Last month, SoundtrackNet took part in an exclusive sneak-peek at the amazing restoration efforts that Warner Brothers Home Video did for the new 70th Anniversary celebration of the timeless classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Held on the Warner Brothers lot at the Motion Picture Imaging building (MPI), the special presentation included introductions from Warner Home Video Senior VP George Feltenstein and VP Kris Brown, talking about the efforts that WB has taken to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Oz, beyond the new home video release. For the past year, various celebrations have been ongoing world-wide, including a road-show tour of 20 designer Ruby Slippers. Everything will culminate in a star-studded gala celebration on September 24th in New York City, where the Tavern on the Green will be transformed into the Emerald City.
The highlight of the restoration demonstration was when the press were taken up to the coloring suite, to meet with Ned Price (VP, Mastering, WB Technical Operations), and Janet Wilson (Telecine colorist/DI colorist) - who has worked on most of the recent home video releases of The Wizard of Oz over the years. Working from the original 1939 camera negatives, WB scanned the three different Technicolor strips for The Wizard of Oz at an astounding 8k resolution - actually "ultra-resolution", since the film is a 4x3 aspect ratio, and additional information was scanned in at the top and bottom of the frame when compared to a traditional 8k scan. From there, every frame was cleaned for dirt, dust and scratches, and then a pixel-perfect alignment was made down to a 4k master. Then Wilson worked to color-correct the film, based on the colors from an original 1930 answer print that has been safe housed at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
While the film was mastered at 4k (and film prints were made), the Blu-ray release is at a lower resolution than that, and yet the image was amazing. Film grain - which hadn't been touched at all through the process - is natural and subtle. The colors are vibrant, and most amazingly, the detail is truly stunning. Not only can you see that Judy Garland has freckles, but she even has some acne! Unfortunately the clarity sometimes revealed some of the technical limitations of the time, and Ned Price explained that there were only three instances where some wire-removal was implemented - but it was all done with the filmmaker's intent in mind.
Audio on the Blu-ray will include a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 version of the 2005 Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and SoundtrackNet has confirmed that the original 1939 mono track will also be included. Additionally, supplements will include the extensive material that had been previously released - over 12 hours of stuff - plus an additional four hours of new material. Be sure to check back to SoundtrackNet to see our review of the Blu-ray box set when it's released!
If you can't wait to see it for yourself, a special one-night event is taking place in 450 theaters nationwide, where NCM Fathom, Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies will hold a special presentation at 7pm local time on Sept. 23, 2009. For details, visit www.fathomevents.com.
Images © 1939 Turner Entertainment Company, A Time Warner Company. All rights reserved. Courtesy Warner Home Video, used with permission.
Special thanks to Sharmistha Chatterjee