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American Graffiti - Original Cut Restoration (Mechanical Assistance/Telecine Experts Needed!)

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I was asked to make a new thread for this to see if there would be some interest and ideas as to how to make it happen. I have a 1976 'scope 16mm print of American Graffiti on Kodak SP which has lovely color. It has been my preferred way of watching the film for a long time now, so I didn't even realize that there was a different version of the film (which came out in '78). Even though it is SP, it just leans a hair towards red - it is absolutely watchable and in mint condition.

I would be more than happy to scan it (or telecine it with a digital camera, similar to -1's project) but have zero experience in that department. Ideally, I would like to scan it at 2k or 4k (like -1 did - if he can do it, that should be my goal, too.) Basically what I am asking for in this thread is help on building a telecine machine similar to the one -1 and cinch built, or just general suggestions on how I might get it scanned or telecined. I have talked to Puggo, as well, but he only has the capability to do SD.

Thanks in advance for any assistance!

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 (Edited)

The original 1973 theatrical cut a.k.a. the studio cut is very similar to the 1978 re-release version. Lucas was able to restore a few scenes that had been taken out by the studio in its original release after his success with Star Wars and create his director's cut (the same thing happened with THX 1138 that same year);

  • The Louie, Louie sequence at the hop. 
  • Terry's exchange at the used car lot just before the first hop sequence.
  • Bob Falfa singing Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific after he picks up Laurie.

 

The audio was also remixed in Dolby Stereo for the reissue.

The original theatrical release has never been released on home video. Also, don't know if this info is true or not but according to IMDB:

"In the original release, John Milner is listed as having been killed by a drunk driver in June of 1964 in the closing segment just before the final credits. When the movie was reedited in 1978, the date of his death was changed to December of 1964, most likely in anticipation of the release of its sequel, More American Graffiti."

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Wow, I had no idea that the original had never been released on home video. I'm going to get some pictures of it and see what I actually have...

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Looking forward to it! :) I'm sorry that I cannot be of any assistance and give any advice in regards to get a high quality scan made, hopefully those with the expertise in the field will chime in. I'm sure -1 and team would be able to let you know the details on their MO, lots of effort involved I guess.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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OK, a scan is coming up of the end titles. My print shows Milner as being killed in December, but I'll check some of the other points you talked about. I am 99% sure that my print was struck in '76, so unless it was a prerelease print (likelihood almost zero) then I'm pretty sure it was theatrical. We'll see.

Thanks for the assistance you were able to provide!

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OK, so here are some pics of the print I have. More will follow, but this was just preliminary to see what version I might have.

First, the raw scan of the film:

Next, the black and white level normalized scan:

Two different color corrected and anamorphically stretched frames:

Bear in mind that these were scanned at low res and have not been cleaned since I projected them last. My goal, if this project goes through, would be much, much clearer than this. These are tests only.

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Looks very promising, and Puggo has dealt with prints that looked a lot worse.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Those last two are pretty bad, looking at them with fresh eyes. Here's a better version:

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Alrighty. Do you guys want to see some really promising shots from the first few minutes of the film? Here it is:

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Lovely! You've actually renewed my hope there's a good scope print of THX out there.

skyjedi2005 will be over the moon when he sees this.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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What do you think of the scan quality? This was done on a flatbed scanner with 2400 dpi throughout the 4 frames, do you suppose the quality would be better if I did 2400 or 4800 dpi per frame? Alternatively, is the quality good enough now? I am just kind of thinking out loud, and don't know what "good" should look like. I don't mind building a transport device that would automate the process if this is worth pursuing, otherwise I can try to figure out what -1 and co. used...

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The scans look good. It would take forever to scan a nearly two hour film this way, unfortunately.

Puggo is your best bet for a SD transfer when his schedule permits. He would also be able to capture the soundtrack, which would also be of historical interest, since it was remixed later on.

The company that made his gear now sells HD units, but they are fantastically expensive. If you're going to keep the print in your collection, that may change several years from now.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Thanks for posting these frames, your print seems to be in fantastic condition! be gentle with it. :) I suspect that IMDB-info could just be inaccurate, they have been wrong in the past. An easy way to determine what version you actually got is to check the end credits, the re-issue was remixed in Dolby:

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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I know - the print is in great condition. Can you believe I paid $50 for it? :)

I'll check those end titles right now to see what I have...

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Fifty bucks?! I guess Ebay wasn't involved. ;)

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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Surprisingly, it was. I figured that someone would bid me up - I had planned on spending $300+, but it went for my lowest bid. An extra bonus - it had free shipping. :)

Kind of makes you wonder what that other seller is smoking... $800 for a very scratched print of a flat scope movie? :S

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Sorry to double post myself, but I've got some bad news - mine appears to be the '78 reissue. However, it is in mono, if that interests anyone. That is easy for me to do - I've got an Elmo CL that puts out a pretty good signal, and a Kodak 250s Pageant that has an EQ built in, so if anyone is interested in the audio, let me know.

Also, now that I think about it, mine would be a decent candidate for the non-special edition, as it doesn't have the CGI clouds. It might also be a fun learning experience even though it is not unique, so I'm still interested in building a 2 or 4k scanner, so advice is still needed!

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Keep in mind Dolby was around as a noise reduction system at the time. We need to research this a little more.

If you could do a quick and dirty audio capture, then someone can sync it up with video of the current version and find out for sure.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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SilverWook said:

Keep in mind Dolby was around as a noise reduction system at the time. We need to research this a little more.

Yes, of course. Silver is right, I missed the fact it says Dolby System not Stereo. I don't think there is another way than to check if those previously mentioned added scenes are included or not to be sure.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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OK, that's what my print says, "Dolby System." However, it does say the "Some Enchanted Evening" bit, too. I wonder if they would have redone the titles just so that it would not have that in, from when the scene was originally cut? I guess it gives me an excuse to watch the movie... :D

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I'll also do a quick audio capture of the full film - I'll just run it through my computer before it gets to the speaker...

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ww12345 said:

OK, that's what my print says, "Dolby System." However, it does say the "Some Enchanted Evening" bit, too. I wonder if they would have redone the titles just so that it would not have that in, from when the scene was originally cut? I guess it gives me an excuse to watch the movie... :D

If not "Some Enchanted Evening" is used anywhere else in the film that may also be a '78 addition. I don't remember if it is.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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Pretty fantastic quality for a 16mm print of this vintage and for 50 dollars wow.

Wonder if that other print is the same dodgy adapted scope print listed years ago on the super8mm forums 16mm section.

I think it was sold for a far cheaper price perhaps the same chap never sold it or if he did the reseller wants what someone would not even pay for a pristine copy newly struck by the studio for home sale which we know would not be done.

Its really unfortunate the blu ray has the new 90's color timing and the cgi redone opening, because it is off the o-neg and is fantastic quality would be even better if it was scanned in better than just standard 1080 HD and they did less dvnr.

 

Of course the dvnr on graffiti is rather a light touch unlike THX and the movie was not completely ruined like THX. 

But neither film looks like the techniscope original on blu ray.

Really wish Lucas himself had not really fallen in love with DVNR and Digital regrading of films like he had in the 90's and 2000's.  All of his films on blu ray don't look how they should.  CGI, dvnr, newly done inferior sound mixes.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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Looking forward to this project if and when it is completed!

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Another member and I are working on an option for the Song of the South print I have, and if it is successful, I'll do this one, too.  :). So far it is looking very promising for both of the prints.