restoring The Glenn Beier film

Russell Courtenay

The power of the enthusiast with computers is amazing! 

As a Star Wars fan, I was quite frustrated with the changes made to the original trilogy on release to home video but just went on with my life. But a guy named Harmy searched for every source he could find to recreate a high definition version of the original triology without George Lucas’ messing with things. 

They used the official Blu-ray, DVD, video disc and even some old 16mm films that were available, I remember as a kid seeing the full original Star Wars available in Super8 stereo for $750! I really wanted to get a bunch of people together to buy one as a friend had a nice Super8 setup and VHS was new, expensive and very poor quality in 1980!

Anyway, I find it fascinating how well they were able to restore things for the most part WITHOUT professional software. In the Super8 film community there is a lot of restoration work going on, the main thing is PRESERVE THOSE ORIGINALS, they are finding new technologies for extracting the beautiful analog info hidden in these old films! 

I wrote a science fiction story proposing that these original sound films were so detailed they actually partially preserved the life of Thomas Edison so scientists could ask him questions!

This is the shorter documentary about what they did for Star Wars, I am sure some of this will apply here.

Russell Courtenay
Solemnity and profundity are sublime in inequity. 

On Mar 24, 2020, at 10:03 AM, Randy Lee Decker <randyleedecker@...> wrote:

I sent along some letters between John and Glenn concerning the making of this film. Lighting and locations were discussed as well as favorite good running engines etc.  The film was done completely by Glenn and John... Glenn has quite a long history of photography and film background and has some of his many photos in print in all their wonderful detail.  His subject of interest was "Steam Engines" and he captured the last of what there were, out west in the 1950's and in fine style.   His introduction to John Allen ended up creating a life long friendship and he fell in love with model railroading and John's layout from his first visits to John's old house beginning in the late 1940's.     

 I had high hopes that there might be some really well focused parts of this film that would show up digitally but when ya think about it 16mm film being exposed at the rate of a film camera is not ever going to yield great results, it just can't.  We are so used to well posed, crystal clear, 35MM camera photos we have been spoiled with from so many of the still's out there today.   but to have a motion picture of John's layout at all is incredible.   

 What I wonder; (more than Color variations) is if there is a program that could take a film image of an engine or a box car (such as we have here) and by using some trick of intelligent recreation take a fuzzy engine and remake it detailed by using crystal clear stills of these same engines and cars..... to give the program something to compare and work from.    I bet there is...   Affordability would be the next question.    Computer technology has come so far I bet this film could be remastered..... 

   But for now, I am pleased it is in safe hands (hands that will share it and preserve it) and not in a dumpster or sadly, kept hidden in someones closet as other treasures of John's work are.   


David Thomas

Hi Jeff

Thanks for posting the clip, it's wonderful just to see this short shot, it somehow seems to emphasise how grand the G&D's scenery was in comparison with the trains.

 I certainly applaud you and  Randy's efforts to preserve this film and get it out into the world.

Depending on the film stock it was shot on,  the Cinelab tech was probably right. The grain size for 16mm gives a maximum horizontal definition of about 1800 discrete lines and the horizontal definition of 2K video  is 1556 lines so there is a point of diminishing returns  (a surprising amount of HD television is still shot on 16mm film). I'd hazard a guess that Glenn was using a reasonably fast film so a bit more grainy than the slowest outdoor film.

Whatever the transfer got from each frame may well be the basis for getting a lot more by various processes of interpolation and compatinf several frame that seems to be becoming avaiaable to use even on the desktop.

If you want to see  what's possible and with a railway context take a look at this

It's been upscaled from one of the first films ever made anywhere in 1895 and the Lumiere brothers' short films were the first to be projected in a theatre  It was shot at about 16fps on 35mm film.

Copies of the original can be easily found on line and thogh the quality of each frame is surprsingly good it's definitely not 60fps. BTW  Ignore the soundtrack, that's not a French locomotive whistle and loudspeaker station announcements, particularly pre-recorded ones, were a long way in the future  in 1896.

Best wishes