Blackmagic cintel perth

Film director Djinn originally shot his 2003 movie titled ‘Perth’ on Super 16mm film. Set in Singapore, the film follows Harry Lee, a 51 year old security guard who dreams of migrating to Perth, Australia to escape a difficult life with little opportunity. He unwittingly becomes entangled in the Singapore underworld in order to earn enough to carry out his plans.

Though the film was not commercially successful in 2003, a renewed interest by the Asian Film Archive to restore the film for today’s audiences encouraged Djinn to explore the possibilities. Djinn brought the film to colourist Shaley Brooks at Iris Digital Post to restore the film for a Heritage Screening event in May 2023.

Small Beginnings

Shaley had little to work with as he started the restoration process. “The Asian Film Archive had a 35mm release print that they used for screenings, which was all that was saved,” said Shaley. “The Archive asked Djinn if he could get a DCP made so it could continue to be screened in the all digital systems they now have. Up to that point, the only copy on video was a PAL Digital Betacam, which had a production company logo burned in. We ended up using that tape as our audio source.”

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Shaley contacted the post production house DigitalFilm Tree where he was given access to their Blackmagic Design Cintel Scanner. Having worked with scanning and telecine in the past, he found working with the Cintel Scanner was relatively easy. “The Cintel was a good match for this project, and the scanner is quite simple to use,” he said.

“I especially like the CRI (Cintel Raw Image) file format because the data footprint isn’t huge, and the quality of the image is very good. Loading the film was very straightforward, and the particle transfer rollers are also nice to have. Slightly sticky, they remove particles and dust and clean the film during scanning. In Resolve, the scanner interface works as if it were a part of the same system, which I’m already comfortable with. That meant I didn’t have to learn a new application to start scanning.”

Picture and Audio

Though the technical aspects of scanning from a 35mm release print went smoothly, sourcing from two disparate sources for picture and audio proved a challenge on multiple fronts. “One of the biggest issues was the condition of the print versus the PAL Digital Betacam we used for an audio source,” Shaley said. “The release print was missing frames at the head and tail of each reel. I had to slow down some shots to fill the gaps. It definitely affected sync in a couple of spots.”

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Once in DaVinci Resolve Studio, he was able to take advantage of the software’s range of restoration tools. “Since we had no budget, I needed to avoid tedious, time consuming work. I leaned on the automatic dirt removal tool as much as possible and, going shot by shot, I was able to clean the worst of issues from the release print transfer. I used the dust buster tool to clean up a lot of the heavier dirt, which worked really well. Because the print had some serious flicker throughout, I used the deflicker tool, which I could dial in on a shot by shot basis,” he said.

Mezzanine DPX Sequence

“Since the restoration used so many processor intensive tools, to achieve a smooth playback in the colour review process I did the automatic dirt removal and deflicker passes separately. I rendered a new mezzanine DPX sequence with the deflicker and dirt fixes baked in. I also converted the signal to an ACES format at this stage. This step allowed me to grade without any system slow down. When I found issues that needed to be fixed from the first pass, I was able to fix only those frames and render a new DPX frame to replace it.”

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Beyond colour, Shaley found the diverse toolset in DaVinci Resolve Studio helpful with some of the more challenging issues. “For something like painting out big scratches, I used Fusion inside of Resolve, which I have been using a lot recently,” he remarked. “I consider Fusion an important part of my toolbox now. Taking the time to learn to use it as a novice has been great, and I feel as though I’m blurring the lines between colour and VFX!”

With extensive experience in grading feature films and TV shows, Shaley had the necessary skills to apply modern workflows to the analogue format that ‘Perth’ was filmed in. “Since we didn't have the cut negative, or an interpositive, our contrast and dirt caused issues, but I was able to use the ACES workflow to bring the image very close to the look we wanted. DaVinci Resolve’s primaries got me the rest of the way,” he said.