44rh1n’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” Extended Edition Color Restoration
Some screenshots are scattered throughout the article where context is given, and the entire library of screenshots can be found at the end of this article.
As many of you are very well aware, Peter Jackson’s beloved adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” received an abysmal HD release back in 2011. Both the official Blu-ray and Digital-HD releases are affected. Not only does this new master suffer from an ugly green tint throughout the entire course of the film, but it lacks important visual details in the bright highlight and dark shadow areas as well. In addition to these problems, it appears that the original color timing, in many instances, has actually been completely tossed aside; in several areas there are stray power windows (masks used in the color grading process to select certain areas of the frame), and the lack of HSL qualifications (custom selections of specific hue, saturation, and luminance values) that result in a muddier color grade than the original DVD release. Fortunately, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” don’t suffer from these same issues. But the official release of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is simply unacceptable. Its release was poorly supervised, and was not given the love and care it deserves.
I am not the first to bring up this problem. Many have discussed these issues extensively in the past. In fact, a few years back, forum user kk650 did an astounding job removing the film’s green tint in his regraded release of the film. So if all you’re looking for is the removal of the green tint, go check out his wonderful release! However, kk650’s regrade is just that: a regrade, as opposed to a proper restoration. The green tint wasn’t the only problem that needed to be resolved. So I decided to take upon myself the task to bring back the true, original colors found on the good ol’ DVD.
Along the way, I came across some hurdles, and I had to make a few compromises. But all in all, I think it’s safe to say that this is currently the best way to watch “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Feel free to check out my process:
A shot-for-shot regrade of the entire film, using only the official extended Blu-ray release as a source, and the official DVD release as a color reference. This goal, however, quickly proved to be too time-consuming for me. I also discovered that many shots simply don’t have the detail necessary to perform an exact match to the DVD. It became clear to me that I needed to use an additional source in order to make this restoration happen.
A shot-for-shot regrade of the entire film, using the official extended Blu-ray release as the source for the extended scenes, and the official theatrical Blu-ray release as the source for all other scenes, with the official DVD release as a color reference. This goal proved to be much more realistic. However, the theatrical Blu-ray also suffers from many problems (although very different problems from the extended Blu-ray). This release, unfortunately, suffers from the overuse of both digital noise reduction (DNR) and artificial sharpening. But I decided to compromise in that I’d rather put up with these issues than the color degradation found in the extended release. While the DNR and sharpening problems did cause some concern, as you’ll see below, I was able to address these issues to some extent.
1. Using Dr. Dre’s Color Matching Tool
I created a custom LUT for each individual shot in the extended portions of the film. I then imported each LUT into DaVinci Resolve Studio to use as a starting point for the color restoration.
2. Custom Grading
While Dr. Dre’s Color Matching Tool is an amazing resource that gets you about 95% of the way there, I still needed to give each shot a bit more love. So I did quite a bit of custom color grading in DaVinci Resolve Studio. I used custom power windows and HSL qualifications in almost every shot. I also cleaned up a bit of noise that was sometimes introduced by the LUTs. Here are some full-res screenshots, compared to previous releases of the film.
3. Addressing Problem Shots
In some instances, the extended Blu-ray simply doesn’t contain enough chrominance detail to pull out the colors necessary to restore the image to its original form. This problem mainly occurred in dark scenes. In these cases, the only thing I could do was completely remove the Blu-ray’s color altogether, extract the chrominance from the DVD, and lay it on top of the luminance of the Blu-ray. In other words, I literally placed the DVD’s color on top of the Blu-ray’s grayscale image. This method was tricky and time consuming because the framing of each shot is actually quite different between the DVD and the Blu-ray. So I had to do a lot of custom resizing. In some instances, these shots are slightly cropped due to the subtle reframing of the DVD. The chrominance in the resulting images are also technically only 480p while the luminance is 1080p. But since our eyes are far more forgiving of chroma detail than luma detail, I doubt most people will even notice that the chroma is lower resolution than the luma. This overlay method, albeit imperfect, produced much better results than the LUTs for these darker scenes. Here are several examples.
4. Addressing Issues with Theatrical Footage
In areas where the DNR and artificial sharpening are most apparent, I applied some custom corrections using DaVinci Resolve Studio. I first addressed the artificial sharpening by applying a custom mist effect, which softens the edges of the image without losing detail in the image (thus reducing the effect of artificial sharpening). I then applied some custom film grain designed to emulate the original grain throughout the rest of the film. While these repairs to the theatrical footage aren’t the perfect solution, the result is still far superior to the official theatrical Blu-ray.
5. Mastering the Film
I first created two ProRes masters (one for part 1 and part 2). I then used MKVToolNix GUI to create a non-standard ProRes MKV file of each part, containing all the original Blu-ray’s audio tracks and subtitles. In addition, I extracted the Spanish audio from the film’s iTunes release and included that in the master as well (seriously, why wasn’t this already included in the Blu-ray??). I then merged the two parts into one and produced multiple H264 deliverables from these masters.
There are 3 versions of this 1.0 release. Descriptions of each version are below. All are available now! You MUST own the official extended Blu-ray in order to obtain a copy of this version! This masterpiece of cinema only exists because of the filmmakers and distributors who worked so hard to bring it to us. Please support them.
V1. One H264 MKV file (Parts 1 and 2 merged together). This version is a lower bitrate and only contains English audio and subtitles for English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The letterboxed area (black bars) are also cropped, which is great for those of us who use services such as Plex. I imagine this is the version most people will want/need. 23GB.
V2. Two higher bitrate H264 MKV files: Parts 1 and 2, synced to the original Blu-ray release. Each part contains all audio and subtitle tracks, including commentaries and the iTunes Spanish audio. Part 1 = 21GB, Part 2 = 22GB.
V3. Same as V2, but merged into one continuous file. 43GB.
There is a chance I’ll be updating this project in the future, and you can help! While I have no intention of regrading any more of the extended footage that already exists in the theatrical cut, there are still some huge improvements that I can make. The Netflix version of the theatrical cut is something that I would love to get my hands on. In terms of detail, it is far superior to the theatrical Blu-ray. (Check out my post from a few months ago over at fanres if you’d like to learn more about the Netflix version). I’d be happy to replace the shots from the theatrical Blu-ray with shots from the Netflix version if someone can get me a high bitrate 23.976fps capture! I’ve been trying to capture it myself but my hardware is only capable of 24fps, which is not the same as 23.976! If anyone wants to help improve this project, I think this is the route to go!
Thanks everyone. Hope you enjoy this release.
All screenshots mentioned earlier in this post, plus more, can be found here.
List of all tracks found in V2 and V3:
Audio 1: English DTS-HD 6.1
Audio 2: English DTS 5.1
Audio 3: Spanish DD 2.0
Audio 4: Portuguese DD 5.1
Audio 5: Commentary: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Audio 6: Commentary: Richard Taylor, Crew
Audio 7: Commentary: Barrie M. Osborne, Production & Post
Audio 8: Commentary: Actors
Subtitle 1: English
Subtitle 2: Spanish
Subtitle 3: Portuguese
Subtitle 4: Commentary: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Subtitle 5: Commentary: Richard Taylor, Crew
Subtitle 6: Commentary: Barrie M. Osborne, Production & Post
Subtitle 7: Commentary: Actors
All 48 Original Chapter Markers