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Behind the scenes with the Master of Suspense (and VISTAVISION)

Frame blowup from Vertigo title sequence created by graphic designer Saul Bass.
All film samples provided by Robert A. Harris, The Film Preserve.

Vertigo - saved in the nick of time.

Vertigo was restored by the team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz. The illustrations on this page are taken from workprints created during their nearly two year effort to save this motion picture classic from being lost forever.

Examples of VistaVision 8-perf contact prints made from the original camera negative. Significant color correction was necessary due to fading of the negative. In some cases it was necessary to create a new negative from the silver separation masters but this was not possible in many instances because of shrinkage of the separations, and due to the fact that they were poorly made in 1958.

Using whatever sources were available, the restoration team created a new 35mm 8-perf negative from which a 65mm inter positive was generated. Although not noticeable on the screen, some elements were as many as eight generations away from the original negative. Both 70mm and 35mm prints were then made for theatrical showing. Variations in the color of the above three different formats are indicative of the efforts necessary to produce a properly balanced print.

In addition to bringing the image back to life, the soundtrack was also rejuvenated. Most of Bernard Herrmann's brilliant music score had been recorded in three track stereo. The original music recordings were mixed with new sound effects to give this reborn version of Vertigo a soundtrack to match the visual clarity embodied by VistaVision. The 70mm prints employed dts digital sound, eliminating the need to go to the appreciable time and expense of adding sound on magnetic stripes.

Robert Harris has stated that following the restoration of this nearly lost classic, it should be around for another 200 years. We can only hope so. This film holds up nearly as well as does Kim Novak. (Yum!)

The musings of Robert Harris regarding film restoration, new DVD releases, and other technical aspects of cinema that interest the propeller head and just plain movie fan can be found on The Digital Bits website. Click the link to open a new page and read what's on Bob's mind.

Technical Drawings and Print Dimensions.

Read the complete text of the VistaVision article written for
WideGauge Film and Video Monthly

You are on Page 5 of VistaVision

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Martin Hart, Curator