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home > reviews > whole-shooting-match

Review: The Whole Shooting Match Digital Film Restoration

Eagle Pinnell produced this classic film in 1978 on the cheap, using borrowed equipment and black and white film stock. The Whole Shooting Match is a touching film about two blue-collar Texas buddies trying to make it big. Robert Redford credited this film as his inspiration for starting the Sundance Film Festival and Institute. Thought to be lost for many years, no print of the film has been available until a recent discovery of a 16 mm print of the film.

I went to a special screening of the newly restored film at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago on Dec. 28, 2007, where producer Mark Rance introduced and discussed the film. Mark Rance took the restoration of this classic film on as a project. After obtaining a print of the film, he make a 1K scan of the print and took months to restore the film and its soundtrack. He was fortunate to find the original sound engineer who still had the tapes of the soundtrack, which they restored to near their original fidelity. He talked about how his company Watchmaker Films undertook the painstaking process of restoring and scanning the film, and his regret that there was only enough money for a 1K scan, not a 2K or 4K scan (16mm film has about 1.6K lines of data). He said he strived to preserve the original grain and "film" look of the original. He also discussed how a good soundtrack can carry lower quality film, but not vice versa. The soundtrack was indeed impressively clean and clear. The movie was great, but the most interesting part of the screening was the argument between the old-school film traditionalist from the Film Center, and the new school digital producer Rance.

Digital versus Film

Rance stressed that time was running out on these older films, and there wasn't the time or the resources to dupe every film out there. Nor for that matter were the chemicals or film stock being made anymore to accomplish the task. Scanning to preserve original negative or the 3rd or 4th or more generation prints that exist now, and restoring them later was the answer to help preserve these films that are degrading. After discussing more about the process of digital film restoration, Rance then took questions from the audience. After some positive remarks, the Film Center representative started criticizing the film's look, saying he liked the look of film rather than a digital showing. The old met the new with talk of grain quality, weave (caused by the wear of the sprockets on the holes at the edge of the film), and carbon filament projection light sources versus a "digital feel." It was fascinating seeing the future argue with the past showing how still and motion photography is shifting over to digital.

If you get a chance to see a screening of this film, I highly recommend it.

About the Author

Andy King is the founder of five developer-related sites, and the author of Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization (http://www.speedupyoursite.com) from New Riders Publishing. He publishes the monthly Bandwidth Report, the semi-weekly Optimization Week, and Speed Tweak of the Week.