Athena Studios and Visual Effects Society/Bay Area Restore Short Film Believed Missing For More Than 30 Years
Athena Studios, an Emeryville, Calif.-based company specializing in production and animation services for film and multimedia clients, and the Visual Effects Society (VES)/Bay Area, recently partnered to restore a legendary, Star Wars-era short film entitled Black Angel. Thought to be missing for more than 30 years, Black Angel, which was last seen in theaters across Europe and Australia in l980 as a lead in to The Empire Strikes Back, made its North American premiere this past week before a sold-out audience during the 36th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival.
To view clips of the restored film, please see:
After reading a 2012 WIRED Magazine article about how Black Angel had been located by an archivist at Universal Studios, Athena Studios Producer Brice Parker joined with VES/Bay Area Chair David Tanaka and contacted the film’s director, Roger Christian, with an offer to supervise the film’s restoration at Athena Studios. For a comprehensive story on the history of Black Angel, please see: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-black-angel-on-location-20131016,0,5281639.story
Shot in Scotland in 1979, the 25-minute film was the directorial debut of Star Wars art director/Academy Award winner Roger Christian. Made with financial aid from George Lucas, Black Angel centers on a knight returning from the Crusades, who is transported to a mystical realm where he must rescue a princess from a black knight. The film was never released on VHS or DVD, and Christian himself was unable to track down the original negative. The director believed it was lost — until he got a call from Universal Studios in December 2011.
After Parker arranged for the negative to be transported to EFilm Digital Laboratories in Hollywood for careful cleaning and 4K scanning, Athena Studios received a hard drive containing frames scanned from the timed inter-positive to be digitally restored. Athena’s restoration team, which included restoration artists Jorge Martinez and Mitchell Tanaka, spent a combined 12 weeks painstakingly removing splice marks and unwanted artifacts, which had been introduced by the film mastering process more than 30 years earlier. Cleanup was achieved using Pixel Farm’s PFClean software. The restored frames were then rendered and exported for a new Digital Intermediate color correction at Colorflow (www.colorflow.com) in Berkeley, Calif.
Christian said, “It has been my great pleasure to work with Brice Parker, David Tanaka, and the talented restoration team at Athena Studios on the revival of Black Angel. I’ve waited three decades to be able to show this film to audiences once again, and without Athena’s diligence, it might have been another three decades before that happened. They’ve made it possible to bring Black Angel into the modern era with their delicate handling of the material and with their deep understanding of how the film was shot in wide screen Cinemascope, presently truly breathtaking images for its time. The film has remained in peoples’ memories since it was shown in conjunction with theatrical presentations of The Empire Strikes Back all over the world, so it was important to me that it retained its integrity. Brice, David, and the restoration team at Athena Studios really understood that. Today, Black Angel looks better than ever. And it’s all thanks to this wonderful team who incorporated such enthusiasm and care for the project.”
Jon V. Peters, CEO/Founder, Athena Studios, added, “It was truly an honor to help bring this historical work back to life so that it may be enjoyed again after having been considered ‘lost’ for over 30 years. Black Angel has tremendous historical significance for fans of both the Star Wars franchise and sword and sorcery tales alike. With terrific imagery shot in the Scotland countryside, this film has a very rich look. While it was a challenging restoration project at times, we think the re-release of this legendary short film was well worth the effort.”
Athena Studios Producer Parker said, “We knew restoring Black Angel would be a challenging undertaking from the outset, but we also knew the rewards would be huge. This was one of those legendary projects that we just couldn’t pass up. I was thrilled that Athena Studios offered its in-house expertise to tackle this project and help restore the film to its former glory. I’m happy that our efforts will enable audiences to see this film once again, after an interim period of more than 33 years.”