Putting the Bite Back Into Jaws

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Nope, no digital “fixes,” just genuine improvements.

When hyping his own giant creature movie, the 1976 remake of King Kong, movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis said, “When Jaws dies, nobody cries.” But Jaws fans across the nation would cry if their favorite shark movie was lost to the ravages of time. Thankfully, as part of their centennial celebration, Universal is ensuring that Jaws (and 13 other films, including All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Buck Privates, Dracula, Frankenstein, Schindler’s List, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk, Bride of Frankenstein, The Sting and To Kill a Mockingbird) will not only be preserved for future generations, but will also look better than ever. Michael Daruty, senior VP of technical operations at Universal, graciously took time from running delicate 35mm film negatives through high-def, wetgate scanners to tell us what he and his team have done to keep Jaws alive. “We research all of our elements, and most of our previous transfers, even our high-def transfers, have been done from 35mm interpositives, not from original camera negatives,” Daruty explains. “We’ve been cautious about hanging the negative due to damaging it. Also, the IPs are already wetgate, which cleans up scratches; they’re already color-timed so they’re not unbalanced — as the original negative is — and they’re an easier element to transfer.”

Daruty says the reticence in dragging out the original Jaws negative was well-founded, because it was in pretty rotten condition. “We were able to scan it at 4K on a wetgate scanner, which removes the majority of surface scratches, so it gave us an element that was easier to work with that didn’t need so much digital restoration. We took the 4K scans and worked to color balance and fix any remaining scratches and dirt and other damage on a frame-by-frame basis. Then we brought in Mr. Spielberg to get his notes and make any further corrections he wanted and then went back to him for final approval.”

Putting the Bite Back in Jaws restored and unrestored Putting the Bite Back Into Jaws

Brody talks to an islander in muddy unrestored (left) and beautiful restored (right) footage from Jaws.

The new 4K transfer was used to create 2K digital files for digital theatrical screenings, a new 35mm negative that will be used to create any future 35mm prints, and the high-def video masters for the Blu-ray release. “Those are all coming from a higher resolution than we’ve ever used before,” Daruty says. “For the consumer market, this is the highest quality that’s ever been released for this title. We’re a generation higher in quality than any prior HD masters.”

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