HTV/Illuminate recently restored both The Agony and the Ecstasy, the 1965 film about Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel, starring Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison, and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, another 1965

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy

film, an action-adventure comedy starring Stuart Whitman and James Fox.

The Agony and the Ecstasy, which garnered five Academy Award nominations in 1966, and Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, which was nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA, will be released on Blu-ray later this year by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Both digital restorations relied on HTV/Illunimate’s proprietary “deep scanning” process.  According to DI artist Mark Nowicki, this hardware/software solution allows the company to use advanced processing to remove grain and dust; the film is scanned at high resolution at slower than real-time speed.  “It’s not the number of lines of resolution but the amount of detail and black areas you can get out of it,” explained Nowicki. The  process is performed with the iLS(tm) (Illuminate Light Scanner), designed by company CTO and two-time Academy Award-winner Les Dittert.

According to HTV/Illuminate CEO Jim Hardy, “the deep scanning process enables HTV illuminate to extract far greater
detail from film elements than is possible with other restoration processes without changing their original look and character. ” “The original image is not modified in any way,” he said.

The source material for both films’ restorations were  65mm interpositives. Before the 2K scan, both films were closely examined to identify trouble spots. Nowicki says the interpositives for both films were in pretty good condition. But they weren’t without problems, most of them related to the age of the elements. “There was some side-to-side shading errors,” said Nowicki. “You’d have a scene with blue sky and the right hand side would be magenta and the left hand side would be green.” The corrections and DI grade were done with the Digital Vision FilmMaster.

Other problems related to density changes throughout the movie.  “The problem was associated with the leader that was used to separate scenes in the original master,” says Nowicki who said he had to manually process every scene in the film. He also had to resolve issues related to optical effects used in making the film. Many aerial scenes, for example, were produced as
film opticals and looked crude by contemporary standards. Nowicki used sharpening and grain reduction processes to make those scenes look more acceptable to modern viewers. He was also able to remove wires and rigs, a task that wasn’t possible when the movies were made.

Nowicki says he prepared for the DI for The Agony and the Ecstasy by studying photographs of the Sistine Chapel. “Unfortunately, those sequences are lit by candles when he’s working at night, so it’s not necessarily representative of what the ceiling would look like,” he says.

“Fox gave us pretty much free rein to make the movies look good,” says Nowicki. “Normally it’s a good thing and it was definitely so with this.  I went with my gut feelings, and they loved it.”