Warner’s Ultra Resolution Process

Nominated For Tech Oscar

By Rich Drees


     January 3, 2007- While the Scientific and Technical Achievement Academy Award often honors a new technology that helps to advance the production of future motion pictures, one of this year’s nominees for the prize looks to enrich films from Hollywood's past.


     The Ultra Resolution process, developed by Warner Brothers in collaboration with AOL, digitally realigns and sharpens the color on classic movies shot with the three-strip Technicolor process. Three-strip Technicolor was an early color photography process which used a series of prisms and filters to break the camera’s incoming image down onto three separate strips of film designed to record only red, green and blue. The strips were then combined to reproduce the original color image through a dye transfer process to produce prints sent to theaters. The result was a picture with a high saturation of color, unrivaled by other color processes. Unfortunately, film prints struck with this process over time were prone to shrinkage and blurring or color fringing of the image.


     The restoration process was conceived by Chris Cookson, president, Warner Bros. Technical Operations and chief technology officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment, who realized that computers could be used to digitally bring into sharper alignment the separate color layers of the combined print. A complex algorithm developed by sisters Keren and Sharon Perlmutter, heads of research and development at AOL, analyzes each frame of film to detect the edges of each original color record and make adjustments accordingly. The new image produced is noticeably sharper than the previously lauded  Technicolor image.


     Warners currently holds four patents on the restoration process with additional patents pending. The studio has used the Ultra Resolution process to restore such three-strip Technicolor classics as The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938), Gone With The Wind (1939), The Searchers (1956), Singing In The Rain (1952) and The Wizard Of Oz (1939). The studio has shared the technique with other studios, most recently to create a new negative for damaged scenes in Paramount Studio’s Chinatown (1974).


     The Scientific and Technical Achievement Academy Awards will be announced on February 10, 2007.