I went to see THE BIRDS last night, in a special one-night only event sponsored by Turner Classic Movies, they do this from time to time with classics like CASABLANCA and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. It had an introduction by Robert Osborne and some interviews with cast members like Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren. Great movie, it still works, especially on a big screen.
The problem was that the digital projection left a lot to be desired. A whole lot. I was expecting this to be one of those really nicely cleaned up versions of a film that they make such a fuss about. Frankly, it looked like a third-generation VHS dupe was being projected. The low-light levels in some of those scenes, especially the final moments set during an overcast daybreak, were virtually unwatchable — it looked like Rod Taylor had shoe polish on his face throughout the last few minutes of the film, and the color was washed out completely. When I got home I put on my old DVD just for comparison, and it was like night and day. Even the battered print on that DVD at least seemed to have been successfully color-timed.
I’m wondering if it was just the system at the theater I attended (which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming LAWRENCE OF ARABIA screening) or was it all over the country. Did anyone else go?
I have yet to have the time to go to one of the retro digital projection screenings in my town. I’ll try to make a point of it and report back.
Methinks its just like making copies of copies —> digital projection is going to look great for digital films, and not so great for converted film prints.
I had been planning to see this in the theater, but I forgot when they were screening the film (until I saw your comment in the “Last Film” thread! Obviously I can’t comment on the digital projection quality of this film, but I’ve been the screenings of Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca. They were OK, but they did have a pixelated quality.
“They were OK, but they did have a pixelated quality.”
Polaris — this mess with THE BIRDS was especially disturbing because I’ve seen several very fine digitally projected screenings of classic films like GRAND ILLUSION, METROPOLIS and, just this past weekend, VERTIGO. All were beautifully done, no pixilation or anything like that, which raised my hopes for this screening.
I’m thinking it was just a combination of a not particularly well done digital conversion and an issue with the projection at the local theater, the AMC Empire in NYC. Disappointing.
No worries, the 2012 restoration of Lawrence of Arabia looks absolutely stunning. In fact, all digital restorations I saw at Il Cinema Ritrovato this year looked fantastic, the color films in particular (Bonjour Tristesse, Once Upon a Time in America, Point Blank and even Samson & Delilah).
Point Blank is a movie I hope to see projected someday, even if it’s digital. Hope that one comes through here.
Roscoe is mentioning TCM sponsored digital screenings… so they are here as well, though the selection isn’t the same…. is there some revolving distribution pattern or the like that the company is doing?
I caught a 4K projection of Raiders of the Lost Ark earlier this week. Looked fantastic.
I’m going to check out the digital projection of Lawrence of Arabia when it comes around.
I saw The Birds digitally projected on Wednesday, and it looked horrible. At first I sat in the front like I usually do but I had to move towards the middle because there was no detail in the image. If I hadn’t snuck into Resident Evil earlier, I would’ve asked for my money back. The soft focus on Tippi Hedren looked pretty terrible.
I’ve seen other digital projections at the same theater (Chinatown, The Searchers, Dr. Zhivago) and they’ve all looked very good. However, they weren’t sponsored by TCM. This was.
Otie, sorry to hear that. I’m finding that my experience isn’t unique, alas. I doubt I’ll bother in future unless the words ALL NEW DIGITAL RESTORATION or some such are prominently featured in the advertising.
TCM does these periodic screenings of classics, one night only things. You can find info on the TCM website, or on fathom.com. The recent screenings of CASABLANCA and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN were successful enough to warrant repeat screenings being scheduled.