenge was to re-insert the original 'Rock & Rule' titles at the beginning of the print. The only available 'Rock & Rule' title sequence was on standard definition Digital Betacam tape with a 4:3 aspect ratio. This required deinerlacing and upsampling to HD resolution in Adobe After Effects. The 'Rock & Rule' title sequence was laid on top of the 'Ring of Power' titles, and the outer borders of the frame were re-constructed, frame-by-frame, to seamlessly match the restored HD 'Ring of Power' print's 16:9 format.

Audio Re-mastering

The soundtrack is extremely important to this film, including appearances by Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick and Earth Wind & Fire.

The only available audio source was the stereo optical track on the 35mm release print. No magnetic track or stems were available for remixing or mastering.

The soundtrack was extracted from the HD transfer and was remastered here in Boston at a local mastering facility. Once the stereo soundtrack was complete, it was unwrapped for 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. Both the Stereo and 5.1 Surround tracks are available on the final DVD, along with a commentary track by the film's director, Clive Smith.

The Finished Product

2 Disc Special Edition DVD

  • Digitally restored print
  • Alternate "CBC" version with different voice performances [not restored]
  • 2 soundtracks + Director's Commentary
  • 'Making Of Rock & Rule' Documentary
  • 'The Devil and Daniel Mouse' -- An early short by Nelvana
  • 'How we made The Devil and Daniel Mouse' Documentary
  • Gallery of more than 500 Character Sketches and related artwork
  • Work Print w/ pencil sketches of unfinished animations (not restored)

Release Date: June 7, 2005