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Restoring Technicolor – DIASTOR at the Berlinale Film Festival

This year’s retrospective of the Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin is dedicated to Technicolor. The program showcases a series of Technicolor films selected by the Deutsche Kinemathek in collaboration with the George Eastman House in Rochester as well as other archives.

Based on her research for the Timeline of Historical Film Colors, DIASTOR project leader Barbara Flueckiger contributed a major article to the publication Glorious Technicolor, edited by Connie Betz, Rainer Rother and Annika Schaefer for the Deutsche Kinemathek. The article sums up the various technological, aesthetic and economical hurdles that had to be overcome by the Technicolor company in its initial tumultuous and difficult years before the advent of the famous and successful three-strip dye-transfer process in 1932. Starting with an additive process – Technicolor No. I – soon after its foundation in 1915, Technicolor invented three different color processes with varying success, all of which were two-color processes. Technicolor No. II attempted to combine two colors on two thin film strips that were glued together, with the effect that they cupped and scratched as a result of the heat in the projector. Technicolor No. III was the first dye-transfer process, combining two records in green and orange-red.

To this day, most of the early Technicolor films circulate in versions that do not provide an authentic impression of the aesthetics of early Technicolor. Therefore Barbara Flueckiger inspected and documented approximately 20 nitrate prints and various single frames from the 1920s in archives such as the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, the Packard Campus of the Library of Congress in Culpeper (see report on filmcolors.org), the Moving Image Collection of the George Eastman House (see report on filmcolors.org) in Rochester and the National Film Archive of the Czech Republic in Prague. The close analysis, inspection and documentation of the film material is an important source to improve the translation of the historical films’ properties into the digital domain in the process of their digitization and restoration.

In addition, DIASTOR currently works on several Technicolor restorations related to three-strip Technicolor, supervised by DIASTOR senior researchers Claudy Op den Kamp and David Pfluger. With a completely new feature-based transfer algorithm developed by Simone Croci, Tunç Aydin and Aljosha Smolic from DIASTOR implementation partner Disney Research Zurich in collaboration with the Federal Institute of Technology ETH in Zurich, it becomes possible to reconstruct the specific Technicolor look with its dark saturated colors and the specific image texture created by the dye-transfer process from a chromogenic negative. This approach is connected to a thorough material analysis including colorimetric measurements executed by the DIASTOR research team in collaboration with Giorgio Trumpy (Digital Humanities Lab University of Basel; National Gallery of Art Washington) who contributed to the spectral analysis.

Various insights will be presented at the panel discussion Challenges and Opportunities in Restoring Technicolor, in which Barbara Flueckiger will be joined by some of the leading experts in the field: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Head Curator at the George Eastman House, Ulrich Ruedel, analytical chemist and film restorer, and Schawn Belston, Executive Vice President, Media and Library Services at 20th Century Fox Film. The discussion will be hosted by Martin Koerber, Head Curator of the Film Archive at the Deutsche Kinemathek.


Colorimetric Analysis of Technicolor Elements

DIASTOR is currently working on the restoration of the Swiss film HEIDI UND PETER produced in 1955 in Technicolor No. V. The restoration is commissioned by DIASTOR partner SRF Swiss Radio and Television, which owns the rights of the film. The film will be part of the program “Switzerland in Technicolor” and includes the film SWITZERLAND SPORTLAND provided by the Harvard Film Archive.

Only one reel of the film is complete with the black-and-white separations while these separations were lost for the other reels. Several dye-transfer prints are available, all of them have different hues and some of them show quite heavily scratched surfaces.

To receive more information about the physical properties of the Technicolor dyes and to understand the relationship between the different prints, the various elements were documented photographically and analysed by a statistical method. This method allows to estimate the analytical densities of the single dyes.

Based on the results of these measurements the scanning and color grading will be adjusted accordingly by a tool developed by DIASTOR research partner Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in collaboration with the implementation partner Disney Research Zurich.


Colorimetric measurement of one of the HEIDI UND PETER dye-transfer prints.


We are proud that DIASTOR was mentioned in VARIETY in the framework of a report on DIASTOR partner Disney Research.

SRF Director Ruedi Matter, said Disney Research and the Swiss pubcaster are also collaborating on a cutting-edge digital restoration project called Diastor which makes high-quality restoration a lot cheaper and working toghether “on new forms of interaction with our TV audience.”




