The Godfather restored

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The Godfather restored

Post by TheDaddy » Sat Jun 07, 2008 1:07 am

The Godfather restored

HP SAN storage makes Warner Brothers an offer it can't refuse

No, thirty five years after his death the Marlon Brando character is not coming back from the grave, but Francis Ford Copola's epoch-making film trilogy is being restored to its pristine state with an HP Fibre Channel storage farm used to hold the digital files needed. It feeds the files to restoration artists at workstations and to restoration software running in compute farms.

Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging (MPI) is a movie post-production and analogue film stock renewal facility located on the Warner Brothers studio lot in Burbank, CA. It has developed a patented process to digitally restore movie classics stored on film stock.

This stock degrades with handling and time and will anyway contain original imperfections and blemishes that are clearly visible with high-definition screens. Graduated tones in the dark areas will turn uniformly black or brown whilst bright areas will appear flared. Clors may become muddy and edges indistinct.

MPI uses HP Media Storage, processors and workstations to help replenish this old stock and bring it up to the 4K Digital standard, the movie industry’s highest resolution format for digital video, which provides four times the resolution quality of high-definition television.

The '4K' refers to the resolution per film frame, 4096 x 3112 pixels, which becomes up to 50MB when stored digitally. There will be 24 frames per second - 1.2GB - and 1,440 frames per minute - 72GB - and an up to 180 minute run time - 12.96TB. Storing the entire set of three Godfather film files needed 160TB of disk capacity.

A 2-hour movie has about 172,800 frames. Using a single computer to process each frame could mean a 600-day processing run at a 5 minutes/frame rate - clearly impractical - which is why a server cluster is used and why CPU speed and storage I/O is critically important. The faster individual frames can be processed the quicker the entire job can be completed.

Storage set-up

Designed specifically for the entertainment industry, the HP Media Storage set up at MPI includes 600TB of storage, with EVA 8000 arrays in a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN), HP Linux-based ProLiant servers and BladeSystem server blades, as well as multi-core processor HP workstations. Quantum storage management software, StorNext is used to manage the data via a heterogeneous file system that allows the data to be accessed by all clients, both Windows and Apple Macs.

HP Media Storage supports Apple's Mac OS X and Windows XP connectivity to the EVA SAN. It is compatible with Apple’s Final Cut Studio through the use of Apple Xsan software.

Through the use of StorNext, there is a single 'virtual disk' view across all the different tiers of storage - high-performance FC disk for fast, concurrent active data file sharing, near-line systems for reference or older data, disk systems for back-up data, and off-line tape for archived data.

Automated restoration process

MPI experts and HP researchers have devised an automated process for restoring old film stock, correcting faded and mushy sound, sharpening blurred images, and removing scratches, color distortions and multiple camera field seams in panoramic pictures.

What happens is that the original film stock negatives are scanned at very high resolution and turned into digital files. These are then worked on by multiple teams of MPI people to restore different aspects of the film and to make sure that, overall, its color and appearance and sound quality are coherent and complete.

Sections from the film are checked by software which looks for dramatic changes in pixels from frame to frame, such as might be caused by a speck of dust on one or two frames, a hair, or a bit of localised film degredation. Once identified these can be removed and the now-empty area filled in with pixels cloned from the surrounding area, just like photo editing.

Similar photo-editing techniques can be used to increase sharpness. There is still manual work needed to correct other image artefacts in the digitalised film but massive amounts of 'grunt work' can be carried out by the software.

Moving a 12TB film file from storage to workstations and then to rendering processors means a lot of bandwidth. Multiple artists have to work on parts of the film at the same time and their work must not be lost. The HP SAN has to available 24 x 7 and the storage has to be bullet proof. MPI cannot afford to lose data in the middle of a project.

The restoration efects are dramatic. The beautifully restored Godfather trilogy will be re-released in September, prompting, no doubt, hundreds of thousands of DVD sales and, hopefully, Blu-ray disk sales as well. Only with Blu-ray will the full richness of tone and detail in Coppola's masterpiece transfer to home screens. Perhaps this will be the Blu-ray offer that home movie screen viewers cannot refuse.

Download a video clip about HP and MPI here:

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Post by DAve » Sat Jun 07, 2008 2:39 am

Titles like the Godfather are certainly welcome to Blu-ray Disc.

I am hoping that the resolution of the format war will result in more timely releases of these kinds of titles.

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