September 24, 2018

Speaking from the Grave: Orson Welles' Last Feature The Other Side of the Wind Color Finished by Team at Technicolor

History-making project to be released by Netflix after making its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.

  • ‘Film within a film’ narrative structure employed by Welles demanded a rigorous attention to the color by Technicolor color science and finishing teams.

The Other Side of the Wind is a historically significant project: director Orson Welles' last feature and his first to be finished at Technicolor. With The Other Side of the Wind, Welles set out to create a multi-layered ‘film within a film’ – a roman à clef of sorts – his somber meditation on the perils of Hollywood movie-making told from the perspective of an aging director (played by John Huston), struggling to complete one last project.

Welles began principal photography on The Other Side of the Wind in 1970, but the road to completion would span decades. Work on finishing the feature would not resume until more than 30 years after his death, when in late 2016 the original camera elements from the production were brought to Technicolor Hollywood. These included the camera negatives and printed elements from the footage shot by cinematographer Gary Graver, et.al., which would be digitally scanned by Imaging Lead/Manager Todd Mitchell and his team.

Producers Filip Jan Rymsza and Frank Marshal wanted to put The Other Side of the Wind through a fairly traditional feature finishing process and workflow. Technicolor Senior Colorist Mike Sowa led the color finishing effort, with Technicolor's color science team creating a specific viewing LUT for Sowa to assist with the final digital color-timing – and its application to digitally conformed negative files constructed by the Technicolor finishing team.

The multi-layered narrative was among the unique and interesting challenges Sowa and team encountered during picture finishing. “The ‘film within a film’ narrative structure Welles employed demanded a rigorous attention to the color,” said Sowa, “but also he shot and presents much of the film in black & white, shot using multiple formats from many different types of cameras. Welles mastery of cinematic technique is on full display within this project.”

Similarly, the Technicolor team’s range of expertise was on full display in post, specifically dealing with: source camera negatives that had been shot on multiple formats, including 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm; two distinct theatrical aspect ratios (1:85 and 4x3) for projection derived from black & white and color negative stock shot by Welles and Graver; and the age of the negative stocks, which required the use of various restoration tools to address faded color-negative, negative shrinkage, and damaged or missing elements. Ultimately, the film would be finished so as to generate both a digital and filmed-out celluloid master negative befitting such a historic project.

In addition to picture finishing, Re-recording Mixer Scott Millan oversaw the film's final sound mix with Re-recording Mixers Gregg Rudloff and Drew Webster. Millan also brought in Daniel Saxlid as Co-supervising Sound Editor.

Listening to Welles’ voice on the original audio tracks, as well as seeing him on camera slating shots before calling action, it’s almost as if the esteemed filmmaker had magically come ‘back from the grave’ to continue directing his last feature – fitting for one of global cinema's master magicians.

Concluded Sowa: “Being a part of The Other Side of The Wind was truly an honor and a privilege. I feel the work we did justly honored Orson’s original intention for the film. It was definitely a career highlight for me.”

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