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BFI (2012) - Restoring Hitchcock 1: how a film restoration begins




Restoring Hitchcock #1: how a film restoration begins

Bryony Dixon, Thursday, 9 August 2012

With the Genius of Hitchcock season unveiling the results of our Rescue the Hitchcock 9 project to restore the director’s surviving silent features, curator Bryony Dixon explains how a restoration begins.

The first step in any film restoration project is to gather together as much knowledge as possible about the film and the context in which it was produced. This will provide clues as to how the finished film should look and the probable location of any surviving materials.

As many as 80% of silent films are permanently lost, so we need to search thoroughly for any available prints, negatives, copies on smaller formats, or even fragments. We need to establish a number of factors about the film – when and where it was made; what format it would have been produced on; if it’s a silent film what speed it should run at (24 frames per second was embedded as a standard only in the sound era); the original running length and, if there are different versions, which one we have.

Thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s incredible status and popularity, all of his films have been well researched over the years. Any film associated with Hitchcock has been repeatedly screened, discussed and written about, and the films have been rereleased and reissued to each new generation. But it is the very popularity of the films that created problems for our restoration team. The original negatives will have been used to reprint and reprint again, while prints and duplicate negatives would themselves have been made from prints… and so on, leaving us with a complex family tree of materials.

Information about the film – original release dates, original structure and content of the film, origin...