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Černý Petr

Working on a movie by Miloš Forman is a dream of everybody’s in the  industry. His first film, despite being a low-budget production, spawned the  Czech New Wave and garnered international success amid the biggest contemporary directors like M. Antonioni- and being able to work on it is something indescribable. We were selected in the public tender for the Czech National Film Archive to digitally restore the original negatives of Forman’s Černý Petr. This is how we worked on this national treasure. 


Film restoration is a very tricky endeavor as restorers can have different approaches. The output can either be a recreation of the film as faithful to the original work as possible, or an entirely new product, geared towards a  contemporary audience. Our assignment was to cooperate with an NFA restorer to approximate the original look. The process is similar to restoring a painting, though not entirely, as there are set methods for restoring a painting. With a movie, it is a little bit different. Before movies were restored digitally, traditional photography methods were used, which were very limited in terms of image reparation and enhancing. But with today’s digital technology, the sky is the limit. You can easily surpass the original quality- for example, the scanned image can be stabilized; since film stock shrinks with age, the raw scan is a lot more unstable than the original. Digitally, however, you can easily make the image rock solid, which was neither our aim, nor would it look natural to viewers. You have to consider similar issues in every step of image reparation as well as audio restoration.

You mustn’t forget that we are working with a  35mm negative film with all of its advantages and disadvantages, such as the chemical and mechanical processes which affect it over  time. Černý Petr was an extremely popular movie in its day and its extensive duplication, often directly from camera negative, left it in quite a bad state. We were lucky that the original camera negatives survived the decades as for many movies they often end up missing. These negatives are a desirable source for film restoration, as they are much better film stock with far better resolution and substantially less damage than any duplicate or copy. We used film copies only as references. But imagine the sense of responsibility when you hold this material in your hands. The feeling is on the one hand beautiful, and on the other hand one of great respect.

For this reason we worked very precisely and at a pace which such precision requires. We scanned the negatives frame by frame. We had to digitally remove all the mechanical damage done to the negatives as a result of shooting and subsequent editing, duplication and aging. However, we couldn’t leave behind any digital traces.. For example, preserving the film grain is often a challenge. The tools we use are equipped with algorithms specifically designed for the job, and some flaws can be removed semi-automatically. But in the end, you need precise operators, ones who would clean every one of the movie’s 124000 frames.

The final movie also had to be color graded to get the final look as close to the creators’ original intention as possible. It is not as easy as it might sound, as in the world of chemical film, each copy is a little bit different – something that becomes more and more pronounced over time.. We used carefully picked copies as references and experienced DOPs supervised the process. Not everybody can deliver such technological feats.

Digital restoration is a special field with a limited professional sphere. There are only two companies on the Czech market which are able to do this kind of work. And we are one of them.






  • Restoring
  • Grading