Presentation at Cinema Ritrovato Completed

In the framework of the FIAF Summer School during the festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, DIASTOR presented some of their research topics. Despite many other attractive events that took place at the same time, the DIASTOR presentation met a huge amount of attention with a large audience attending.

DIASTOR project Barbara Flueckiger started the talk with a presentation of the new design of Timeline of Historical Film Colors that was launched on that day. In addition to providing an overview of the information and the structure provided by the digital humanities platform, she presented the different ways to document color films. She then introduced DIASTOR and an overview of the case studies completed or currently under way, such as the color analysis for the CALIGARI restoration, the Swiss Technicolor No V production HEIDI AND PETER (CHE 1955), and DER MÄRCHENWALD, EIN SCHATTENSPIEL (GER 1919) in collaboration with Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin. Both early colors and Technicolor will be major topics in DIASTOR’s second year.

Subsequently DIASTOR senior researcher Claudy Op den Kamp presented the restoration of the Dufaycolor film VOM SPINNEN UND WEBEN in more detail, with an emphasis on the scanning process. Dufaycolor – and additive screen process with a diagonal réseau in red, green and blue – is especially demanding, since the diagonal lines of the réseau interfere with the orthogonal pattern of the scanner sensor and can produce moiré artifacts. The setting of the focus is also crucial for achieving convincing results. DIASTOR’s scanner tests include Dufaycolor to study the scanner/film interaction with this demanding material. Claudy Op den Kamp explained the fruitful collaboration among the partners in DIASTOR, especially with the Cinémathèque suisse who provided the case study and collaborated closely on the restoration, but also with the implementation partner Cinegrell Postproduction where the 4K scanning on the ARRISCAN and the film-out including the photochemical processing of the preservation element took place.

DIASTOR senior researcher David Pfluger presented one of the main research areas in DIASTOR, namely the reconstruction of faded chromogenic film. Many of the films shot on photochemical stock have faded due to the selective decay of the dyes used for the process. David Pfluger explained the novel approach in DIASTOR which is based on previous research by Franziska Frey and Rudolf Gschwind from the Digital Humanities Lab at the University of Basel. While Frey and Gschwind investigated the color reconstruction for still photographs, their approach needs to be adjusted and redeveloped for motion pictures. In contrast to established tools for the reconstruction of faded chromogenic film, DIASTOR’s approach takes the material properties of the film and the dyes into consideration by measuring the spectral properties of the dyes and investigating the characteristics of their decay. Finally this approach also requires the adjustment of the scanning process accordingly.

For the subsequent Q & A, DIASTOR postdoc Franziska Heller and Caroline Fournier from the Cinémathèque suisse joined the panel and contributed their view. Franziska Heller explained in particular the interdisciplinary collaboration in DIASTOR where academic partners from humanities and natural science cooperate directly with partners from the private sector.

2014-07-02 17.03.36

Five minutes before the DIASTOR presentation starts the Auditorium is completely crowded and many more participants were joining the audience.


DIASTOR team member David Pfluger explains the workflow for the reconstruction of faded chromogenic film. On the panel are also DIASTOR project leader Barbara Flueckiger and DIASTOR team member Claudy Op den Kamp.

DIASTOR at Cinema ritrovato in Bologna

Please join us for our presentation at the festival Cinema ritrovato in Bologna on July 2, 4 pm in the Auditorium, Università di Bologna, Via Azzo Gardino, 33. The presentation will be part of the FIAF Summer School.

In a joint session with a presentation of Timeline of Historical Film Colors, DIASTOR team members Barbara Flueckiger, Claudy Op den Kamp and David Pfluger will give an overview on some of DIASTOR’s latest case studies with a focus on film colors. The panel will be completed by DIASTOR team member Franziska Heller and Caroline Fournier from the Cinémathèque suisse for a final discussion with the audience.


See you there!

DIASTOR Conference Presentations Available for Download

Our speakers have kindly agreed to offer their conference presentations for download. Please go to the DIASTOR conference page where you will find the corresponding links at the end of each abstract. Please follow this blog for further up-dates.

