Under the Hood of our 4K restoration

We recently visited with Harry Eskin, one of our 4K restoration team members, to find out what it takes to restore a film to 4K.

Harry is a member of a four-person restoration team headed by Sarah Smith, our Media Archive Manager, and supported by assistant Nicole Bajorek, and 4K film editor Meni Phillip.

With over 100 hours and counting, and available to be streamed in 4K anytime, anywhere, on any device, TheArchive offers the most extensive independent library of rare films that have been restored to their original magnificence.

Q: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us today about restoring films in 4K. I will jump right in. How did you get started on a career as a film archivist and restorationist? 

Harry: I have always been a film buff with a particular interest in rare films; the rarer the film, the better. I was introduced to film archiving in college and decided it was something I wanted to pursue. After receiving a Master's Degree from UCLA in "Moving Image" archive studies, and upon finishing grad school I was hired by TheArchive's parent company, Multicom, to work with the film and video assets in its massive collection. 

Q: What determines when a film can, or will, be restored? 

Harry: First, the archive team, including Sarah, Nicole, and I, evaluate what materials are available for a film and what condition those materials are in.  If we are lucky to have a full set of materials for a film, we will review those assets to determine if they're in good enough condition to scan. Once the quality has been assessed, and we know we have a film that we can scan, we add it to our queue and wait for production instructions. 

To give you a little background on film prints, when movies were shot and edited on film, the process went like this: The earliest generation of a film is the original negative: the film that actually went through the camera during filming, and was edited to form the finished movie. 

Then, the original negative would be copied to make an "interpositive." 

Subsequently, the inter-positive would be copied to make an "internegative." Finally, the internegative would be copied to make film prints, making it a 4th generation print, which is what we, the audience, would see in the movie theaters. 

Each "film generation" has a little bit less detail than the one before it. Even though the "print" technically has the least detailed picture compared to the other generations, it still usually has a very detailed image. We try to scan the original negative or interpositive, but we don't always have those assets to work with. 

Film prints are the generation most likely to have damage, as the prints would have run through theater projectors. Some films only have prints available. 

For example, with our movie "The Incubus," the earliest generation we had was an internegative, but our internegative was missing a reel, so we had to fill in the gap with a reel from a lower quality print. 

Q: Walk us through the steps of film restoration. 

Harry: First, we pull the film reels, inspect, and prepare for cleaning. We then run them through a Lipsner-Smith CF-8200 cleaning machine. This step takes a few days. Once the film is cleaned, we scan it using a Cintel Black Magic film scanner, which scans 35mm film at 4K resolution, and we use DaVinci Resolve software to set color and sound levels for scanning the optical soundtrack reels. The process usually takes two-three days of work for a film of average length. Once scanned, our video editors begin their work on the picture and sound.

Q: Is there a noticeable difference in the finished product when compared to the original?

Harry: The goal is to make the finished product resemble the original film as closely as possible. We clean-up many instances of damage to the film eliminating scratches, dirt, color fading, pops, and clicks from the soundtrack that occur over time. To a restorationist, it is unethical to change the color scheme or other aspects of the look, too drastically.

Q: What do you find most satisfying about the 4K restoration process? 

Harry: Personally, what makes me happiest is the opportunity to bring audiences a sharper, cleaner version of a movie or show than what was previously available to audiences on video formats or television broadcasts of the past. It's always inspiring for me to see restorationists work their magic on a film that was damaged by time and neglect. For example, much of our 35mm film print of A Woman Called Moses was delivered with significant damage. The whole thing had severe color fading. We used a scan from a 16mm print to fill in those gaps, and it's amazing to see the restored version and how much more natural it looks.

We appreciate Harry sharing what goes into restoring a film in 4K as well as spotlighting a few stories about the hurdles faced in the process.

We continue to unearth treasures to restore back as close to the originals as possible and have Harry and the team to thank!

TheArchive hopes you enjoyed taking a look under the hood of our 4K restoration magic.

Next time, we continue delving into the process with 4K restoration editor Meni Phillip.



TheArchive channel is dedicated to aficionados and lovers of story, craft, and silver screen fun – streaming rare, retro, and 4K restored films and classic TV. From indies and series, to Oscar winning documentaries, unearthed MOWs, and a killer horror library, TheArchive delivers forgotten, never-before-seen gems for free. MarilynKarloff, and Orson Welles stream alongside ReeseKeanu, and Samuel L. Jackson. Find true stories of QueenHendrix, and Sinatra, an LGBTQ library, MLK bios, and world history docs. TheArchive has the movies and shows you either saw, should’ve seen, or should be watching now!