Headjar Productions Scanned More Than 30,000 Feet of Archival Footage for Channel 4 Documentary
An iconic music video has gotten a rare 4K remaster. As part of a documentary project for U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, director David Fincher’s promo clip for the late George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” featuring supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford has been rescanned from the original camera negatives at 4K on a Blackmagic Design Cintel Scanner and graded in Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Studio to match the look of the original, NTSC-resolution music video.
The new video is not available on YouTube, but George Michael’s official VEVO account posted a brief collection of newly scanned outtakes that you can watch here:
Classic music videos have not been treated well in the age of HD. Content owners have been happy to go back to film masters to create HD or UHD versions of feature films — and even some TV series that were originally broadcast in standard-def — that allow them to monetize their archives. Unfortunately, there is no long-tail revenue model for high-definition music videos beyond YouTube advertising. That means that old TV shows like Columbo and The Andy Griffith Show now look like feature films from the era, but with rare exceptions, music videos from the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince look like — well, like old TV shows.
But “Freedom! ’90” remains breathtaking after all these years. Shot at London’s old Merton Park Studios with cinematographer Mike Southon, BSC, behind the camera, the visuals have a very early-90s feel but hold up well, combining cool blues, warm ambers, a soft, suffusing glow, and Fincher’s notorious attention to technical detail. “I don’t recall any specific direction from David Fincher,” Turlington told Entertainment Weekly last year. “He was focused on the lighting, I recall.”
Years in the making, the George Michael: Freedom documentary project had Gwyn Moxham of Headjar Productions poring over 60,000 feet of footage from the “Freedom! ’90” shoot, along with newly unearthed reels of performances from Michael’s Faith tour and his MTV Unplugged rehearsal, as well as an old South Bank Show with relevant footage that was shot on 16mm.
“Our biggest headache was how we would bring together all of the different archived material so that we could mix that with recently acquired interviews shot on the Ursa Mini 4.6K,” said Moxham in a prepared statement provided by Blackmagic Design. “We were working with everything from Video 8 camcorder tapes and Betacam SP through to HDCAM and a variety of film stocks.”
More than 30,000 feet of 35mm and 16mm elements were scanned in 4K and in real time on the Cintel unit, which was connected to an iMac. Every shot from “Freedom! ’90” was checked against the original music video for accuracy. The edit was completed by Jerry Chater and the documentary was graded and finished in DaVinci Resolve Studio by colorist Dan Moran at Coffee and TV in London, Blackmagic said.
The remastered “Freedom! ’90” video is not yet available for viewing in a standalone version, although much of it is featured in the complete George Michael: Freedom program (albeit cropped from the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio to fit the 16×9 frame), which debuted last month on Channel 4 in the U.K. It is also playing on Showtime in the U.S., where it is available for viewing on demand.
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