Case Studies

Mining the archives for ‘First Man’

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The movie First Man dramatises the story of Neil Armstrong’s famous giant leap for mankind. To give it a strong sense of authenticity, Director Damien Chazelle approached NASA to see if there was any archive footage from the Apollo era.

The good news was that NASA offered complete access to their archive material and there was plenty of footage from which to choose. For the Apollo 11 launch they had multiple cameras capturing different engineering details of the Saturn V from different angles.  The bad news was that it was in a unique format: an obsolete 10-perf 70mm military stock developed by NASA using Kodak Ektachrome reversal film – the sprocket pitch in particular was incompatible with modern film scanning techniques.

David Keighley, president at IMAX, suggested a prototype scanner at FilmLight might offer a way to transfer the footage. Visual Effects Producer Kevin Elam also found there existed a gate made for a Rank Cintel telecine at the White Sands Missile Range, so whilst this could provide a telecine reference a modern scan quality was still desired.

Kodak developed a special Ektachrome reversal stock for NASA, with an extremely high dynamic range. That meant that all the detail of night-time launches could be captured, with the highlights of the rocket exhaust not burning out the detail of the activity around the launchpad.

Kevin Elam contacted FilmLight to see what could be done.

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“Suddenly the film became almost transparent as the rocket's fire. The Ektachrome was slightly over-exposed at this point – completely understandable considering what it was pointed at.”


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