Unsere Referenten haben sich freundlicherweise bereit erklärt, ihre Präsentationen für den Download freizugeben. Sie finden sie auf der DIASTOR-Konferenz-Website, jeweils am Ende der entsprechenden Abstracts. Bitte abonnieren Sie diesen Blog  für weitere Infos.


DIASTOR Conference a Success

The DIASTOR conference in Zurich was a full success! 160 participants attended the conference, many of whom expressed their enthusiasm and gratitude after the event.

Our invited speakers delivered highly interesting and entertaining insights into their fields of expertise and their experience with the transition to the digital realm in restoration and archiving.

The first slot was dedicated to the topic of digitization. It was chaired by DIASTOR team member Claudy Op den Kamp. Giovanna Fossati, chief curator at EYE Film Institute Netherlands and Professor at the University of Amsterdam opened the conference with an overview of a variety of frameworks to restore, conserve and exhibit (archival) film. Tom De Smet, head of collections at Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, explained to the baffled audience what it means to digitize and store thousands of hours of film. Both Giovanna Fossati and Tom De Smet were part of the Dutch digitization program Images for the Future which started in 2007. Their insights highlighted the fact that a public and political debate is necessary to raise awareness and financial means for the transition of the film heritage to the digital domain.

In the second slot, chaired by David Pfluger, Mikko Kuutti, deputy director at National Audiovisual Institute Finland, focused on the film scanning process by connecting technical aspects to perceptual dimensions of seeing film in a theater. Like the Netherlands, Finland started its digitization program several years ago, and Mikko Kuutti has been involved in the transition to digital postproduction and archiving from the start in the early 2000s. David Landolf, founder and head of the Swiss film archive Lichtspiel in Bern opened up a completely different perspective by showing his analog collection, not only of films but also of many film-related pieces of hardware such as cameras and projectors. He discussed the difficult task to maintain and develop a small archive in a state of transition from analog to digital technologies.

After a delicious lunch with a fine vegetarian buffet from the Zurich based restaurant Hiltl, the afternoon started with two very seasoned speakers from the field of distribution. The program was hosted by Franziska Heller from the DIASTOR research team. Dennis Doris from Milestone Films presented their Project Shirley, a huge project investigating, restoring and presenting the films by dancer and filmmaker Shirley Clarke. Project Shirley is a prime example of how an independent filmmaker’s work can gain new attention by digital means of restoration and distribution. Serge Bromberg from Lobster Films in Paris concluded the talks with insights into their restoration and distribution projects from Georges Méliès’ “Voyage dans la lune” [“Trip to the Moon”] to the documentation of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished masterpiece “L’Enfer”. Bromberg set a focus on financial requirements for the restoration and distribution of historical films.

The day was concluded by a panel discussion concerning the film preservation situation in Switzerland. Compared to the invited speakers’ experience, Switzerland is still in a state of infancy when it comes to digitization of historical films and long-term storage of digital films. Since no national program has been developed so far, panel chair Barbara Flueckiger discussed with her guests current and future strategies. Caroline Fournier represented the Cinémathèque suisse and explained their selection criteria for the digitization and restoration of films. The Cinémathèque’s new vaults in Penthaz were planned without the concern for a digital infrastructure. They will open in 2017. Heinz Schweizer represented SRF Swiss Radio and Television who own the rights for many Swiss classics. He stressed the fact that we have to be very careful with our cinematic heritage and he voted for film-out as a means of long-term storage. Filmmaker and producer Werner “Swiss” Schweizer, who is also a member of the board of the Cinémathèque suisse, explained that their company Dschoint Ventschr has established their own long-term storage system to keep their productions safe for the future. Contrary to panel chair Flueckiger, “Swiss” Schweizer does not support the safeguard of a lab in Switzerland, but opts for a European competition. The fourth panelist, filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein, could not explain why his world-famous film “Geschichte der Nacht” cannot be digitized and restored for financial reasons at this point. However, the panel clearly showed that Switzerland is split into many particular perspectives and that it lacks a comprehensive strategy.

All the presentations were followed by lively discussions with the audience, both within the auditorium and outside during coffee breaks.

