New restoration technology sharpens old films

Warner Brothers Studios, in collaboration with AOL, has created a new restoration process that digitally realigns and sharpens older negatives of movies shot on Technicolor three-strip film. The new technology has already by used to restore such classics as "Singing In the Rain," "The Searchers" and "The Wizard of Oz."

Known as Ultra Resolution, the technique can restore prints that over time have suffered blurring or "color fringing," as well as shrinkage, stretching and other damage. The technology has been nominated this year for a Scientific and Technical Academy Award. Chris Cookson, chief technology officer at Warner Bros., told Reuters that while observing a projected picture during digital scanning, he noticed a frame that was five pixels out of alignment. He said he knew the resolution could be improved if somehow all the sharp edges could just be better matched.

Instrumental in Ultra Resolution were two sisters who serve as heads of research and development at AOL, Keren and Sharon Perlmutter. Reuters said they devised an algorithm to analyze each square block of a frame, detecting the edges of each original color record and adjusting the color alignment accordingly.

Although Warner Bros. holds four patents on the technology with additional ones pending, the studio has shared the technique with other studios, recently using it to create a new negative for damaged scenes in Paramount’s "Chinatown."