Interview: Dolph Chiarino of Midnight Legacy – Part 2

We continue our interview (here’s Part 1) with Dolph Chiarino of Midnight Legacy as we address the review itself, and some of the issues within that text.

To backtrack a bit, you also have, I guess, the “lost footage,” for that special feature. Was that found with the film, was that owned by the same company or was that somewhere else?

No, when we were still doing the first pass of the color correction and we got to the end credits I said to the tech, “Let’s start again,” and she said, “No, no. There’s extra footage.” We had found a fifth reel, so we sat and we color corrected it the same we did as the film, three passes and it’s why it looks like the film. I mean, it’s odd because if you look closely, there’s slightly more fine grain in those outtakes but it was her belief that it was some sort of a different film stock. I mean, it was close, but there were differences. There are shots with a little more fine grain, but not more detail.

The problem with this movie is that the grain was very uneven. There are shots in the movie where the grain was very heavy and I think as you had mentioned, once you get into the cave, there’s not really a lot of grain. It was something I noticed even when we worked with the negative. When I was in Rome watching on something like a 24 foot projection screen format, and even then I remember saying maybe during the first pass, looking at her and saying there’s like no grain or noise reduction right? And she said not at all. It’s just very, very fine grain. So, seeing it on a size like that, even if you scale it back to a 60-inch monitor you just don’t have this overbearing presence of grain which is actually disappointing because I’m like a real grain lover.

So, you think there were multiple stocks used on Alien 2?

Absolutely. A lot of the cheaper Italian films, the way that they’re working, is that they’re buying up film stock. When they run out of that film stock, they go buy the next film stock, and then it’s next film stock. It’s very common for movies like this. But I don’t think there are any real gross differences in terms of grain structure throughout the film. It’s just obviously like the opening credits and the end credits, you’re inserting a whole host of things like opticals and titles. The grain is gonna be there because you’re putting something on top of something.

That reminds me… that last shot of the movie where the camera begins panning up looks really noisy or riddled with artifacting. Is that part of the film, or something the encode just didn’t handle?

That’s all on the negative. I mean, we went with the highest bitrate you could possibly go with, without running the risk of locking up a majority of players. My initial plan was that I wanted this to run at a constant 40 MBPS, all the time. We had multiple meetings about this. The people at our post house, Blink Digital, said you can’t really do that.

Why is that?

Because most players aren’t meant to hit a constant bitrate of 40, so we settled between a constant rate between 36 and 37.

So, is that just an issue with the Blu-ray spec in that they’re just not up to it in terms of the hardware itself?

It’s a variety of things. They were saying that very high-end players would be able to do it, but maybe an $89 Wal-Mart player might not. But I mean for all intents and purposes, there is no perceptible difference between 35 MBPS AVC and 40 MBPS AVC. There is a point where it just sort of drops off and you’re just playing with numbers.

I believe in bitrates. There are some major, high-profile studio releases that people love that I notice video problems with and that’s certainly something I go and look at. I thought they did a great job with Gone with the Wind, but there’s a section where it’s horribly, horribly banded towards the end of the film and when you look at the bitrate, it’s at 4 of 5 MBPS. I mean, sometimes it’s inherent in the master and sometimes it’s not.

I noticed some spots that appear quite smooth, like the screenshot of the beach (the area around the woman).

It’s very hazy.

Yeah, I assumed that’s where some severe damage was and those were spots where it was fixed.

No, no. That’s how it was shot.

Okay, so how do you address damage in a frame? How do you go about fixing that?

I think they use PixelFarm there. There were not that many, I mean, there were two big emulsion marks that when we were doing the color correction I made notes that they had to be removed, but I didn’t supervise those being removed because they both literally happen for a frame. So, I’m pretty sure they used PixelFarm software, and the way that it works, I mean obviously you’re disturbing the image with minimal impact and when you’re talking about a frame, like your brain will not register a frame. It almost becomes transparent, even if you were to stop it on that frame and say that this is different from the other 23 frames, you’d never see that.

The interlacing issue that I brought up. What happened was I watching the movie, I saw the shot of the seagulls, and when their wings flapped, something didn’t look right. So, I went back and I caught it. The same thing happened in the bowling alley. When I went to my laptop to grab screens, the issue was there. Do you have any theory on that?

I was going to tell you that it was a capture error on your end because it’s not really possible to have a section of a frame be interlaced.

Well, I had watched Seven Samurai last week and there’s a wipe edit at one point, and there is interlacing on the wipe, so I’ve seen it before, but never in an area that tiny. And again, it’s like four frames of the movie, so it’s nothing that would ever effect the score, but be more of a curiosity.

No, I understand, but it’s honestly the type of thing that I don’t have an answer for. I mean there could be some sort of moire issue, but it’s certainly not an interlacing issue. If a frame is interlaced, it’s interlaced. A section of the frame can’t be interlaced. I understand that it may exist there, but we couldn’t really consider it interlacing.

I mean, if there was a DVD that was going interlaced and then into progressive, it would drop, everything would lose the signal. If it were for a frame, everything would flag it. You’d have a second or two drop-out if you were watching through a receiver. So, honestly, I have no idea. It’s odd because we went from a DI, there was no conversion. When you’re going to a DI and you’re capturing the frames digitally, there is no I or P, it’s just the number of frames. You’re then outputting those frames as either 24p or some people in Europe are still going 25i or 50i, so it’s a very odd anomaly. For something that happens in four frames of the whole movie, it’s almost impossible for the naked eye to catch it. I guess I can take some solace that it happened to the Criterion release of Seven Samurai.

I want everything to perfect, but you have to accept that it’s not going to be. When I got the first check disc, you know my partner called me and said, “Is it awesome,” and I said, “No, it’s awful.” Even my wife said it looked great and I said, “But it could be so much better!” But, eventually you just have to let go, and some things are just out of your control. I mean, to get a complete copy of the negative, you’d need a completely lossless video technology.

Why no subtitles or translations of the credits?

It’s just for credits. Seems like a silly thing to do.

I was referring to the whole movie though, like if a deaf person wants to watch it they have no way to tell what’s being said.

I don’t know. It’s something that we decided and if it’s something that is a genuine complaint from a substantial amount of people, than yeah, it will be addressed.

Why a limited run? Isn’t the benefit to a smaller company like Midnight Legacy to sell as many as possible? I mean, on the greatest day ever and a million people want the disc, isn’t that better?

We limit the run because we want this to be worth something. I believe in things being collectable. We’re almost being selfish in that we’re doing this for us. I want these movies on my shelf represented properly, and that’s how we want them to go out to the public. We want this to be for people who appreciate these movies and want to collect our line, and for it to be worth it. If it takes off and sells 2 million copies, then it’s worth nothing.

We’re in a unique position in our lives where we’ve done other things where this is not a necessary source of income. I mean, sure we’d love to make money doing it, but we don’t really have to.

Continue on to Part 3