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David Leans’s stunning epic Doctor Zhivago comes to Blu-Ray on Monday 4th May. If the masterful Blu-Ray editions of films such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, North by Northwest and 2001: A Space Odyssey are anything to go by, this is yet another essential and important release from the Warner Bros. archive.
If you are interested in the preservation of classic cinema, as well as getting closer to an original theatrical presentation, then this 1080p release of Doctor Zhivago is essential. Warner has done more for the classic filmgoer than any of the other major studios, always making sure that their releases look and sound as good as possible. Below you’ll find information on the extensive work that the studio has undergone to preserve and restore this essential movie.
For 2002’s Dr. Zhivago Two-Disc Special Edition, Warner went back to the original 35mm camera negative to make new photo chemical restoration, but because negative damage was extensive, they were only moderately successful. The damage was caused in part by the extraordinary number of release prints struck over the years, and many of those prints were enlarged to 70mm, which added wear and tear. In places where the negative was simply too damaged to use and in the past other elements were found, duped and inserted, but they didn’t match the original negative’s quality. Additionally, fine tuned color correction was impossible within the limits of the chemical process.
For the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD 45th Anniversary Editions, debuting May 4, the restoration was successful in completing a digital restoration from the original 35mm camera negative with new digital tools that allow far greater subtlety and accuracy, Warner Bros. has been able to overcome the obstacles above to generate an extraordinarily accurate and beautiful new master that reveals the original negative’s magnificence.
The new Dr. Zhivago Blu-ray master was created from an 8k scan rendered in a 4k finish. Challenges overcome are as follows:
- Sprocket holes. So torn on the film’s negative that when rolling the film through the chemical bath machinery, the image was unstable. The digital scan equipment was able to overcome the unsteadiness and obtain a very stable image
- Frame Damage. Totaled 40,000 frames which equates to about forty minutes of the film. While Warner’s new master was derived from the original camera negative, damaged sections had been removed from the camera negative over time and inferior dupe elements cut into the camera negative. Warner removed the poor dupe sections from the camera negative and replaced them with better quality film elements.
- Color correction. The original camera negative contained much more picture resolution and color information than the film element used for the 2001 version. So MPI scanned the original negative at 8k resolution to capture all the detail and color information and were able to seamlessly match the restored frames to the original color negative, using an original Technicolor print as reference. One of the greatest improvements of new digital color correction over its photo chemical and early digital predecessors is that they could correct color fading, which appears as yellowed hightlights and blue shadow areas, without compromising the original color values or other colors or areas in the frame. Digital tools allow us to isolate and treat each of the 29,360,128 pixels that create a single frame.