After a dinner break, the new digital restoration (2014) of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was screened with live-music by Günter A. Buchwald (piano and violin). Unfortunately Anke Wilkening, who was responsible for the film’s restoration at the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, had fallen ill and had to cancel her introduction. DIASTOR project leader Barbara Flueckiger delivered an introduction on short-term’s notice. She explained the restoration with a focus on DIASTOR’s color analysis for the Caligari restoration.

In 2K projection on the cinema screen, the new Caligari restoration looked fantastic, even better than at its premiere at the Berlinale in February 2014.

Many attendees were highly interested in learning more about strategies of digitization, long-term storage and digital distribution.

All the speakers generously provide their slides for download on this site. Check back soon or subscribe to the blog to receive access to them.

We would like to thank all the sponsors and DIASTOR partners for making this happen!

The conference was a co-production with FOCAL, supported by Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen SRF, the Kulturfonds von Suissimage, the Hochschulstiftung der Universität ZürichMemoriav, Swiss National Science Foundation and Dr. Wilhelm Jerg Legat.

We would also like to thank the conference team for their tireless support:
Franziska Heller (head ofcoordination)
Claudy Op den Kamp (layout, editing)
Kristina Jungic (catering, locations)
Brigitte Paulowitz (guests and speakers, technical support)

Special thanks to
Pierre Agthe, Anne Perrenoud and Katja Schudel FOCAL
Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Michel Bodmer, Primo Mazzoni and Hans X. Hagen Filmpodium Zurich
Student assistants Michelle Beutler, Isabel Krek, Manuel Joller
Alice Christoffel und Ursula McCormack Institute of Cinema Studies, University of Zurich.




Aus dem Mailing der deutschen Filmakademie

Die Sektion Regie der deutschen Filmakademie hat die Bedeutung des Themas Filmerbe erkannt, wie das Mailing an die Mitglieder zeigt, das uns Markus Imhoof geschickt hat:

Bei der FFA hat sich ein “runder Tisch” zum Thema Filmerbe gebildet. Dazu gehören federführend die Deutsche Kinemathek, sowie das Bundesarchiv, filmtechnische Betriebe und Interessengruppen der Filmwirtschaft. Natürlich auch die Filmakademie, die ja letztlich den Anstoß zur Diskussion gegeben hatte. Die Absicht ist es, einen konkreten Fahrplan zu erstellen, wie die Digitalisierung der vorhandenen Kinofilme und die neuen digitalen Produktionen für die Zukunft gesichert werden können. Hier wird es vor allem einen großen Finanzierungsbedarf geben, der mit der Politik zu besprechen ist. Dabei ist es wichtig, dass wir als Filmemacher die Wichtigkeit dieses Themas – die Bewahrung unserer Werke – in das öffentliche Bewusstsein tragen. Hier sind die Akademie und eben auch wir als Regiesektion absolut gefragt mit Ideen und Aktionen.

Mit unserer Tagung FILM IM DIGITALEN ZEITALTER Filme digitalisieren, sichern und bewirtschaften wollen wir genau eine solche Diskussion in der Schweiz auch initiieren. Noch ist es uns nicht gelungen, breite Teile der Branche zu aktivieren, aber wir bleiben dran!

Jetzt noch anmelden via unsere Tagungswebsite bei unserem Partner FOCAL.


DIASTOR in der neuen Ausgabe des Cinébulletin

Die Mai-Nummer des Schweizer Branchenblatts Cinébulletin widmet einen Schwerpunkt dem Thema “Filmbestände sichern” mit einem grossen Interview zum Thema sowie zu unserer Tagung FILM IM DIGITALEN ZEITALTER Filme digitalisieren, sichern und bewirtschaften. Man kann sich zu unserer Tagung jetzt noch anmelden (siehe Link zu unserem Partner FOCAL auf der Tagungswebsite), die Frist endet am 10. Mai.

Das Titelbild des Cinébulletin zeigt eine von DIASTORs Fallstudien, nämlich den oscarnominierten Film Das Boot ist voll des Schweizer Regisseurs Markus Imhoof, siehe dazu das Video, in dem er das Abenteuer dieses Films schildert.



The DIASTOR buttons have arrived

Alle DIASTOR-Team-Mitglieder und Partner werden an der Konferenz einen dieser Buttons tragen. Sprechen Sie uns in den Pausen an!

All the DIASTOR team members and partners will be wearing a button at our conference. Get in touch with us!


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