An Interview with 3-D Restoration Artist Greg Kintz
On one hand, Those Redheads from Seattle presents an old fashioned musical with lots of singing and dancing and a bit of intrigue set in 1890s Klondike territory. The other side of the coin reveals an expertly lensed film that was the first widescreen non-anamorphic feature shot in 3-D.
“You have ‘evergreen titles’ like Sound of Music or Oklahoma, or Wizard of Oz,” says Greg Kintz, Technical Director at the 3-D Film Archive. “Movies like that get rescanned every five years in the latest formats, and that’s great. But there are so many movies that get lost to the wayside.”
Indeed, Those Redheads from Seattle was barely seen in its original 3-D during its October 1953 release and it was another fifty years before it was shown in that format. Kintz supervised a months-long restoration of Redheads. The restoration premiered earlier this year at the TCM Festival and appropriately at the Seattle Film Festival. Kino Lorber released Those Redheads from Seattle on 3-D Blu-ray last month.
Those Redheads from Seattle stars Agnes Moorehead as the mother of four girls. Moorehead moves her family to Alaska to reunite with their father. Complications ensue when they find out he’s been killed because of newspaper articles he was publishing.
Some members of the cast were established stars like Moorehead, Rhonda Fleming, Jean Parker and Gene Barry. Barry himself starred in War of the Worlds, which had been released a few months previous.
Other performers were known for their pop songs like Guy Mitchell whose “Chicka Boom” was a hit upon its release in August of 1953 and which was also performed in Redheads. Teresa Brewer’s only feature film credit was as one of vivacious gingers as were the Bell Sisters (Cynthia and Kay Strohter) who round out the four sisters. Brewer steals many of the scenes with her dance and song skills, particularly a number titled “Baby, Baby, Baby.”
The 3-D effect is used to create layer upon layer of action within the frame. “A lot of times you see mirrors in the background and that plays off beautifully in 3-D. You always have foreground material and a nice layering of background material,” explains Kintz.
At one point Gene Barry is in his office and opens his curtains to reveal the expanse of his nightclub in the background, only to have the curtains on the stage at the back of the frame rise and reveal yet another layer of action. There are some subtle uses of 3-D like the feet of dancers during a can-can kick or Mitchell holding out his hat towards the audience. A more obvious yet expert use of 3-D has a beer glass sweeping down a bar towards the viewers.
Cinematographer Lionel Linden constantly gives the film a feeling of great depth. Linden won an Oscar for his photography of Around the World in 80 Days (1956) and also shot some of John Frankenheimer’s best films like The Manchurian Candidate.
Redheads was filmed mainly in Southern California using fake snow with some second unit shots with real snow filmed in Colorado.
There’s a distinct difference between what audiences perceived in 3-D features in the 1950s as opposed to the way contemporary films use similar technology.
“That’s due to what we call the interaxial setting. That’s how the cameras are spaced, whether it’s with two cameras – called native 3-D – or converted 3-D. Someone has to decide what type of stereoscopic 3-D separation there is going to be between the two eyes,” says Kintz.
“Today’s features are far more conservative in their interaxial settings. You lose so much of the layers of depth because when your interaxial is narrower your interactive depth range is reduced considerably,” Kintz says. “You see that in a lot of today’s features. Something is supposed to come off of the screen, but because the interaxial is so narrow it fails.”
During the process of restoration, Kintz works on problems like vertical misalignment, color drift and jitter.
“We go through the film shot by shot. These features, as beautiful as they are, were shot with cameras that were largely untested. A lot of time you have what is called vertical-misalignment.
“When we see 3-D our eyes are separated horizontally. We see 3-D through what is called horizontal parallax. When you have misalignment is comes across like one eye is slightly higher than the other. One eye has to look up while the other looks down and our eyes were not designed to see that way. With digital tools we can literally go through the feature shot by shot and correct that to make it an eyestrain free 3-D experience.
“Color drift is another factor. That’s when you have aging elements and slight fluctuations in hue. So let’s say something is gold, a few seconds later it may be yellow. We’ve minimized the most aggressive drift and in a lot of cases eliminated the drift completely.
“We worked on Redheads non-stop for almost three months. I felt that we did a great job with the time frame we had,” says Kintz.
“We were constantly making refinements right until the last minute. On the ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ Teresa Brewer number – we did a major overhaul of that song from a restoration standpoint at the very last minute. We were working non-stop. Each movie has its own challenges. The goal is to get the best quality in the time frame and the budget that is offered,” says Kintz.
“An integral part of Redheads was the three channel sound and that was lost decades ago. When you go back to titles that old that’s not an unfamiliar story. All of the Columbia stereoscopic features that had stereo audio, those are all gone, as far as the stereo audio goes. Universal has lost some and Paramount has lost theirs.” The restoration team found a mono master and used stereo extraction to recreate the three-channel soundtrack. An example of the separation can be found as an extra on the Blu-ray as well as Kintz explaining how certain shots were restored using before and after examples.
The 3-D Film Archive team uses customized workstations. “They obviously have very large drives and military spec motherboards. I’ve had renders that have lasted over twenty-four hours,” says Kintz. “I’ve had renders that have pushed my CPUs into the red line for sixteen hours. You also use multiple work stations for redundancy.”
The 3-D Film Archive website has a massive list of all films that were shot in 3-D and released from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Additionally, Kintz and his team members have restored 3-D films from the silent era as well as shorts, animated and newsreel featurettes. These are available on the Blu-ray 3-D Rarities. Other 3-D titles restored by the 3-D Film Archives include It Came From Outer Space (1953) and the robot thriller Gog (1954). Kintz also did 3-D work on the campy cult film from 1976 A*P*E. The next 3-D restoration release 3-D Film Archives is working on, scheduled for a summer 2017 release, is a little known title that was shot with actual soldiers on location during the Korean War – Cease Fire.
“I think it’s safe to say we’ve worked on more archival 3-D film elements than anybody else. Just when you think you’ve seen it all something new will come through that presents a new set of challenges,” says Kintz.