Finding new details
The NFSA is accustomed to supplying ultra-high definition (UHD) material for film and television productions but rarely are those productions made entirely from archival footage or of the scale of Australia in Colour.
Craig Dingwall, Digital Film Preservation Colourist at the NFSA, scanned 230 of the 323 titles. Each title had to be scanned in its entirety, even though the filmmakers were only using a fraction.
‘We created ultra-high definition digital scans in 4K, which is twice the resolution of what you see in most cinemas now,’ said Craig. ‘We’ve been able to see so much more detail on street signs and car number plates, and we’ve been able to recognise faces and places.’
Newfound details about each title were added to the NFSA’s catalogue database throughout the process.
Before being scanned the material had to be retrieved from the vault, prepared, checked and cleaned. After being scanned it was graded to ensure the footage looked consistent. This might include lightening shadows or making adjustments because of different exposure levels between one piece of film and another.
Choosing the most suitable components, the ones that will result in the best quality scan, is a painstaking process that requires checking and comparing the condition of all sources available. The earliest generation copy is preferred but in many cases, image and sound were copied from separate items.
The NFSA also had to check and recheck copyright clearances. All the licensing and scanning work will benefit not only the NFSA but other filmmakers and content producers.
A special screening of Australia in Colour: Episode One on the big screen takes place at the NFSA’s Arc cinema in Canberra on Saturday 11 May at 1pm, followed by a discussion with producer Jo-Anne McGowan and from the NFSA: General Manager, Collections and Access, Meg Labrum, Craig Dingwall and Collection Reference Coordinator Simon Drake.
The four episodes of Australia in Colour premiere on SBS on Wednesdays at 8.30pm throughout March in 2019 and are also available on SBS on Demand.