Q&A with Jim Hardy CEO of Illuminate on Remastering 'The X-Files' in high definition - Part 3/3
Was there any changes made to the masters between the delivery of the television syndication remasters and the Blu-ray release?
There may have been an occasional digital hitch here and there, but nothing huge, no.
How much data are we talking about for a typical 45-minute episode?
The original film scans were as large as 18 terabytes per episode. The final edited episodes were about 480 gigabytes per version. There were many working versions per episode, for example, we create a noncolor corrected master, color corrected master, texted and textless masters for both 4x3 and 16x9. It's a massive amount of data to wrangle. It was a real challenge... the project was a huge undertaking. I don't think people really understand how complex it was to manage and how efficient you have to be to get this project done effectively and efficiently.
The thing that everyone should be concerned about is archiving the current crop of digital content. We know that film negative will last 70 plus years with very little deterioration, but we have no idea how long these digital files will last. If you think about it, ten years ago you might have had a floppy drive or a disk drive with some sort of data on it. If you try to retrieve that data today, it would be a challenge.
First, you have to have the correct equipment to do it. Secondly, it's very likely you're going to be missing bits of data. The same thing will happen to some of today's series and features in five or ten years if they don't archive it properly. It is extremely important to keep migrating data files with today's current technology. Digital technology progresses so fast that it's hard to keep up with it. If you don't keep up with migrating and archiving your data, who knows where it's going to fall apart? These shows that are shot today on a digital platform, we don't know how long they'll be around if they're not properly archived.
With revenue from physical media falling, but partially offset by streaming revenue and syndication rights, how is that affecting large scale remastering projects such as The X-Files?
It has a big effect. The studios are very cautious. The studios have to balance the creative, archive, and financial aspects of projects like these. There's so many series' that are being ignored. That's to their detriment because now there's many avenues to get these shows back into the marketplace. There's a broader range of distribution than before. You aren't necessarily going to make all your money back on one deal but over a number of years.
There are so many shows that need this process that are just sitting in the vaults, and it's a real shame. The overall quality is so, so significantly better than the old NTSC versions and they'll be able to license this product many times over, there'll also be new audiences for these programs. With classic shows like MASH, back in the day, they had cut negative. It wasn't until non-linear editing came about in the mid 80's that they were still cutting film.
There's a lot of great episodic series and lower budget features that needs this attention, but it ultimately becomes a directive from the accounting side. But what are you going to do? I hope the studios and distributors have a change of heart and focus more on their legacy assets. If they don't focus their attention to the legacy archival assets, there's going to be no value or revenue to be generated.
Scanning hundreds of miles of negative and reassembling is by necessity not a cheap process, but what technical breakthroughs has Illuminate made that is streamlining this process?
Our proprietary iConform process uses image recognition software to search through all the scanned film elements. It conforms perfectly to the original. We don't need any original edit lists or logs. It doesn't require any manual organization, but we do this as a matter of procedure. With just the film negative and a reference tape, we can deliver a conformed master in HD or 4K.
Any final thoughts, Jim?
I hope The X-Files Blu-ray release is successful for Fox. I do know the series will have more exposure on all of the other platforms that are now available too. A lot of the folks who worked on this project here at Illuminate are huge fans, so that made a big difference. There's nothing better than working on a project that you love. This is a really, I don't want to say historic, but a significant television series that a lot of people have great admiration for. Case in point, they're resurrecting the series, with brand new episodes.
What I'm sad about is that they didn't actually come back to us and say "you know what? You guys recreated the whole series from the original film dailies. Maybe you should work on the new series with us". We didn't get that option. It would have been great. I believe we put our whole heart and soul into recreating this the best that we could. I think we did a very good job of that, and I hope the fans acknowledge that and understand that. We were very excited to work on this project, it was a challenging process, but a lot of care and attention went into it, and we believe it shows in the end product.
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